Thursday, September 12th, 2013
Adopted children may be more likely to attempt or commit suicide than their non-adopted siblings, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota. More from Reuters:
Researchers urged doctors to be on the lookout for signs of trouble in adopted teen patients but said parents should not be overly alarmed by the results.
“While our findings suggest that adoptees may have an elevated risk for suicide attempt, the majority of the adopted individuals in our study were psychologically well-adjusted,” lead author Margaret Keyes, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the agency, 4,600 youth deaths each year in the U.S. are suicides, and a much larger number of young people make attempts to take their own lives.
Previous research in Sweden found that adopted kids in that country were more likely to attempt suicide than nonadopted kids, but no comparable study had been done in the U.S., according to Keyes and her coauthors writing in the journal Pediatrics.
Image: Sad teenager, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
Children who have a big brother or big sister with an autism spectrum disorder face an increased risk of developing such a disorder themselves, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The study, of more than 1.5 million children in Denmark, found that sibs of kids diagnosed with autism had an almost seven-fold increased risk of developing autism as well.
This research comes on the heels of a recent study that found that women who undergo labor induction may be more likely to give birth to children with autism spectrum disorders.
Here’s more on the sibling study from TIME.com:
For parents, the findings raise difficult questions about how proactive they should be in screening for the disease among their younger children if older siblings are affected. Alycia Halladay, senior director, environmental and clinical sciences for Autism Speaks, says parents who have already had a child diagnosed on the spectrum should alert their doctor to the family history. During check-ups, when a doctor asks about inherited disorders like cystic fibrosis, they now typically include autism on the check-list.
Mothers of autistic children can also take steps during pregnancy to lower the risk of autism in their next offspring, such as taking prenatal folic acid and avoiding overexposure to toxins. That attention could even extend to the infants’ first few years, since studies suggest that some intensive behavior therapies can help to mitigate the symptoms of autism. “We know that early intervention can make a real lifetime of difference. So be very vigilant during that child’s life, all the way from birth to the well baby check-ups, six months, 12 months, and 18 months,” says Halladay. “Make sure you are watching for the signs and symptoms of autism. Consult your pediatrician, and if you do notice the signs and symptoms of autism you can receive help free of charge from a state-based early intervention agency.”
Researchers are also developing tests that can detect the genetic risk factors associated with the disorder, and more of these biomarkers may become available as additional gene-based contributors emerge. Scientists from University of Utah and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, for example, recently identified 24 new gene variants associated with autism spectrum disorders in January.
Image: Toddler and baby, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Kids who grow up with more than one or two siblings may be less likely to grow up and go through a divorce, according to new research based on data collected from the General Social Survey between 1972 and 2012. The analysis found that each additional sibling–up to 7 siblings–reduced the chance of divorce by around 2 percent. More from USA Today:
“There are a lot of other factors that affect divorce that are more important than how many siblings you had. However, we’re finding that the number of siblings is a factor,” says Ohio State University sociologist Doug Downey, a co-author of the study. It is being presented Tuesday at a meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York City. “Each additional sibling reduces their chances of divorce a little bit.”
The authors suggest that siblings further the development of social skills useful in navigating marriage.
However, others who study divorce and family size say the study — while interesting — is far from definitive.
People from large families may be more family oriented, says sociologist S. Philip Morgan, director of the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He says the data from the General Social Survey are “somewhat problematic” for the issue of divorce.
“I’m not yet convinced.” he says. “The theory is interesting and plausible but not overpowering.”
Despite these findings, other studies have shown only children to have adult social skills that are similar to their peers who grew up with siblings.
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Thursday, August 1st, 2013
Children who grow up alongside an ill or disabled sibling may be at higher risk of emotional complications like relationship issues, behavioral problems, and academic difficulty, according to a new survey of parents conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. More from Reuters.com:
The study could not explain why the siblings of disabled kids were more likely to have problems functioning socially or emotionally than kids without a special needs brother or sister. But Anthony Goudie, the report’s lead author, said he’s convinced it has to do with the family situation.
“That’s driven by the disproportionate or increased financial strain and stress within these households, the psychological stress…and the emotional stress on caregivers and parents, and the amount of time they have to spend devoting to the child with a disability,” said Goudie, who is an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.
Goudie said the findings are important because the functional problems for which the non-disabled siblings appear to be at increased risk have been tied to higher odds of mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety disorders, that require treatment.
His study is perhaps the largest to date looking at the day-to-day difficulties for siblings of kids with a disability.
Image: Sad boy, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
Bullying that happens between siblings should be considered to be as serious an issue as bullying among peers or schoolmates, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. NBC News has more:
As with peer bullying, sibling bullying is also harmful to a child or teenager’s mental health, the new research finds.
“Historically, sibling aggression has been unrecognized, or often minimized or dismissed, and in some cases people believe it’s benign or even good for learning about conflict in other relationships,” says Corinna Jenkins Tucker, lead author of the paper and an associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire.
“That’s generally not the case in peer relationships. There appears to be different norms for what is accepted. What is acceptable between siblings is generally not acceptable between peers.”
The mental health consequences of bullying between siblings are real, researchers say. Tucker’s report used data from The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, a phone survey that collected the experiences of 3,599 children aged 1 month to 17 years who had at least one sibling younger than 18 living in the household at the time of the interview. One child was randomly selected to be the subject of three telephone interviews.
Children ages 10 to 17 answered the questions themselves; for children younger than 10, the parents answered the questions. (Tucker acknowledges this is a potential limitation of the study, as parents may not know as much about sibling conflicts as they might think — particularly if the children share a bedroom.)
The interviewers asked about incidences of sibling aggression in the past year, and they also assessed mental health by asking how often the children experienced anger, depression and anxiety.
Of the children interviewed (or interviewed by proxy), 32 percent reported experiencing at least one type of sibling victimization in the past year. Researchers found that “all types of sibling aggression, both mild and severe, were associated with significantly higher distress symptom scores for both children and adolescents,” the study authors write.
Image: Siblings fighting, via Shutterstock
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