Posts Tagged ‘ study ’

Math and Reading Skills Are Affected by the Same Genes

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

A point against the idea that there’s a good-at-math gene you’re lacking—scientists have discovered that many of the genes that influence a child’s math ability also impact their skill at reading. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, compared DNA and math and reading test results for nearly 2,800 12-year-olds in the UK, looking for DNA differences and how skills matched up.

Of course, there isn’t complete overlap (could that account for the lack of math or language prowess in an otherwise brilliant person?)—and the study authors also found that nurture can also play a role in whether your child becomes the next Einstein or Shakespeare.

“We looked at this question in two ways, by comparing the similarity of thousands of twins, and by measuring millions of tiny differences in their DNA. Both analyses show that similar collections of subtle DNA differences are important for reading and maths,” study author Oliver Davis, of University College London, said in a school news release.

“However, it’s also clear just how important our life experience is in making us better at one or the other. It’s this complex interplay of nature and nurture as we grow up that shapes who we are.”

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Overscheduling Kids Could Slow Development of Problem-Solving Skills

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

If you ever needed an excuse not to sign up for soccer and karate and piano lessons, here it is: A new study published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that overscheduling kids impairs their ability to develop executive functions. (That’s a series of essential skills, including self direction, problem solving, and decision making.) That’s on top of a previous study, published last year in Parenting: Science and Practice, that showed that preschoolers whose parents directed their play were less happy than those who were given free rein to play what they wanted.

The study involved 70 six-year-olds, whose parents recorded their children’s daily activities for a week, and they were rated as structured vs. free play. Those who had more free play performed better on a test where they were asked to name as many animals as they could in a minute, because they were better able to organize their thoughts and produce more answers.

So maybe cutting back on the classes could do more for your kids in the long run.

Are you a helicopter parent? Find out with our quiz.

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Daughters of Domestic Dads Have Higher Aspirations, Study Finds

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Father Dad Daughter ChoresDaughters who see their dads do household chores are more likely to dream of less traditional, higher paying careers, according to the Association for Psychological Science. The study found a strong connection between the way daughters view gender roles and their fathers’ attitude (and action) toward housework. More from PsychologicalScience.org:

Fathers who help with household chores are more likely to raise daughters who aspire to less traditional, and potentially higher paying, careers, according to research forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The study findings indicate that how parents share dishes, laundry and other domestic duties plays a key role in shaping the gender attitudes and aspirations of their children, especially daughters.

This is a photo of a father and daughter doing laundry. While mothers’ gender and work equality beliefs were key factors in predicting kids’ attitudes toward gender, the strongest predictor of daughters’ own professional ambitions was their fathers’ approach to household chores.

“This suggests girls grow up with broader career goals in households where domestic duties are shared more equitably by parents,” says psychology researcher and study author Alyssa Croft, a PhD Candidate in the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychology. “How fathers treat their domestic duties appears to play a unique gatekeeper role.”

The study results suggest that parents’ domestic actions may speak louder than words. Even when fathers publicly endorsed gender equality, if they retained a traditional division of labor at home, their daughters were more likely to envision themselves in traditionally female-dominant jobs, such as nurse, teacher, librarian or stay-at-home-mom.

“Despite our best efforts to create workplace equality, women remain severely under-represented in leadership and management positions,” says Croft. “This study is important because it suggests that achieving gender equality at home may be one way to inspire young women to set their sights on careers from which they have traditionally been excluded.”

The study involved 326 children aged 7-13 and at least one of their parents. For each household, researchers calculated the division of chores and paid labor. They also determined the career stereotypes that participants identified with, their gender and work attitudes and children’s career aspirations.

The study found mothers shouldered more of the burden of housework than men, which echoes previous findings. Parents and kids associated women more than men with childcare and domestic work, and girls were significantly more likely than boys to say they want be like adults who take care of kids rather than someone who has a career.

“‘Talking the talk’ about equality is important, but our findings suggest that it is crucial that dads ‘walk the walk’ as well — because their daughters clearly are watching,” says Croft, noting that girls might be learning from an early age to take on additional roles, rather than different roles, compared to boys.

What career will your child have when she grows up? Take our quiz to find out!

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Number of Live Births, Cardiovascular Health Linked in Women

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Mom with Seven KidsWomen who have given birth four or more times are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease according to a new study. Compared to women who’ve had fewer pregnancies, in the study of more than 1,500 women, moms with more children showed increased evidence of plaque in the heart and thickening of arteries. More from American College of Cardiology:

Women who give birth to four or more children are much more likely to have evidence of plaque in their heart or thickening of their arteries – early signs of cardiovascular disease – compared with those having fewer pregnancies, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

While earlier studies have shown an association between several aspects of pregnancy – physiological changes, complications, number of pregnancies – and future heart disease risk, many questions remain about how pregnancy might affect cardiovascular risk. To better understand the potential link, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center set out to determine whether the number of live births is associated with early signs of cardiovascular disease.

“This is not a recommendation for women to only have two or three children,” said Monika Sanghavi, M.D., chief cardiology fellow, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and lead investigator of the study. This is the first study to look at two markers of subclinical atherosclerosis – a gradual narrowing and hardening of the arteries that can eventually block blood flow and lead to stroke and heart attack.

“Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that the changes associated with pregnancy may provide insight into a woman’s future cardiovascular risk and deserves further attention.”

The study included 1,644 women from the Dallas Heart Study, a multiethnic population-based cohort, who had both self-reported information about the number of live births and relevant imaging study data available. The average age at the time of analysis was 45 years and slightly more than half of the women (55 percent) were African-American. Coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores were measured using computed tomography imaging and aortic wall thickness (AWT) by magnetic resonance imaging to determine whether or not women had evidence of subclinical atherosclerosis in the heart and artery walls. CAC was positive if it was greater than 10 and AWT was abnormal if it was greater than the 75th percentile for age and gender. These tests were done as part of standard subject participation in the Dallas Heart Study.

Using women who had two or three live births as a reference, women who had given birth to four or more children had an approximately two-fold increased risk of having abnormal CAC or AWT. This association remained even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, education, race and factors known to heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease. Women who had more babies were more likely to be older, Hispanic, have high blood pressure, higher body mass index and lower socioeconomic status.

Curiously, women who had zero or just one live birth were also more likely to show evidence of subclinical atherosclerosis – revealing a U-shaped relationship.

Authors say it is unclear why this might be the case. But Sanghavi and others speculate they may have captured some women in this group who have an underlying condition that prevents them from carrying a first or second pregnancy to term, which may also predispose them to cardiovascular disease or risk factors. For example, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome can have menstrual irregularities and trouble getting pregnant, but they may also have other health changes such as excess body weight, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Pregnancy itself sparks a cascade of changes that can place more strain on a woman’s cardiovascular system. For example, the volume of blood being pumped through the heart increases by 50 percent. In addition, other physiological and metabolic changes occur (e.g., increased insulin resistance and higher cholesterol levels).

“Pregnancy has been called ‘nature’s stress test,’ and for good reason,” Sanghavi said. “It may also help identify women who are at increased risk [for heart disease], even though right now they may not have any risk factors.”…

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About 1 in 3 Children Have High Cholesterol, Study Finds

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Childhood ObesityIn an alarming new study of more than 12,000 children with ages ranging from 9 to 11-years-old, 30 percent of them had “borderline” or “abnormal” cholesterol levels. And about 98 percent of those levels are caused by obesity, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition. According to the study’s author, high cholesterol levels in childhood are the greatest predictor of high cholesterol in adulthood. More from USA TODAY:

Nearly one-third of children may have worrisome levels of cholesterol, putting them at risk for cardiovascular problems decades later, according to a new study.

The study of more than 12,000 9- to 11-year-olds, presented today at the American College of Cardiology’s annual conference in Washington, found that 30 percent of those tested had “borderline” or “abnormal” levels of cholesterol.

“It’s a problem that’s underdiagnosed,” said study author Thomas Seery, a pediatric cardiologist at Texas Children’s Hospital and assistant professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, both in Houston.

The greatest predictor of high cholesterol in adulthood, Seery said, is the rate in childhood.

In 2011, an expert panel convened by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute issued guidelines that called, among other things, for cholesterol screening of all children before and at the end of adolescence. In the Houston study, researchers found that nearly 5,000 of the children were at risk for or had high cholesterol and roughly the same number were obese. It’s not clear whether they were tested for high cholesterol because they had a problem or if their screening was routine.

About 1 percent-2 percent of high cholesterol in children is due to inherited problems with cholesterol regulation, Seery said. The rest is caused by obesity, lack of exercise and a poor diet.

“There’s no question that we are seeing alarming increases in obesity and elevated cholesterol levels in children and adolescents,” said Steven Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, who was not involved in the study.

Nissen said he is not convinced that screening all kids for high cholesterol is an effective way to approach the problem. He’s concerned that extra screening will lead doctors to prescribe more medications to children.

Any obese child should be counseled about making lifestyle changes, even without knowing his or her cholesterol levels, Nissen said. There’s no proof that screening improves patient health, but it would cost a significant amount to run blood tests on every child, he said.

Seery disagrees, as does Robert Eckel, former president of the American Heart Association. They say universal screening would at least prompt a conversation between doctor and patient about the need for a healthy lifestyle.

“We really need to emphasize prevention, and that begins in childhood,” said Eckel, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. “This could be a good opportunity to sit down with parents and move them in the right direction.”

In other research presented at the conference today, doctors from New York University’s Langone Medical Center in Manhattan reported that married adults were less likely to have cardiovascular disease than people who are single, divorced or widowed. The study analyzed data on more than 3.5 million Americans and found that people who are married have a 5 percent lower risk of having any cardiovascular disease than being single.

In the study of 12,700 9- to 11-year-olds in Houston, researchers found:

• 37 percent had borderline or elevated levels of total cholesterol.

• 32 percent had borderline or low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

• 36 percent had borderline or elevated levels of non-HDL cholesterol.

• 46 percent had borderline or elevated levels of triglycerides.

What can you expect from your growing toddler? Take our Toddler Nutrition Quiz to find out!


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