Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Children who experience traumatic events including health problems in the family, family structure like divorce or inconsistent caregiving, or physical or emotional abuse are more likely to struggle with their weight when they become teenagers, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. More from Reuters:
“I felt like I was seeing a lot of children who had experienced stress early in their lives later gain weight pretty rapidly” Dr. Julie Lumeng at the University of Michigan Medical School told Reuters Health.
“There has been quite a bit of research looking at stress in the lives of adults leading to weight gain, but it has not been studied as much in children,” said Lumeng, who led the new study.
“We did this particular study because it looked at simply ‘events’ that had occurred in children’s lives and then asked mothers to rate the events in terms of how much of an impact they had,” Lumeng said.
The researchers used data from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development.
The mothers of 848 children enrolled in the study completed surveys when their children were 4, 9 and 11 years old. They were asked if any of 71 different life events had occurred during the previous year, and they rated the impact of the event on a scale from -3 (extremely negative) to zero (no effect) to +3 (extremely positive).
Four categories of negative life events were studied: health problems in the family; work, school or financial stability; emotional aspects of family relationships; and family structure, routine and caregiving.
The kids’ height and weight were measured at age 15. Teens with a BMI above the 85th percentile for age and gender based on CDC growth charts were defined as being overweight.
Of the 848 children, 260 were considered overweight and 488 were not. Thirty percent of the overweight children had experienced a significant number of negative life events, compared to 22 percent of the non-overweight children.
Experiencing many negative life events was tied to a nearly 50 percent higher risk of being overweight, versus no negative events.
The associations were strongest for negative events related to family physical or mental health, among children of obese mothers and among children who waited longer for food, the researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.
Image: Overweight teen, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Far more data is needed on how best to help children cope with traumatic events–ranging from natural disasters to school shootings to death or family illness–researchers argue in an article published in the journal Pediatrics. From NBC News:
Grief counselors, therapists and social workers have no body of scientific data to draw from when they seek to help traumatized kids, a team of experts reports in Monday’s issue of the journal Pediatrics.
“People come to me and say ‘What works?’ and I answer, ‘We don’t really know,’” says Valerie Forman-Hoffman of RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C., who led the study.
“I don’t think that what this study is saying is that no treatment works,” Forman-Hoffman said in a telephone interview. ”I think that what our review shows is that we don’t have a good evidence base to make good recommendations.”
The need is clear, Forman-Hoffman and her colleagues say.
“Approximately two-thirds of children and adolescents younger than age 18 years will experience at least one traumatic event, creating a critical need to identify effective child trauma interventions,” they wrote. Traumatic events in this study included the death of a parent, a violent incident at school, wars, or natural disasters. They did not include personal events such as abuse by a parent or sexual abuse.
“Although some children exposed to trauma do not experience long-term negative consequences in terms of psychological and social functioning, many later develop traumatic stress syndromes, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” they added. PTSD in turn can cause depression, and lead to substance abuse, suicide and behavior disorders.
Image: Girl with grief counselor, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
Children who are abused, neglected, or witnesses to violence or trauma are almost 60 percent more likely to be arrested as juveniles, a new report by the victim assistance group Safe Horizon and the Childhood Violent Trauma Center at Yale University has found. But going through even a short period of therapy can help both children and their parents or caregivers tremendously, the report also found–65 percent less likely to develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The New York Times reports:
[Yale psychiatry professor Steven R.] Marans reported that children who participated experienced a 54 percent reduction in trauma symptoms, and their caregivers benefited almost as much.
“When children are alone with and don’t have words to describe their traumatic reactions, symptoms and symptomatic behaviors are their only means of expression,” he said. “And caregivers are often unable to understand the connection between the traumatic event and their children’s symptoms and behaviors. To heal, children need recognition and understanding from their caregivers.”
He added: “This intervention inspires hope and confidence. It can make an immediate and palpable difference in the daily lives of children who have suffered even the worst forms of abuse.”
Well over 90 percent of caregivers who participated in the intervention said they had learned new skills and would recommend the program, which could be a boon to child treatment centers throughout the country.
Image: Mother and daughter in therapy, via Shutterstock.
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