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Friday, March 15th, 2013
Babies may prefer to be around individuals who pick on, or even mildly bully, members of a group who are different in some way from the others. Researchers at Yale University and the University of British Columbia have determined their findings based on a study of babies who were observing puppets, beans, and balls. The results may help scientists better understand the roots of violence and discrimination, the Boston Globe reports:
Led by scientists at Yale University and the University of British Columbia, the researchers posed a complicated social scenario to 9-month-old and 14-month-old babies: If they saw a rabbit puppet who was either similar or different from them in some fundamental way—in this case, preferring graham crackers or green beans—would they care how others treated the rabbit?
The researchers already knew two basic things about the choices and preferences of infants. Just like adults, who tend to like people who are similar to them, babies are drawn to others who share their tastes in food and toys. Hollywood movies leverage our impulse to cheer for do-gooder heroes over villains; babies similarly prefer a character that helps someone else climb a mountain rather than pushing them down it, a previous study had shown.
But would babies always, universally, prefer heroes to villains? Or would their preference depend on who was being helped or hindered? The researchers wondered: would they see the enemy of their enemy as a friend?
“I was surprised, and my liberal bleeding heart sunk like a stone, when we found them actually choosing, really robustly, the puppet who punishes” the rabbit puppet that did not share the baby’s preference, said Karen Wynn, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale and senior author of the work, published in the journal Psychological Science.
Image: Rabbit puppet, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
Schools are increasingly debating the value of “zero tolerance” policies of suspending students who make threats in even the most unassuming ways. In the wake of the tragic Newtown, Connecticut school shooting late last year, some parents are jittery and want school officials to enforce the zero tolerance policy. Others, however believe that the policies discourage children from finding healthy ways to express anger. More from The Associated Press:
The extent to which the Newtown, Conn., shooting might influence educators’ disciplinary decisions is unclear. But parents contend administrators are projecting adult fears onto children who know little about the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators, and who certainly pose no threat to anyone.
‘‘It’s horrible what they’re doing to these kids,’’ said Kelly Guarna, whose 5-year-old daughter, Madison, was suspended by Mount Carmel Area School District in eastern Pennsylvania last month for making a ‘‘terroristic threat’’ with the bubble gun. ‘‘They’re treating them as mini-adults, making them grow up too fast, and robbing them of their imaginations.’’
Mary Czajkowski, superintendent of Barnstable Public Schools in Hyannis, Mass., acknowledged that Sandy Hook has teachers and parents on edge. But she defended Hyannis West Elementary School’s warning to a 5-year-old boy who chased his classmates with a gun he’d made from plastic building blocks, saying the student didn’t listen to the teacher when she told him repeatedly to stop.
The school told his mother if it happened again, he’d face a two-week suspension.
‘‘Given the heightened awareness and sensitivity, we must do all that we can to ensure that all students and adults both remain safe and feel safe in schools,’’ Czajkowski said in a statement. ‘‘To dismiss or overlook an incident that results in any member of our school community feeling unsafe or threatened would be irresponsible and negligent.’’
Image: School sign, via Shutterstock
Thursday, January 10th, 2013
A 16-year-old high-school student armed with a shotgun opened fire Thursday at Taft Union High School in Taft, California, critically wounding one student and leading to the hospitalizations of two others. The shooter, a boy who has not been named, was arrested after two school staff members convinced him to give up his weapon. More from Reuters:
One student critically wounded by gunfire was airlifted to a nearby hospital, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said.
A second student received minor injuries while falling over a table trying the flee the classroom, and a third student was taken to a hospital complaining of hearing loss from the sound of a gun blast, Youngblood said.
The lone suspect, a 16-year-old male student, was arrested after a teacher and a school administrator who confronted him persuaded the boy to put his gun down, Youngblood told a televised news conference.
His identity was not immediately released, but police said the suspect apparently had a disagreement with the student who was critically injured.
The shooting came less than a month after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 adults.
Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
Six-year-old Salecia Johson a kindergarten student at Creekside Elementary School in Milledgeville, Georgia, was placed in handcuffs and taken to the police station after an outburst in which she threw furniture, overturned a bookshelf, and tore items off of the walls. The bookshelf allegedly injured the school’s principal. MSNBC.com has more:
Police defended their actions during the incident which occurred last Friday at Creekside Elementary School in Milledgeville, Ga.
“Our policy states that any detainee transported to our station in a patrol vehicle is to be handcuffed in the back. There is no age discrimination on that rule,” Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord told WMAZ-TV.
The family on Tuesday demanded that the city change its policy, the Associated Press reported, and claimed the girl was shaken up while at the police station.
Johnson was charged with assault and damage to property, WMAZ-TV reported, but she will not have to go to court because of her age.
Johnson’s mother, Constance Ruff, says her daughter was suspended until the start of the next school year.
“She has mood swings some days, which all of us have mood swings some days,” she told WMAZ-TV. “I guess that was just one of her bad days.”
Image: Handcuffs, via Shutterstock.
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.