Archive for the ‘ Intervention ’ Category

How Older Siblings Lead Younger Siblings Into Trouble

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

A large informative sibling study has shown that older siblings who engage in violent criminal behavior influence younger siblings to do the same – especially if the siblings are close in age. As this work builds on prior work I’ve conducted with my collaborators, I wanted to expand on the findings and the implications for parenting.

Our research group has observed a similar sibling effect on delinquency in adolescence as well as early (illicit) use of tobacco and alcohol. The finding has been replicated by a number of other research groups. Of note is that in some of our studies, we could control for genetic similarity (by studying siblings who varied in their genetic relatedness, like identical twins versus fraternal twins, and full siblings versus half-siblings). While genetic makeup does convey some risk, we’ve found strong evidence that much of this influence is environmental in nature.

It’s especially important to recognize that there is good evidence that the siblings get into trouble together and function as “partners in crime.” We’ve conducted electronic diary studies in which siblings confirmed in real time assessments (known as ecological momentary assessment) that they were together, and doing things they shouldn’t be doing (often with mutual friends).

There is where age becomes a relevant factor. Sibling effects are driven by relationship dynamics – it’s the siblings who are close in age and who like to hang out with each other. Keep in mind that we’ve controlled for genetics in our studies, so this is an environmental affiliation. Siblings that don’t like spending time together typically don’t influence each other much. There is in fact a particular sibling relationship style that underlies the “partners in crime” phenomenon – it’s when the siblings have high levels of both positivity and negativity. They like being with each other – and also spend a lot of their time fighting.

So what should parents do? If you have an older sibling who is getting in trouble, be mindful that if they have a younger sibling (especially one close in age that they hang out with a lot) is at high risk for getting into trouble. It’s time to intervene with the older sibling – not just to help him or her, but also to prevent problems in the younger sibling.

Brothers Playing Video Games Together via


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Treating Depression In Dads Improves Kids’ Functioning Too

Monday, April 28th, 2014

As we see new data accumulating suggesting that new dads are particularly susceptible to depression, it bears repeating that there is good evidence that treating depression in dads can lead to rapid positive changes in a child’s behavior and their own level of depressive symptoms. 

While many studies have examined depression in moms, one project in particular stands out as providing insight into the family-wide benefits of treatment for depression in dads as well as moms. Researchers examined both moms and dads (about 30% of the sample were dads) who were in treatment for depression. The treatment plan varied and could include psychotherapy and/or pharmacology. The bottom line was that as a parent’s depression subsided, real-time changes in their children’s behavior could be observed, including reductions in their own depressive symptoms. The effect held up for dads as well as moms.

The takeaway here is clear – finding a treatment that works for dad improves a child’s life too. As people respond differently to different available treatments, bear in mind some trial and error may be necessary before an optimal treatment plan is established. But that effort is worth it.

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Happy Dad and Child via

Mental Health Disorders: It's Not Your Fault
Mental Health Disorders: It's Not Your Fault
Mental Health Disorders: It's Not Your Fault

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Staying Connected With Your Family: A Tool for Veteran and Military Parents

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Military families face a number of challenges – and staying connected is one of the primary ones. A new website offers resources that can help – as described in this guest blog post by Dr. Peter Shore, Clinical Psychologist and Developer of Parenting for Service Members and Veterans.

With life’s continued distractions and separations, it’s easy for any parent to become disconnected from their child. Military parents face additional obstacles that can make it difficult to stay connected—physically and mentally—with their children. 

Moves, deployment, reintegration and job stressors are all factors that may affect the nearly 1 million military parents[1] and their families. That’s why The Department of Veterans Affairs partnered with The Department of Defense and a team of psychologists around the country to develop a website dedicated to helping Veterans and Service members further bond with their children and handle their parenting responsibilities. 

Our effort, Parenting for Service Members and Veterans, is an interactive, self-paced online course, which guides parents to interact with their children in new ways and reinforces the good habits they already have. Each of the six online modules addresses a different challenge parents may face when raising their children including:

·       Reintegrating into the family after deployment;

·       Promoting positive parent-child communications;

·       Helping children with difficult emotions and behaviors;

·       Positive approaches to discipline; and

·       Parenting when the mother or father has emotional and/or physical challenges.

Unlike other online courses, we focus more on the parent’s own behavior, rather than just how a parent manages a child’s behavior.

I recently caught up with Jason Hansman, Senior Program Manager of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and he had this to offer on the course:

“I found the Parenting site incredibly useful for both military members and Veterans. Raising children with the stresses that come with military service can seem daunting,” said Jason. “I can see having something to help you walk through some of these challenges on your own time as being very beneficial to Vets with families. This is one of the few products I’ve seen that addresses these unique challenges, especially in an on-demand format which appeals to younger Veterans.”

The course is not designed to replace or change a parenting style, but instead serves to supplement a parent’s existing knowledge and experience, and can be used as often as needed. The modules are designed for parents by parents and we have included videos with perspectives from real military families. The information from the courses can benefit any family and is not intended just for those experiencing parenting difficulties. While the course is anonymous, the tools and videos remind military parents that they are not alone!

No registration is required so Veterans can visit to start the training today.  

We want to hear from you. What are some other ways to help military families? Share in the comments below.


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The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years

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Depression In New Dads: New Data And Awareness

Monday, April 14th, 2014

You may be aware that rates of depression are high in women, and that depression can increase in new moms. But new data, drawn from a powerful longitudinal design, suggest that new dads are vulnerable to depression as well.

How vulnerable? Analyses of over 2 decades of prospective data collected on over 10,000 males in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health suggested that depressive symptoms in dads increase by as much as 68% following the birth of child (and extending out 5 years after). These were “resident” dads, meaning those living with the child.

Depression in dads, like mom, can compromise parenting. Depressed dads are more likely to be angry/hostile with a child, and less engaged in play and talk.

While the study does not go into the factors that predict which men are most likely to become depressed following the birth of a dad, the immediate takeaway is to promote awareness of signs of depression in men, and to encourage early intervention. As the symptoms of depression in men can differ somewhat from the typical signs in women, it’s useful to be aware of key signs of depression in dads.

There are many successful treatments for depression. As depression can be episodic (it can keep coming back over time), intervention is especially important in buffering against future increases in depressive symptoms. So if a new dad (or any dad) is showing potential signs of depression, it is well worth the time to seek out an evaluation and determine if a treatment plan is warranted.

Happy Dad and Baby via

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Mental Health Disorders: It's Not Your Fault
Mental Health Disorders: It's Not Your Fault
Mental Health Disorders: It's Not Your Fault

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School Stabbings

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

The emerging story of school stabbings at a high school in Murrysville, PA, will inevitably stir up debates about school violence, mental health, and gun control. For example:

  • The point will be made that it’s not all about guns at school. This is true – knives and other weapons can be used to cause harm. We need to understand how a range of weapons can be used by individuals who intend harm at schools.
  • The point will be made that we need to learn more about the factors that cause individuals to attempt mass murder. This is true. We need targeted research that will have, as an endpoint, strategies for identifying youth who may be on the verge of such behavior and routing them to interventions.
  • The point will be made that schools need to be better protected. This is true. Many schools have increased their security procedures and will need to continue to revisit them as necessary, and prioritize these initiatives.

What shouldn’t happen, however, is a myopic focus on just one issue and dismissal of the other issues – the kind of polarization that stymies progress. We can’t focus on just guns/knives/etc without thinking about mental health issues. We can’t just put all of our resources into the mental health angle without considering how we reduce access to weaponry in youth. School security is an ongoing concern because it is impossible to completely secure a school every second of the day, and as such we have to continue to refine how risk is minimized. There are of course other issues that should be examined and put into the mix. Serious public health concerns like school violence require at a minimum a multifactorial perspective and ideally a synergistic evaluation of many of the root issues.

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