Archive for the ‘ Relationships ’ Category

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.

Take our quiz to find out what your parenting style is.

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

Add a Comment

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.


Find more fun ways to bond with your kids at home with our Activity Finder.

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

Add a Comment

Does Playing With Barbie Limit Girls Career Choices?

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

“Playing with Barbie dolls can limit girls career choices, study shows.”

Well, let’s take this one step at a time.

What Did This Study Do?

From the press release:

Girls ages 4 to 7 were randomly assigned to play with one of three dolls: a fashion Barbie with dress and high-heeled shoes; a career Barbie with a doctor’s coat and stethoscope; or a Mrs. Potato Head with accessories such as purses and shoes. Mrs. Potato Head was selected as a neutral doll because the toy is similar in color and texture, but doesn’t have the sexualized characteristics of Barbie.

After a few minutes of play, the girls were asked if they could do any of 10 occupations when they grew up. They were also asked if boys could do those jobs. Half of the careers were traditionally male-dominated and half were female-dominated.

One important thing to keep in mind: a total of 37 girls were studied.

What Did This Study Find?

Again, from the press release:

Girls who played with Barbie thought they could do fewer jobs than boys could do. But girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head reported nearly the same number of possible careers for themselves and for boys.

There was no difference in results between girls who played with a Barbie wearing a dress and the career-focused, doctor version of the doll.

What Was The Conclusion From This Study?

Once more, from the press release:

Childhood development is complex, and playing with one toy isn’t likely to alter a child’s career aspirations … But toys such as dolls or action figures can influence a child’s ideas about their future …

What Is The Take-Home Message From This Study?

Well, much less than the headline “Playing with Barbie dolls can limit girls career choices, study shows” might imply. The conclusion summarized above is a reasonable perspective. But let’s face it – this study is quite limited in scope. Only 37 girls were studied and they were distributed in age between 4 and 7 years old. This is hardly a platform for making inferences about the impact of playing with Barbie. To do that properly (and I admit I come from a tradition of epidemiological research which can have pretty rigorous standards), we would want to see a few things. Some that immediately come to mind include:

  • a much larger sample, ideally one that would be shown to be somewhat representative of a specified community (e.g., a given region of the country, so that we have more confidence in the statistical estimates)
  • more attention to potential factors that could influence how the girls responded (e.g., Are there differences by age? Level of media exposure? Prior level of conceptions of sex roles and stereotyping?)
  • additional determination of how long the effect lasted (e.g., retesting 30 minutes later; 2 days later; 1 week later)
  • more naturalistic studies that examined what toys the girls played with in their home environment (e.g., Did it make a difference that the experimenters gave the girls the toys?)
  • inclusion of boys
  • replication of the findings

These are just some ideas to think about. Look, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the study. It was published in a peer review journal. There may be something to the results. But from the scientific perspective the study gets the ball rolling – and much more research would need to be done before we are anywhere close to making bigger inferences.

This is, admittedly, a pet peeve of mine. I don’t like headline “teasers” for research that is in an early stage. Frankly, I don’t like the idea that every study that gets published warrants a press release. Sometimes a study can serve as a platform for discussion, but I think we need to be much more conservative when we use the words “study shows“  because of the inference it carries.  It’s a long way from 5 minutes in a laboratory to the real world.

What career will your child have? Take our quiz to find out!

How to Make the Most of Playtime
How to Make the Most of Playtime
How to Make the Most of Playtime

Australian Classic Toy Stamp Featuring Barbie via

Add a Comment

“Partners In Crime”: When Sibs Get In Trouble Together

Monday, November 25th, 2013

When discussing the 4 types of sibling relationships, the unique profile of siblings who have high levels of both positivity and negativity in their relationship was flagged. Why is this group particularly salient to researchers who study siblings? Because they are more likely to get in trouble – together. 

The idea was formalized decades ago by the late Dr. David Rowe. He was studying twins and examining their similarity for delinquent behavior during the teen years. He found that twins were very much alike in this regard – if one twin was getting into trouble, the other twin was likely to do so as well. But the key observation was that this similarity was not due to genetics – something the twin design gets at by comparing identical and fraternal twins. Similarity for DNA didn’t matter much. What mattered was how much time the twins spent together, and if they had common friends.

Now of course just spending time together with a sibling doesn’t promote delinquency. Over the years, research has shown that the combination of both high positivity – hanging out, having fun, having common friends – and high negativity – fighting, arguing – signals the possibility of rule breaking behavior in the teen years. Observational research shows how this can happen.  These sibs end up laughing and fighting at the same time – and they end up enjoying and reinforcing each other’s negative behaviors (one hits, the other laughs, hits back, they laugh). Getting into trouble becomes fun. Other studies show how this becomes a mechanism by which an older sibling introduces a younger sibling to substances at very early ages – ages which are problematic. These influences are most prominent when sibs are closer in age (typically within a few years) – but the principle applies to both brothers and sisters (so it’s not just limited to boys).

So what’s a parent to do? How do you know if what’s going on is just part of the complex sib relationship – or the foundation for legal difficulties in the teen years? A few things to keep in mind. First, maintain good limit setting and monitoring – sibs can join forces and undermine parental efforts. Second, don’t let the negative get out of hand in the early years. Just because it’s normative for sibs to argue and fight now and then doesn’t mean it should define their relationship – it becomes habit and carries over to other social relationships. Third, keep an eye on what the older sib is introducing to the younger sib – no 12-year-old should be exposed to drinking or substances.

While sibling relationship features don’t guarantee developmental pathways, having insight into the ways in which the sibling bond can lead to problem behaviors.

What You Need to Know About Birth Order
What You Need to Know About Birth Order
What You Need to Know About Birth Order

Twins Fighting via


Add a Comment

Positive Dad Parenting In The Early Years

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

This guest post by Dr. Claire Elizabeth Cameron breaks down the take-home messages on how dads contribute to early child development.

Most of the research on parenting has focused on moms. But a recent review of the literature – specifically a meta-analysis of almost two dozen studies of father involvement during early childhood – illustrates the specific parenting features by which dads have a positive influence on their kid’s development in the early years. 

During the years from 3 to 8, how much time dads spent with their kids, as well as how positively (or negatively) they interacted with them, related to how children performed on cognitive, social, and behavioral assessments. In fact, fathers made the greatest relative contribution to their children’s social and self-control skills, compared to cognitive skills.

Features of “positive dad parenting” are consistent with generally effective parenting, and include:

-        Spending time together

-        Expressing warmth to your child

-        Providing support for your child’s learning without controlling too much, or being overbearing

-        Setting appropriate limits and consistently enforcing those limits, without harshly punishing your child

Spending time together…sharing warm moments…all dads want those things. But what if your youngster is unruly, obstinate, or just plain hard to get along with? The researchers on this study acknowledge that rather than involved dads producing better behaved kids, it is just as likely that well-behaved, self-controlled children are easier for fathers to spend time with. Yet beyond this “chicken or egg” question is a clear message: early childhood is a critical time for dads to engage with their offspring.

So, Dads – what to do if your child makes it difficult to share enjoyable moments together?

First, think about what could be motivating your son or daughter’s undesirable behavior. Rarely are children deliberately trying to irritate you when they act out. Instead, he or she could be tired, hungry, or looking for some attention but not be able to ask in a more productive way. If you figure out what’s really behind the pouts or whines, it’s like playing offense instead of defense.

Second, try to model the behaviors that you want to see in your child. Want a child who can keep their temper in check? Try deep breathing or taking a moment of “time out” if you yourself become angry. Show your child the power of earning a reward (like a treat or a favorite TV program) by setting goals for yourself and indulging only after you’ve met the goals, rather than whenever you feel like it.

Third, doing just one thing at a time can make whatever you are doing more enjoyable, and this includes interacting with your child. So, for some meaningful one-on-one time, put the cell phone and video games on the shelf and find something active or creative for the two of you to do together.

Fourth, when in doubt, go easy on yourself. In this study, simply spending time together was as important for children’s behavior as cultivating specific, positive interactions that take lots of energy. So if you are exhausted at the end of a long day, just bring your child along as you relax in your regular routine. Your child will appreciate the time with you.

Claire Elizabeth Cameron is a Research Scientist with expertise in early childhood development at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). She received BAs in Honors Psychology and Italian, a MS in Developmental Psychology, and a PhD in Education and Psychology from the University of Michigan before completing a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Institute for Education Sciences at CASTL. 

What’s your parenting style? Take our quiz and find out!

Kids Talk about Loving their Daddy
Kids Talk about Loving their Daddy
Kids Talk about Loving their Daddy

Dad and Child via

Add a Comment