Posts Tagged ‘ longitudinal studies ’

Is Your Child “Likeable”?

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Of course you like your child. But what do their peers think? It turns out their “likeability” may be an important, yet overlooked, factor that can portend later success.

A number of longitudinal studies have come to this conclusion. Kids who are considered to be likeable in childhood – as rated by their peers – are more likely to have better adult outcomes. They achieve more academic success, a higher occupational status, and experience less psychological problems.

What exactly is likeability? Researchers look at a few key abilities, especially in the early school years:

  • Can a child make friends easily?
  • Do other kids like playing with a child?

Keep in mind that likeability shouldn’t be equated with being the “most popular.” We are talking about kids who, across the board, are perceived by other kids as someone they like to be around (or, put another way, don’t mind being around). Importantly, the most telling picture comes from peer ratings gathered in school, rather than a child’s self-perceptions. The kids who spend their day hanging out with your kid can form an aggregate perception that offers a pretty good indicator of social skills that are predictive of later adaptive functioning.

What skills should you foster to help your child be likeable? There are few things to keep in mind:

  • Kids need to know how to let others “hold the floor” – constantly interrupting, blurting out, and talking only about themselves undermines likeability
  • Kids need to know how to play cooperatively – how to take turns, work together, and listen to other points of view
  • Kids should know how to be gracious – they should share in others’ joy and be a good sport
  • Kids should know how to bring themselves to their interactions with others – being overly withdrawn is not an asset with peers
  • Kids should know how to be positive – having enthusiasm is much more appealing than being the naysayer

This is a short list of some of the good social skills every kid can have. While it’s a reality that kids have very different personalities, the fact is all these different personalities can still be expressed using fundamental social skills. Other people like to be around people who have these attributes. Likeability goes a long way, in the short and long term of life.

Manners & Responsibility: 3 Manners All Kids Should Know
Manners & Responsibility: 3 Manners All Kids Should Know
Manners & Responsibility: 3 Manners All Kids Should Know

Kids Having Fun via Shutterstock.com

 

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Spanking Doesn’t Work

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

There are two things we know for sure about spanking: a lot of parents in the US still practice it, and it does have an effect in the moment. But research continues to show that, over the long-term, spanking doesn’t work – because it leads to worse, rather than better, outcomes.

Yet another paper was published showing that spanking has negative effects on child development. Here’s why this study is important:

  • A large (over 1,900 families) sample was used – providing confidence in the findings
  • A longitudinal design was used – kids were studied from age 3 through age 9
  • A number of statistical controls were applied to focus on the specific impact of spanking on later development

Perhaps the most important finding was that while a majority of parents engaged in spanking (e.g., 57% of mothers at age 3), not every child experienced spanking – which allowed for enough variation in the sample to have a good look at the effects of spanking over time. Put another way, the researchers could compare developmental benchmarks in kids who were spanked, and those who weren’t. So what were those results?

  • Spanking was associated with more behavior problems at age 9
  • Spanking was associated with lower vocabulary (receptive) scores at age 9

Let’s keep in mind here the argument for spanking – it’s purported to improve children’s behavior. Studies continue to demonstrate that it does not do this, and in fact often predicts worse behavior. So despite the personal stories and folklore about how a good spanking can change a kid, each empirical study that comes out suggests that it changes a kid for the worse, not better. If these stories ring true, why don’t we see huge positive effects of spanking when we study kids over time?

Parents who feel that there is no other way to shape their child’s behavior would do well to speak to their pediatrician to try to get training in behavioral techniques that actually work. Everyone will be happier and, in the long run, kids will show improvements, rather than declines, in their behavior over time.

What’s your parenting style? Find out! And watch this video on how to discipline without spanking:



DATA via Shutterstock.com

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Predicting the Future For Your Child: Using Longitudinal Studies

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

We all certainly parent in the moment with immediate goals in mind. Lots of the information we take from science is used to help us do this. We can learn about different sleep methods and try them out. We can get tips on how to handle temper tantrums and see if they work. We can discover ways to promote reading skills and start to use them. But one of the most important things we can get out of research is how our parenting today impacts our child’s behavior in the future.

The reason for this is that many research projects use a longitudinal design. Simply put, they follow parents and kids over and over again. Sometimes these studies are relatively short (say covering a six-month period). Some last longer (say five years). And some go on for decades, and follow development from infancy to adulthood.

I will focus quite a bit on longitudinal studies in my future posts because they provide a “crystal ball” into children’s futures. Like any enterprise that focuses on prediction, it is “probabilistic” – research can only reveal trends and percentages and statistical weighings on the likelihood of outcomes. Research studies also summarize the patterns that are observed for groups of children, so it’s not the case that we can take the results of one study and apply it with precision to a given child. And let’s face it, chance plays a role in every one’s┬álife.

All that said, however, well-designed longitudinal studies can at least give us a glimpse into what happens over time and predictors of positive (and negative) outcomes across development. If I am selecting a given sleep method, I’d like to have an educated guess about how it will work tonight — but I’d also like to know if it will have an impact on my child’s sleep behavior next month and next year. There are lots of ways of handling temper tantrums. If I decide to go with one school of thought over another, it would be helpful to find out how quickly a given approach will eliminate the tantrums — but also the likelihood of explosive behavior a year later, and even five years later. If I read about ways to promote reading skills in toddlerhood, I would definitely like to know if it really does lead to advances in reading ten years later. This type of information can come from good research, and it’s the type of take-home message I’d like to share with parents on a frequent basis.

Science isn’t all knowing. And it can’t tell us how to parent – we make that choice. But it can give us unique information about the links between how we parent today, and what our children are doing in the future.

Image courtesy of jscreationzs via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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