Posts Tagged ‘
Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
The debate circulates periodically in the parenting world – is it better to be an only child, or to grow up with siblings? Research findings will be cherry picked to support whatever position is endorsed. Personal experience will be cited. But as someone who has observed families – lots of families, all across the country – in many settings (research and clinical), I have a very simple answer to the question of which is better:
Now, of course there are plenty of unique features to being an only child, or being a sibling. But there is so much variation out there it seems absurd to me to claim that, structurally, being an only child versus having siblings is inherently preferable. And I’m not inclined to be swayed by trends in certain studies that point to small statistical effects. Only children are not “spoiled” unless a parent spoils them. There are plenty of “spoiled” children who have siblings. Growing up with a sibling can set a platform for the most intimate and long-lasting relationship a person may have. Then again, there are siblings who can’t stand each other. Some kids who don’t have siblings wish they did – and others grow up fine without one. Come up with any scenario and you can find someone who fits the profile – and someone who doesn’t.
Let’s face it, what really mattes is how a child is brought up – whether there is only one, or more than one, child in a household.
Raising an only child has unique demands. Raising more than one child does as well. But in either case, there’s either good parenting, or not so good parenting – or put another way, a healthy family climate or one that is problematic. That’s the big effect you will see in the data that will tell you plenty about a child – and what kind of person they become.
Plus: Are you ready for another child? Take our quiz and find out!
Sesame Street Lessons: Brothers and Sisters
Debate via Shutterstock.com
Add a Comment
Health, Kids Health, Only Child, Parenting, Siblings, Singletons | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Relationships
Monday, April 8th, 2013
Such is a key take-home message from the Early Childhood Summit 2013: Innovation and Opportunity - held in Boston on Friday, April 5th as part of the ongoing celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Boston Children’s Museum.
This meeting brought together leaders from pediatrics, developmental science, public health, the non-profit sector, and top business leaders in the Boston region. The focus was on sharing new ideas about the challenges that some kids and families face, along with possible creative solutions to ensure that kids have early experiences that serve as a platform for healthy and adaptive development. And the idea of thinking about “enrichment” and “protection” as critical components of a child’s rearing environment particularly resonated with me.
This idea was offered by Jack P. Shonkoff, MD, who is the Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. As discussed by Dr. Shonkoff, “enrichment” refers to all the good things parents should be doing in the early years to promote social, emotional, and cognitive development. These are the fundamental building blocks of parenting, including spending lots of time talking to babies and toddlers, being emotionally responsive and engaged, and promoting and supporting curiosity and play. But Dr. Shonkoff emphasized – using the platform of neuroscience research – how critical it is that babies and toddlers also be protected from the toxic effects of excessive stress. Overexposure to harsh rearing environments – including those characterized by overt discord, anger, hostility, and criticism – can take a psychological toll in the early years which can have lasting effects due to the neurodevelopmental sensitivity to extreme stress. Even babies and toddlers can show stress responses that get turned on too much – and don’t shut down quick enough – which predicts a host of problems down the road, both in terms of cognitive and social functioning as well as physical health.
Jack P. Shonkoff, MD, Harvard University
By integrating the concepts of enrichment and protection, we have a framework that simultaneously emphasizes both the good things that parents should be doing lots of, and the bad things that parents shouldn’t do much at all. For those of us who study kids – and in particular track kids from infancy through adulthood – we keep seeing more and more evidence that those early years matter greatly in terms of influencing brain development at a critical period of life. Putting effort into enrichment and providing protection against toxic stress is indeed an equation that predicts healthy development (physical and psychological) from the early years all the way into adulthood.
Photo of Jack P. Shonkoff, MD, addressing the Early Childhood Summit 2013: Innovation and Opportunity meeting (April 5, 2013, Boston, MA) courtesy of Gus Freedman
Add a Comment
babies, Boston Children's Museum, Brain Development, Childhood Play, Childhood Stress, Harvard University, Health, Kids Health, Parenting, toddlers | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting
Thursday, February 28th, 2013
February 2013 was a busy month in the world of parenting – lots of things going on. Here’s a snapshot:
The news that an adult male slapped a stranger’s toddler on a plane led to a conversation about how our culture may be breeding, at a minimum, a lack of respect for our youngsters – and at worst, provide a context in which child-hating is tolerated.
Speaking of conversations, we had many about if we should use what we are learning about genetics to support genetic engineering, including targeting childhood psychiatric disorders. Then came news that new research suggests some genes might predispose to a number of forms of mental illness – but it’s not at all clear that this will move us closer to genetic solutions.
We always include applications of current research to help guide us decide on good parenting strategies. One study suggest how important it is to let your toddler – and not you – be the “boss” when you are playing. And compelling research showed how the simple act of turning off violent shows and replacing them with educational content – without limiting the amount of TV watched – is beneficial for kids.
BARRIERS TO SERVICES
We took on some key barriers to getting kids mental health services and broke them down in understandable turns. Now we all wait to see if sequestration is going to provide the biggest barrier of all.
Time For Review via Shutterstock.com
Add a Comment
educational TV, genes, Health, Kids Health, Mental Health, Parenting, play, Red-Hot Parenting, Review, Sequestration, TV, Violence | Categories:
Behavior, Genetics, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Pregnancy, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Relationships, Stories
Friday, October 26th, 2012
A recent study of teens suggests that it is. Or put another way, even though you say “No”, it still might be influential that your teen’s friend’s parents don’t.
A team of researchers reported that teens’ substance use could be predicted from the parenting style of their friends. Teens whose friends’ parents were ‘authoritative’ (meaning they were affectionate yet set limits with their kids) had greatly reduced levels of substance use, as compared to teens whose friends’ parents were ‘neglectful’ (meaning they weren’t affectionate and set few limits with their kids). The effects held after accounting for the parenting style of the kids’ own parents and other possible confounding variables – suggesting some type of direct influence that was quite dramatic. For example, kids who had friends with authoritative parenting styles were:
38% less likely to binge drink
39% less likely to smoke cigarettes
43% less likely to smoke marijuana
Or another way to look at these data is to say the teen’s risk of substance use was much greater when the friend’s parents were ‘neglectful’.
Of course, there are typically some selection effects in these kinds of studies – kids often seek out friends who are similar to them in terms of interest in substance use. But that said, there is something to these findings. I’ve conducted studies in which teens carry around electronic diaries and indicate where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. Without questions, kids who used substances were most likely to report doing so when they were with a friend, at the friend’s house … and the friend’s parents were not at home.
So, the take-home message is that it’s a good idea to know not only who your kid’s friends are, but also something about what happens when they are over their friend’s house – particularly with respect to the extent that the parents are around, and how they behave when they are there. And the best source of that is … your own kid. That’s why open communication is so important in the teen years.
Just Say No! via Shutterstock.com
Add a Comment
authoritative parenting, binge drinking, Health, Kids Health, Parenting, substance use, teen drug use, teens | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting
Friday, September 28th, 2012
Just after a wrote a blog post on how there is a whole new level of complexity in studying how genes work, I see that the internet is lit up with news of the discovery of the mom gene. And speculation about what it means for women, reflections by writers on whether or not they have it, and so on. So … do you have the mom gene?
Well, at this point, the only way you can determine this is if you are … a female mouse. (And even that is still subject to debate).
Yes, check out the abstract of the study here. It’s an important study. It’s a well conducted study. It’s published in a top tier journal. But it is about maternal behavior in mice.
Now, of course there is a long history of using animal models to inform our understanding of human behavior, particularly with respect to neurobiology and genetics. And this study is going to make a scientific contribution to understanding how specific genes may play a role in regulating specific and complex behaviors. But that said, how do we go from the following – “Suppression of ERα in the preoptic area almost completely abolished maternal care, significantly increasing the latency to pup retrieval and significantly reducing the time the moms spent nursing and licking the pups” (from the study’s abstract) – to making inferences about the degree to which human females are predisposed genetically to want to be a mother. As if you could run to your local geneticist and ask for a rapid genotyping so you can find out for sure if you really want to be a mother.
Look, I’m all for interesting research on genetics. I’m for understanding how genetic influences shape in part complex behaviors in humans (I’ve spent a fair number of years studying this). But can we get back to reality? We can’t find single genes for the vast majority of diseases – primarily because they involve complex (and not understood) interactions between biology and the environment. The science of genetics keeps getting more and more complex. When we talk about wanting to be a mother, think about how many social factors are involved from early childhood through adulthood (I know I’m stating the obvious, but it seems like the obvious needs stating). No complex human behavior is reducible to a single gene that functions in a “go/no go” way. Do genes play some type of role in how strongly a female wants to be a mother, or how maternal she is? I’m sure they do – in the same way that they have some influence on shyness, or aggression, or any number of traits, along with a whole bunch of social and cultural factors.
So, I can confidently state that unless you are a female mouse, we are not, at this moment in scientific time, ready to determine if you have, or don’t have, the mom gene.
Mouse mom with pups via Shutterstock.com (I guess this mouse has the mom gene)
Add a Comment
Genetics, Health, mice, mom gene, motherhood, Parenting | Categories:
Behavior, Genetics, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Pregnancy, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Stories