Media Highlights

Current events, news topics, research articles, or other recent developments related to health, development, and behavior in children.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

In a new study published in the journal Child Development​, researchers at San Diego State Univeristy analyzed data from seven large, nationally representative surveys of U.S. adolescents between 1976 and 2016. They found that fewer adolscents in recent years engaged in typically "adult activities" such as gaining a drivers' license, trying alcohol, dating, having sex, or working for pay. The authors suggest this as evidence that the entire developmental trajectory from early adolescence to mature adulthood is slower than it once was. 

These findings are in line with that predicted by life history theory, wherein resource-rich environments allow for a longer, slower developmental path, and harsher, unpredictable environments encourage a faster path.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

​Researchers at the University of Virginia followed 169 people for 10 years, starting when they were 15 years old. At age 15 and 16, they were asked to bring their "closest, same-gendered friend." The friend was asked to rate the "strength" of their friendship with the subject. The study found that close friendship strength at age 15 predicted teen self-worth and social acceptance one year later at age 16. In the long-term, having a stronger friendship in adolescence was associated with less depression, less social anxiety, and more self-worth at age 25. On the other hand, those reporting a higher level of self-perceived social acceptance as a teenager actually had higher levels of social anxiety as a young adult.The authors suggest that "adolescents who prioritize forming close friendships" are better equipped to navigate social relationships in adulthood, than "adolescents who [instead] prioritize attaining preference" among their peers. NPR | Medical News Today​ | Article​


Friday, August 4, 2017

A study examining data from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project looked at the relationship between early parenting and temperament characteristics and later child antisocial and positive behaviors. Mother's reported on their own discipline practices and their children's temperament at 15 months of age, the children's self-regulation abilities at 25 months of age, and their aggression, deliquency, compliance, and prosocial behaviors in 5th grade. Path analysis was used to model the relationships between discipline severity and temperament at 15 months and child behaviors in 5th grade, with self-regulation at 25 months as a potential mediating factor. More severe types of discpline included verbal and physical punishment, wheres as less severe forms of discipline included time-out, loss of privileges, and prevention strategies.

For European American children, the study found that negative emotionality as infants predicted self-regulation at 25 months and that both predicted aggression in 5th grade. Self-regulation in these child also predicted later delinquency, compliance and prosocial behaviors. Interestingly, in this cultural group, discipline severity was not related to any of the later child characteristics or behaviors.

In African American children, the study found that both negative emotionality and discipline severity as infants predicted aggression in 5th grade. Discpline also predicted deliquency and degree of prosocial behaviors. Self-regulation in this cultural group was an independent characteristic of the child that predicted compliance and prosocial behaviors separately from discipline or negative emotionality.

The authors discuss the possible cultural factors that could contribute to these between-group differences. 

One interesting result that was shown, but not discussed in the study, was that negative emotionality in the African American infants was correlated with discipline severity. This suggests that in these African American families, the quality of discipline may change in response to infant temperament (and vice versa), whereas choice of discipline in the European American families was not related to the child's temperament.

One potential hypothesis arising from these results is that children whose families use discipline to respond to their emotional state end up learning to use similar behaviors to respond their environment, whereas children whose families use a consistent level of discipline, regardless of emotional state, do not develop behaviors that reflect the discipline, but do develop regulation skills that reflect their underlying temperament. In either case, children's inherent level of self-regulation appears to be important for adhering to social expectations. Medical News Today | Pubmed​


Friday, July 21, 2017

​A thoughful commentary in this journal regarding children who are undocumented in the United States: Who they are, how and why they got here, what they face as they grow up, and why it is important to develop realistic solutions that also respect them as fellow humans. Article​


Friday, July 21, 2017

​Early intervention programs under Part C of the Individuals with Disability Education Act serve a developmentally heterogeneous population of children ages birth to 36 months. Applying mixture modeling to developmental assessment data from 1513 children who participated in a large, urban early intervention program, we identified four subgroups of children with distinct developmental profiles. This study describes the identified subgroups and suggests implications for clinical practice and service planning. Video | Article​


Friday, July 21, 2017

A longitudinal study that followed very preterm/very low birth weight and full-term mother-infant dyads from birth to 18 months assessed both infant feeding problems and maternal sensitive parenting at term, 3 and 18 months and examined the direction of the associations between both. Results showed that the association between maternal sensitivity and feeding problems differed in very preterm and full-term mother-infant dyads. In full-term infants, there was a reciprocal association from 3 to 18 months; while in very preterm infants, higher feeding problems decreased maternal sensitivity over time. Video | Article​


Friday, July 21, 2017

Using a national probability sample and controlling for other forms of maltreatment and individual and family characteristics, analyses showed that children with a physical disability and parent-perceived children who are thinner than average and children who are overweight experienced more sibling victimization. Children with an internalizing disorder experienced less sibling victimization. This the first study to highlight the importance of screening for sibling victimization in families of children with a disability and/or non-normative weight status.​ Video | Article​

Friday, July 7, 2017

​Researchers from a collaborative of German universities compared the self-regulation abilities of 4-year-olds from German middle class families to those from the Nso ethnic group of rural Cameroon. In a two-part study, they found that Cameroonian children were far more successful on the Marshmallow test, a classic test of delayed gratification developed by psychologist Walter Mischel in the 1960s at Stanford University. Nearly 70% of the Nso children were able to wait the full 10 minutes of the test; versus only 28% of the German children. The German children employed more distraction behaviors to help them cope and expressed more negative emotions than the rural Nso children; who were more likely to be emotionally neutral and less behaviorally active (10.5% even fell asleep).

The second part of the study compared parenting style at 9 months (measured by observation of parent-child play interactions and questionnaire regarding socialization priorities) to performance on the Marshmallow test at 4 years. Nso parents were more likely to display a parenting style that emphasized conforming to societal expectations (i.e., obedience, respect for elders, maintaining social harmony, and sharing). Whereas German parents were more likely to emphasize self-discovering and individualism (i.e., development of personal interests, expression of own preferences, assertiveness, being different from others). The research group found that the former parenting style was more predictive of success on the Marshmallow test, and likely explained the cultural differences in self-regulation abilities.

It remains to be understood what is the long-term impact of these different parenting cultures within various cultural contexts. Article | NPR​

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

​NPR reposted an interesting story originally published last year. The author's of the book "Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children" ​discuss a model of learning that emphasizes key processes that facilitate lifelong-learning and critical thinking rather than just knowledge acquisition and recapitulation. NPR​


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

​We describe a qualitative study of breastfeeding women designed to better understand the decision-making process women undergo regarding infant feeding over time. We conducted interviews at 2 weeks and follow-up interviews at 6 months postpartum. We used the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) as a framework for understanding the decision-making process. We found that themes related to perceived insufficient milk supply were strongly related to the perceived behavioral control component of the TPB and that these themes evolved over time. We discuss the clinical implications of these findings with respect to promotion of exclusive breastfeeding and maternal perceptions of control. Click here to read the article​.