Overweight, obese preschoolers lose more weight when parent is also treated

Primary care treatment of overweight and obese preschoolers works better when treatment targets both parent and child compared to when only the child is targeted, according to research published this week in Pediatrics and conducted at the University at Buffalo and Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.Children enrolled in this study were overweight or obese and had one parent who participated in the study who also was overweight or obese, according to body mass index (BMI) measurements, calculated based on height and weight.During the course of the study, children who were treated concurrently with a parent experienced more appropriate weight gain while growing normally in height. Children in the intervention group gained an average of 12 pounds over 24 months compared to children in the control group who gained almost 16 pounds. This more appropriate weight accrual resulted in a decrease of 0.21 percent over BMI from baseline to 24 months.Parents in the intervention group lost an average of 14 pounds, resulting in a BMI decrease of over 2 units while the weight of parents in the control group was essentially unchanged.”Our results show that the traditional approach to overweight prevention and treatment focusing only on the child is obsolete,” says Teresa A. Quattrin, MD, senior author and UB Distinguished Professor, chair of the Department of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and pediatrician-in-chief at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.”This study is important because while we know that it is critical to begin treating overweight or obese children early, there has been limited data on what works best in preschool-aged children,” she says.The research was part of Buffalo Healthy Tots, a novel family-based, weight control intervention in preschool children that Quattrin directed in urban and suburban pediatric practices in Western New York.When funded in 2010 with a $2.6 million grant by the National Institutes of Health, Buffalo Healthy Tots was the first of its kind in the U.S. The goal was to compare traditional approaches where only the child is treated to family-based, behavioral treatment implemented in pediatric primary care practices.The study of 96 children ages 2-5 found that when overweight and obese youth and their parents were treated in a primary care setting with behavioral intervention, parents and children experienced greater decreases in body mass index (BMI) than did the children who received the traditional treatment, focusing only on the child. Weight loss for both parent and child was sustained after a 12-month followup.Quattrin notes that an important feature of the study was the use of practice enhancement assistants, trained in psychology, nutrition or exercise science. These assistants worked with the families both during treatment and education sessions and afterward by phone.The intervention was delivered through the parents, who were instructed about the appropriate number of food servings for children and appropriate calorie values. They were taught to avoid “high-energy” foods, such as those with high sugar content, more than 5 grams of fat per serving or artificial sweeteners.Parents monitored the number of servings in each food category, using a simple diary to cross off icons pertaining to the food consumed or type of physical activity performed. Parents also were taught to record their own and their child’s weight on a simple graph.Weight loss goals for children were 0.5 to 1 pound per week and for parents it was at least 1 pound per week.Quattrin says that the study results suggest that overweight or obese children and their parents can be successfully treated in the primary care setting with the assistance of practice enhancers.”Instead of the more traditional approach of referring these patients to a specialty clinic, the patient-centered medical home in the pediatrician’s office may be an ideal setting for implementing these family-based treatments,” she says.”We have entered a new era where students, trainees and specialists have to learn how to better interact with primary care providers and implement care coordination. This paper suggests that, indeed, family-based strategies for any chronic disorder, including obesity, can be successful in primary care. …

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Stirring the simmering ‘designer baby’ pot

From genetic and genomic testing to new techniques in human assisted reproduction, various technologies are providing parents with more of a say about the children they have and “stirring the pot of ‘designer baby’ concerns,” writes Thomas H. Murray, President Emeritus of The Hastings Center, in a commentary in Science.Murray calls for a national conversation about how much discretion would-be parents should have. “Preventing a lethal disease is one thing; choosing the traits we desire is quite another,” he writes.He discusses public hearings two weeks ago by the United States Food and Drug Administration to consider whether to permit human testing of a new method of assisted reproduction — mitochondrial manipulation — that would prevent the transmission of certain rare diseases and perhaps address some causes of female infertility. At issue is the safety of the technology, as well as its ethical implications.Mitochondrial manipulation creates an embryo with the nuclear DNA from the prospective mother and father (which contains most of the genetic material) and the mitochondrial DNA (containing 37 genes) from a donor without mitochondrial defects. Among the ethical concerns is that daughters produced by this procedure could pass down the mitochondrial DNA to their children. “Up to now, the United States has not allowed such genetic changes across generations,” Murray writes.He says that the FDA’s discussion is the latest development that “tapped into a simmering controversy over what it means to have a child in an era of increasing convergence among genetic, genomic, and reproductive technologies.” Those technologies include preimplantation genetic diagnosis (genetic analysis of embryos before implantation via in vitro fertilization) and prenatal screening to detect health problems in the fetus, including the prospects of a blood test of a pregnant woman to screen fetal DNA in her blood.”Of all the possible choices prospective parents might make, sex selection for non-medical purposes has prompted the strongest policy response, “Murray writes. “It is prohibited in at least 36 countries, but not in the United States.” He notes that “conflicts over the legal and moral status of embryos and fetuses have discouraged American legislators from proposing sensible regulations, lest they be drawn in to the abortion debate.”The absence of federal legislation has left the regulation of sex selection up to professional societies. But they have different guidelines, reflecting “clashing ethical frameworks for thinking about parenthood in the genomic era.”Murray calls for a national conversation about current and emerging technologies shaping the choices that parents have, beginning with an examination by the U.S. Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. “It will not be easy to avoid the quicksand of the abortion debate,” he writes, “but it would be a great public service to provide a sober assessment of the choices that would-be parents increasingly face, and to encourage a respectful dialogue about the meaning of parenthood and the worth of a child so that parents and children can flourish together.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by The Hastings Center. …

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Will your child be a slim adult? Crowdsourcing novel childhood predictors of adult obesity

Will your child be a slim adult? A novel new study published in PLOS ONE asked 532 international English speaking adults to submit or “crowd-source” predictors of whether a child is going to be an overweight or a slim adult. Each participant offered what they believed to be the best predictor of what a child would weigh as an adult and submitted it in the form of a question. Questions were related to factors of participants’ childhood experience including home environment, psychosocial well-being, lifestyle, built environment, and family history. Each participant also supplied his or her height and weight (to determine BMI) and answered questions generated by other participants about their own childhood behaviors and conditions. Several of the questions asked had a significant correlation with participants’ current BMI as listed below.Adults who reported a lower BMI also reported having the following childhood experiences in common:Their families prepared meals using fresh ingredients. Their parents talked with them about nutrition. They frequently engaged in outdoor physical activity with their families. They slept a healthy number of hours on weeknights. They had many friends. …

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Valentine’s Day advice: Don’t let rocky past relations with parents spoil your romance

University of Alberta relationship researcher Matt Johnson has some Valentine’s Day advice for anybody who’s had rocky relations with their parents while growing up: don’t let it spill over into your current romantic partnership.The love between parents and teens — however stormy or peaceful — may influence whether those children are successful in romance, even up to 15 years later, according to a new U of A study co-authored by Johnson, whose work explores the complexities of the romantic ties that bind.Being aware of that connection may save a lot of heartache down the road, according to Johnson, who reviewed existing data that was gathered in the United States over a span of 15 years.The findings, which appear in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family, uncovered a “small but important link between parent-adolescent relationship quality and intimate relationships 15 years later,” Johnson said. “The effects can be long-lasting.”While their analysis showed, perhaps not surprisingly, that good parent-teen relationships resulted in slightly higher quality of romantic relationships for those grown children years later, it poses a lesson in self-awareness when nurturing an intimate bond with a partner, Johnson said.”People tend to compartmentalize their relationships; they tend not to see the connection between one kind, such as family relations, and another, like couple unions. But understanding your contribution to the relationship with your parents would be important to recognizing any tendency to replicate behaviour — positive or negative — in an intimate relationship.”That doesn’t mean parents should be blamed for what might be wrong in a grown child’s relationship, Johnson added. “It is important to recognize everyone has a role to play in creating a healthy relationship, and each person needs to take responsibility for their contribution to that dynamic.”The results were gleaned from survey-based information from 2,970 people who were interviewed at three stages of life from adolescence to young adulthood, spanning ages 12 to 32.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Young adults reminisce about music from before their time

Sep. 9, 2013 — Music has an uncanny way of bringing us back to a specific point in time, and each generation seems to have its own opinions about which tunes will live on as classics. New research suggests that young adults today are fond of and have an emotional connection to the music that was popular for their parents’ generation.”Music transmitted from generation to generation shapes autobiographical memories, preferences, and emotional responses, a phenomenon we call cascading ‘reminiscence bumps,'” explains psychological scientist and lead researcher Carol Lynne Krumhansl of Cornell University. “These new findings point to the impact of music in childhood and likely reflect the prevalence of music in the home environment.”The study, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveals that while songs that were popular in our early 20s seem to have the greatest lasting emotional impact, music that was popular during our parents’ younger days also evokes vivid memories.To explore the connection between autobiographical memories and musical memories, Krumhansl and Justin Zupnick of the University of California, Santa Cruz asked 62 college-age participants to listen to two top Billboard hits per year from 1955 to 2009.The researchers wanted to see which periods of music were most memorable for the participants, which songs conjured up the strongest feelings, and which ones made the participants happy, sad, energized, or nostalgic. In addition, participants were asked whether they remembered listening to the song by themselves, with their parents, or amongst friends.The data revealed that participants’ personal memories associated with songs increased steadily as they got older, from birth until the present day. This finding makes sense — we recall more recent songs better, ascribe memories to them more easily, and feel a stronger emotional connection with them.But the more surprising finding — one which the researchers didn’t expect to see — was a drastic bump in memories, recognition, perceived quality, liking, and emotional connection with the music that was popular in the early 1980s, when the participants’ parents were about 20-25 years old. That is, participants seemed to demonstrate a particular affinity for the songs their parents were listening to as young adults.Previous research has shown that the music we encounter during late adolescence and early adulthood has the greatest impact on our lives. But these findings suggest that the music played throughout childhood can also leave a lasting impact.And there was another, albeit smaller, ‘reminiscence bump’ for the music of the 1960s — more than two decades before the participants were born. Krumhansl and Zupnick speculate that reminiscence for this music could have been transmitted from the participants’ grandparents, who would have been in their 20s or 30s in the 1960s.Another possibility — one that might be favored by those of the Baby Boomer generation — is that the music of the 1960s is truly of higher quality.The researchers are launching a web-based survey to explore these questions further. The survey will include a century of top hits and Krumhansl and Zupnick hope that listeners of all ages, especially older adults, will participate.”It will be fascinating to see if we can trace intergenerational influences back through more generations, better understand the ‘sixties’ bump,’ and look for effects of the vast changes in music technology that have occurred over the last century,” says Krumhansl.

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Forensic familial search methods carry risk of certain false matches

Aug. 14, 2013 — Forensic DNA-based familial search methods may mistakenly identify individuals in a database as siblings or parents of an unknown perpetrator, when in fact they are distant relatives, according to research published August 14 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Rori Rohlfs and colleagues from the University of California at Berkeley and New York University.Share This:Familial searching is a new forensic technique to identify a perpetrator if a crime scene DNA sample has no matches in a DNA database. In such a situation, law enforcement can look for a partial match to a known person in the database — a “near miss” — in the hope that the closeness of the genetic profiles indicates that one of that person’s relatives is the perpetrator. Familial searches can reliably distinguish first-degree relatives from unrelated individuals, but may misidentify distant relatives as being immediate family, according to this new research. As a result, second cousins, half- siblings and other relatives may be identified as siblings. The results suggest a 3-18% chance that a first cousin of a known offender could be misidentified as a full-sibling using current techniques, and up to a 42% chance that a half-sibling could be misidentified as a full-sibling.The authors conclude that there exist two unanticipated likely outcomes of familial search policies. The study explains these as, “Investigations may wrongly target the immediate families of known offenders, because officers mistakenly believe that their lead is a first-degree relative. Second, investigations may ultimately probe far more deeply than initially imagined, because once officers are convinced that the source cannot be found among first degree relatives, they will widen their net of investigation to include more distant relations. Both of these consequences exacerbate the numerous ethical problems presented by familial searching.”Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. …

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Family members of children with cancer may also be at risk

Aug. 7, 2013 — When a child is diagnosed with cancer, one of the first questions the parents ask is “Will my other children get cancer?” A new study from Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah suggests the answer to that question depends on whether a family history of cancer exists. The research results were published online in the International Journal of Cancer and will appear in the November 15 print issue.The study, led by Joshua Schiffman, M.D., medical director of HCI’s High Risk Pediatric Cancer Clinic and a pediatric hematologist/oncologist in in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Utah, examined the family medical history of 4,482 children diagnosed with cancer over a 43-year period to determine the cancer risk in their relatives.The research team found that when children were diagnosed with any kind of cancer at age 18 or younger, the risk to their parents, siblings, or children for childhood cancer doubled compared to families with no childhood cancer patients. If the cancer diagnosis came when the child was age 4 or less, the risk to close relatives for childhood cancer increased almost four times.”No one had previously studied the question, so we simply told parents there was no evidence of increased risk to the other children,” said Schiffman. “Now we can give an evidence-based answer — the risk depends on your family history of cancer.”This is the first study that uses the Utah Population Database (UPDB) to broadly examine the risk of all types of cancer in relatives of children with cancer. This unique resource at the University of Utah links genealogies and cancer registry data from Utah to medical records and vital records, including Utah death certificates.”Because our data came from the UPDB, the assessment of family history in our study does not rely on self- or family-reported medical history,” said lead author Karen Curtin, Ph.D., a genetic epidemiologist and UPDB assistant director. “Self-reporting of family medical history depends on an individual’s memory, while our data comes from the statewide Utah Cancer Registry that records nearly all cancer cases, which reduces possible errors in reporting family cancers.”The team also assessed known inherited genetic syndromes in adult relatives of pediatric cancer patients. They found cancers associated with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS) seemed to be driving the increased risk to relatives in families with a history of cancer.”Not all children’s cancers are hereditary,” said Schiffman. “But the numbers in this study suggest that the proportion of hereditary childhood cancers may be significantly higher than the 5-10% generally cited in adult hereditary cancers, and likely even more than 20%.”LFS is one of the most devastating cancer syndromes,” said Schiffman. “It causes a variety of cancers in both children and adults. …

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Why kids should not be allowed on trampolines

Aug. 7, 2013 — Less than two weeks after getting a new trampoline, 12-year-old Abbey Creamean broke her ankle when she landed awkwardly.She wore a cast up to her mid-thigh. She had to cancel a dance recital, quit her softball team and give up swimming.Abbey is among the more than 100 young patients that Dr. Terri Cappello of Loyola University Medical Center has treated during her 15 years as a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon.”A trampoline puts a child at risk for serious injuries,” Cappello said. “Kids sustain broken arms, legs and even break their necks which can lead to paralysis. Just as you would not let your child jump into a shallow swimming pool, you should not let them jump on a trampoline.”Cappello agrees with a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that says safety measures such as enclosure nets and padding have not substantially reduced the risk. “Therefore, the home use of trampolines is strongly discouraged,” the Academy statement said.The AAP estimated that in 2009, there were nearly 98,000 trampoline-related injuries in the United States. And injuries peak during the summer months.Cappello said trampolines might be worth the risk only when used for training purposes by gymnasts and divers, under careful supervision.The Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America said trampolines and moon bouncers are among the four main areas of preventable injuries in children. (The other areas are skateboards, ATVs and lawnmowers.)Cappello said injuries typically occur when trampoline users land awkwardly. Common injuries include a broken ankle or a fracture of the tibia (shinbone) just below the knee. …

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Raising adopted children: How parents cooperate matters more than gay or straight

July 13, 2013 — A study suggests that whether parents are gay, lesbian or straight, how well they work together as a couple is linked to fewer behavior problems in their adopted children and is more important than their sexual orientation.A new study by psychology researchers suggests that whether parents are gay, lesbian or straight, how well they work together as a couple and support each other in parenting is linked to fewer behavior problems among their adopted children and is more important than their sexual orientation.Rachel H. Farr at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Charlotte J. Patterson at the University of Virginia report their findings from this first empirical examination of differences and similarities in co-parenting among lesbian, gay and heterosexual adoptive couples and associations with child behavior in the July/August issue of Child Development.Farr, who led the study, says, “While actual divisions of childcare tasks such as feeding, dressing and taking time to play with kids were unrelated to children’s adjustment, it was the parents who were most satisfied with their arrangements with each other who had children with fewer behavior problems, such as acting out or showing aggressive behavior.””It appears that while children are not affected by how parents divide childcare tasks, it definitely does matter how harmonious the parents’ relationships are with each other,” she adds. She and Patterson also observed differences in division of labor in lesbian and gay couples compared to heterosexual parents.The study suggests that lesbian and gay couples may be creating new ways to live together and raise children outside of traditional gender roles, the authors say, and results are important to adoption professionals and others who work with adoptive families. Further, the research is informative for those debating legal, political and policy questions about family dynamics and outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples.For this study, Farr and Patterson recruited families from five adoption agencies across the United States. In total, 104 families agreed to participate, 25 headed by lesbian partners, 29 by gay male partners and 50 by heterosexual couples. Their adoptive children had been placed with them at birth or within the first few weeks of life; at the time of the study the children were all around three years old.Parents were asked to report on the division of child-related labor between them and on factors of their child’s adjustment. They were also observed by researchers who coded their co-parenting behavior during videotaped parent-child play sessions along scales rated for “supportive” and “undermining” interactions, using an established test.The researchers discovered that lesbian and gay couples were more likely to equally share childcare tasks, while heterosexual couples were likely to specialize, with mothers doing more work than fathers in these families. In addition, Farr says, from the videotaped observations of family interactions, “it was clear that other aspects of co-parenting, such as how supportive parents were of each other, or how much they competed, were connected with children’s behavioral problems.”Parents’ dissatisfaction with division of child-care labor, not the actual division of these tasks, was significantly associated with increased child behavior problems. As the researchers had expected, supportive co-parenting interactions, such as greater pleasure and engagement between parents, were associated with positive child behavior for all three types of parents.Overall, whether parents shared child care tasks or had a more specialized division of this work was not related to children’s adjustment. …

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Passing the ball may also pass disease

July 2, 2013 — UC Irvine researchers have demonstrated that basketballs and volleyballs can spread potentially dangerous germs among players. Their findings may bring a new awareness to athletes, coaches, trainers and parents regarding safe sanitation practices for athletes.The undergraduate independent study project was supervised by Joshua A. Cotter, a postdoctoral fellow in orthopedic surgery, and led by Brandon Haghverdian, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and starts medical school at UC Irvine in the fall. The research was presented by graduating biological sciences student Nimesh Patel at the American College of Sports Medicine national conference in May, 2013.Staphylococcus aureus, a germ known for causing staph infections in athletes, was selected for the study. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly referred to as MRSA, is a kind of staph that is particularly worrisome because of its resistance to many antibiotics. Athletes with MRSA infections often must endure emergency room visits, costly outpatient follow-ups, and time away from games and practice. The NCAA has initiated a campaign to help identify and prevent diseases which can be spread among athletes.During the study, the researchers analyzed the germ threat on volleyballs and basketballs, the players’ hands and the gym floor. For each phase of the study, two of the three surfaces were sterilized, and the third was left in its native state. Germicidal Ultraviolet “C” (UVC) light was used to sterilize the ball and the floor tiles, whereas hands were sanitized by washing with antibacterial soap.Staph. aureus cultures were then sampled from all three surfaces. …

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Head Start children and parents show robust gains in new intervention

July 1, 2013 — An eight-week intervention involving 141 preschoolers in a Head Start program and their parents produced significant improvements in the children’s behavior and brain functions supporting attention and reduced levels of parental stress that, in turn, improved the families’ quality of life.The findings — from the first phase of a long-term research project by University of Oregon neuroscientists that will monitor the families over time — appear this week online in advance of regular publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.The new UO initiative is designed as an addition to the regular Head Start program, which was launched by the federal government in 1965 to enhance the education, health, nutrition and parental involvement for families living under the poverty line.A preliminary economic analysis, not included in the new study, estimates that implementing the program widely at Head Start sites would add just $800 per family and could yield a strong return on investment, said project leader Helen Neville, who holds the UO’s Robert and Beverly Lewis Endowed Chair in Psychology and heads the Brain Development Lab.”This intervention didn’t come out of thin air,” Neville said. “It came out of basic research on neural plasticity that we have done in our lab for many decades.” Neural plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to shape and reshape itself over a lifetime.”We’ve studied neural plasticity by looking at deaf people, blind people, children with language impairments, bilinguals and typical people,” Neville said. “We’ve found that some systems of the brain don’t show much neural plasticity. Some show a lot but only in a specific time period. So we targeted this second kind of system, focusing on selective attention of the developing brain.”Children from lower socioeconomic status (SES) often have more problems with attention skills than do children from higher SES backgrounds, because, on average, they have more difficulty suppressing, or ignoring, non-attended information, Neville said. Such difficulties likely arise, she said, as children in lower SES families grow up amid chaos and unpredictable environments.The UO team developed learning exercises, including games, appropriate for kids ages 3-5. The exercises, said co-author Scott Klein, require clear focus from the children.Parents or other primary caregivers attended weekly two-hour sessions in which they learned standard parenting practices that build strong relationships and about the value of the attention skills their children were receiving. Much of the discussion centered on reducing negative components of parenting and fostering a positive atmosphere, such as providing guided choices for children, establishing expectations and praising good behaviors, said Klein, a research assistant in the Brain Development Lab. Training was reinforced with weekly phone calls to the parents to help address specific problems.”We try to have all activities done with children embedded with the parents all of the time,” Klein said. “We are building a systematic change one step at a time. …

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Divorce early in childhood affects parental relationships in adulthood

June 29, 2013 — Divorce has a bigger impact on child-parent relationships if it occurs in the first few years of the child’s life, according to new research. Those who experience parental divorce early in their childhood tend to have more insecure relationships with their parents as adults than those who experience divorce later, researchers say.”By studying variation in parental divorce, we are hoping to learn more about how early experiences predict the quality of people’s close relationships later in life,” says R. Chris Fraley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Psychologists are especially interested in childhood experiences, as their impact can extend into adulthood, but studying such early experiences is challenging, as people’s memories of particular events vary widely. Parental divorce is a good event to study, he says, as people can accurately report if and when their parents divorced, even if they do not have perfect recollection of the details.In two studies published today in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Fraley and graduate student Marie Heffernan examined the timing and effects of divorce on both parental and romantic relationships, as well as differences in how divorce affects relationships with mothers versus fathers. In the first study, they analyzed data from 7,735 people who participated in a survey about personality and close relationships through yourpersonality.net. More than one-third of the survey participants’ parents divorced and the average age of divorce was about 9 years old.The researchers found that individuals from divorced families were less likely to view their current relationships with their parents as secure. And people who experienced parental divorce between birth and 3 to 5 years of age were more insecure in their current relationships with their parents compared to those whose parents divorced later in childhood.”A person who has a secure relationship with a parent is more likely than someone who is insecure to feel that they can trust the parent,” Fraley says. “Such a person is more comfortable depending on the parent and is confident that the parent will be psychologically available when needed.”Although there was a tendency for people to experience more anxiety about romantic relationships if they were from divorced families, the link between parental divorce and insecurity in romantic relationships was relatively weak. This finding was important, the researchers say, as it shows that divorce does not have a blanket effect on all close relationships in adulthood but rather is selective — affecting some relationships more than others. …

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Conversations with teens about weight linked with increased risk of unhealthy eating behaviors

June 24, 2013 — Conversations between parents and adolescents that focus on weight and size are associated with an increased risk for unhealthy adolescent weight-control behaviors, according to a study published Online First by JAMA Pediatrics.The study by University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, researchers also found that overweight or obese adolescents whose mothers engaged in conversations that were focused only on healthful eating behaviors were less likely to diet and use unhealthy weight-control behaviors (UWCBs).”Because adolescence is a time when more youths engage in disordered eating behaviors, it is important for parents to understand what types of conversations may be helpful or harmful in regard to disordered eating behaviors and how to have these conversations with their adolescents,” Jerica M. Berge, Ph.D., M.P.H., L.M.F.T., of the University of Minnesota Medical School, and colleagues write in the study background.The study used data from two linked population-based studies and included surveys completed by adolescents and parents. The study’s final sample consisted of 2,348 adolescents (average age, 14.4 years) and 3,528 parents.Among overweight adolescents whose mothers engaged in healthful eating conversations compared with those whose mothers did not engage in healthful eating conversations, there was a significantly lower prevalence of dieting (40.1 percent vs. 53.4 percent, respectively) and UWCBs (40.6 percent vs. 53.2 percent, respectively), according to the study results.The results also indicate that weight conversations from one parent or from both parents were associated with a significantly higher prevalence of dieting relative to parents who engaged in only healthful eating conversations (35.2 percent and 37.1 percent vs. 21.2 percent, respectively). The study also found that adolescents whose fathers engaged in weight conversations were significantly more likely to engage in dieting and UWCBs than adolescents whose fathers did not.”Finally, for parents who may wonder whether talking with their adolescent child about eating habits and weight is useful or detrimental, results from this study indicate that they may want to focus on discussing and promoting healthful eating behaviors rather than discussing weight and size, regardless of whether their child is nonoverweight or overweight,” the authors conclude.

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Moderate drinking during pregnancy does not seem to harm baby’s neurodevelopment, study suggests

June 17, 2013 — Moderate drinking during pregnancy — 3 to 7 glasses of alcohol a week — does not seem to harm fetal neurodevelopment, as indicated by the child’s ability to balance, suggests a large study published in the online only journal BMJ Open.But social advantage may be a factor, as more affluent and better educated mums-to-be tend to drink more than women who are less well off, say the researchers.The researchers assessed the ability to balance — an indicator of prenatal neurodevelopment — of almost 7000 ten year olds who were part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). The study did not assess other risk of harm to the baby that may be caused by consuming alcohol.ALSPAC has been tracking the long term health of around 14,000 children born between 1991 and 1992 to women resident in the former Avon region of the UK.Those children whose mothers’ alcohol consumption during (18 weeks) and after pregnancy (47 months) was known, underwent a 20 minute balance assessment when they reached the age of 10.The assessment included dynamic balance (walking on a beam); and static balance (heel to toe balance on a beam, standing on one leg for 20 seconds) with eyes open and then again with eyes closed. Each child had two attempts at the test.Their dads were also asked how much alcohol they drank when their partners were three months pregnant. Over half said they drank one or more glasses a week, and one in five said they drank one or more glasses a day.Most of the children’s mums had drunk no alcohol (70%) while pregnant, while one in four drank between 1 and 2 (low consumption) and 3 and 7 glasses a week (moderate consumption).Some 4.5% drank 7 or more glasses a week. Of these, around one in seven were classified as binge drinkers — 4 or more glasses at any one time.Four years after the pregnancy, more than 28% of the women were not drinking any alcohol, and over half were drinking between 3 and 7+ glasses of alcohol a week.In general, the mums who drank more, but who were not binge drinkers, were better off and older; the mums who binge drank were less well off and younger.Higher total alcohol consumption before and after pregnancy by the mums, as well as higher consumption by the dad during the first three months of pregnancy, were associated with better performance by the children, particularly static balance.In an additional analysis, the genetic predisposition to low levels of alcohol consumption was assessed in 4335 women by blood test. If the apparently “beneficial” effects of higher parental alcohol consumption on children’s balance were true, those whose mums had the “low alcohol” gene would be expected to have poorer balance.But there was no evidence that the children of these women were less able to balance than those whose mums who did not have this genetic profile. In fact there was a weak suggestion that children of mums with the “low alcohol” gene actually had better balance, although the numbers were too small to show this reliably.Taken together, the results show that after taking account of influential factors, such as age, smoking, and previous motherhood, low to moderate alcohol consumption did not seem to interfere with a child’s ability to balance for any of the three components assessed.But in general, better static balance was associated with greater levels of affluence and educational attainment. And in this group of mums, moderate alcohol intake was a marker for social advantage, which may itself be the key factor in better balance, possibly overriding subtle harmful effects of moderate alcohol use, say the authors.

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Parenting and home environment influence children’s exercise and eating habits

June 18, 2013 — Kids whose moms encourage them to exercise and eat well, and model those healthy behaviors themselves, are more likely to be active and healthy eaters, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.Their findings, published online in the International Journal of Obesity on June 18, 2013, remind parents that they are role models for their children, and underscore the importance of parental policies promoting physical activity and healthy eating.Exercise and healthy diets are critical in fighting childhood obesity, a considerable problem in the United States, where over a quarter of kids ages two to five are already overweight or obese.”Obesity is a complex phenomenon, which is influenced by individual biological factors and behaviors,” said study author Truls Østbye, M.D., PhD, professor of community and family medicine at Duke. “But there are variations in obesity from one society to another and from one environment to another, so there is clearly something in the environment that strongly influences the obesity epidemic.”The home environment and parenting can influence a child’s health by shaping dietary and physical behaviors, such as providing access to fruits and vegetables or encouraging kids to play outside.”The ‘obesiogenic’ environment is broad and multi-faceted, including the physical neighborhood environment, media and advertising, and food tax policies, but we feel that the home environment is critical, particularly among children. However, we didn’t have a lot of evidence as to how important this was,” Østbye said.In this study, Østbye and his colleagues examined the relationship between the home environment and behaviors related to obesity — dietary and exercise habits — among preschoolers.The researchers studied data from 190 kids, ages two to five, whose mothers were overweight or obese. They collected information on the children’s food intake over the past week, with foods rated as junk food or healthy food. To gauge their levels of physical activity, the children wore accelerometers for a week, which measured moderate to vigorous physical activity as well as sedentary time.The mothers reported information about their children’s environments, including family policies around food and physical activity, accessibility of healthy versus junk foods, availability of physical activity equipment, and whether they model healthy eating or exercise for their kids.When they analyzed the data, the researchers found significant associations between these environmental measures and the preschoolers’ physical activity and healthy versus junk food intake. They concluded that to promote healthy behaviors in children, a healthy home environment and parental role modeling are important.For example, limiting access to junk foods at home and parental policies supporting family meals increased the amount of healthy foods kids ate. Overall, the home environment had more influence on the children’s dietary habits than on their physical activity levels.This study reminds parents that their children are watching and learning from observing their behaviors, both good and bad.”It’s hard for parents to change their behaviors, but not only is this important for you and your own health; it is also important for your children because you are a role model for them,” said Marissa Stroo, a co-investigator on the study. “This might be common sense, but now we have some evidence to support this.”The researchers also looked at socioeconomic factors of the mothers, including their education levels and whether they worked, to see if this had an effect on the children’s behaviors. The mother’s socioeconomic factors did not affect their kids’ physical activity, but had mixed results when it came to their dietary habits.Further research is needed to better understand how a mother’s socioeconomic factors influence her child’s health, but it is possible that different strategies may be needed to prevent obesity in children depending on a mother’s education and work status. More research is also necessary to see if the influence of the home environment changes as children get older, and if parenting strategies should adapt accordingly.In addition to Østbye and Stroo, study authors at Duke include Bernard Fuemmeler in the Department of Community and Family Medicine, Rebecca Brouwer at Duke Global Health Institute, and Nancy Zucker in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. …

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Personality is the result of nurture, not nature, suggests study on birds

June 5, 2013 — Personality is not inherited from birth parents says new research on zebra finches.External factors are likely to play a bigger part in developing the personality of an individual than the genes it inherits from its parents, suggests the study.Researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Hamburg investigated how personality is transferred between generations. They found that foster parents have a greater influence on the personalities of fostered offspring than the genes inherited from birth parents.Dr Nick Royle from Biosciences at the University of Exeter said: “This is one of the first experiments to show that behaviour can be non-genetically transmitted from parents to offspring. Our study shows that in zebra finches, personality traits can be transmitted from one generation to another through behaviour not just genetics.”The research, published in the journal Biology Letters, measured personality by placing the zebra finches in a new environment and counting the number of features they visited. Some were shy, staying mainly in one place while others explored widely demonstrating a more outgoing personality. Male and female birds were then paired up and allowed to breed. Each clutch of eggs was fostered by another pair just prior to hatching. Offspring personality was measured once they were adults. Offspring size was also measured and was found to be primarily genetically inherited and not significantly influenced by foster parent size.Although this study considers personality inheritance in zebra finches, it raises questions about the inheritance of personality in other species, including humans. Do adopted children inherit the personality characteristics of their birth parents or their adoptive parents? Is the environment more important than genetic inheritance in the development of personality?The results of this study indicate that non-genetic transmission of behaviour can play an important role in shaping animal personality. …

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More than one in five parents believe they have little influence in preventing teens from using illicit substances

May 24, 2013 — A new report indicates that more than one in five parents of teens aged 12 to 17 (22.3 percent) think what they say has little influence on whether or not their child uses illicit substances, tobacco, or alcohol. This report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also shows one in ten parents said they did not talk to their teens about the dangers of using tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs — even though 67.6 percent of these parents who had not spoken to their children thought they would influence whether their child uses drugs if they spoke to them.


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In fact national surveys of teens ages 12 to 17 show that teens who believe their parents would strongly disapprove of their substance use were less likely to use substances than other. For example, current marijuana use was less prevalent among youth who believed their parents would strongly disapprove of their trying marijuana once or twice than among youth who did not perceive this level of disapproval (5.0 percent vs. 31.5 percent).

“Surveys of teens repeatedly show that parents can make an enormous difference in influencing their children’s perceptions of tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drug use,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Although most parents are talking with their teens about the risks of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, far too many are missing the vital opportunity these conversations provide in influencing their children’s health and well-being. Parents need to initiate age-appropriate conversations about these issues with their children at all stages of their development in order to help ensure that their children make the right decisions.”

Parents can draw upon a number of resources to help them talk with their children about substance use. One resource is SAMHSA’s “Navigating the Teen Years: A Parent’s Handbook for Raising Healthy Teens,” available at http://store.samhsa.gov/product/Navigating-the-Teen-Years-A-Parent-s-Handbook-for-Raising-Health-Teens/PHD1127.

“Talk. They Hear You.” is SAMHSA’s new national media campaign encouraging parents with ideas and resources to promote conversations with children ages nine and older about the dangers of underage drinking. The campaign features a series of TV, radio, and print public service announcements in English and Spanish showing parents how to seize the moment to talk with their children about alcohol. Information about the campaign is available at: www.underagedrinking.samhsa.gov.

The SAMHSA report, “1 in 5 Parents Think What They Say Has Little Impact on Their Child’s Substance Use,” is available at http://www.samhsa.gov/data/spotlight/Spot081-parents-think.pdf. It is based on the findings of SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health — an annual nationwide survey of 67,500 Americans aged 12 or older.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA).

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