Youth Services Law

Showing 4 posts from January 2010.

How Many Psychotropic Drugs are Too Many

Posted In Miscellaneous

The Daytona Beach News-Journal has an excellent article about Florida's review of its policy regarding the prescription of psychotropic drugs for children in foster care. It notes the side effects of such drugs, such as depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as the difficulty of knowing how to best help children who cannot seem to control their behavior without medication.

Hat tip: Florida Child Injury Lawyer Blog

More Zero-Tolerance Idiocy

Posted In Schools

The San Diego Union-Tribune tells the story of a school lock-down when administrators panicked over an 11-year-old student's home-made motion detector. The device, a Gatorade bottle with electronic components attached, apparently looked enough like a bomb to panic clueless administrators.

If my child were at this school, I would be very concerned that administrators at a self-named tech magnet school think an 11-year-old can make a bomb out of a Gatorade bottle. If I were a taxpayer, I would be irate that it took the fire department three hours, a robot, X-rays and a search of the parents' garage to decide that it was not a bomb.

The final irony is the statement by the fire department spokesman that the authorities are recommending counseling. Counseling?! But of course. We don't want to encourage experimentation or independent thinking, do we? Especially in a school dedicated to technical creativity and experimentation.

Mild Stress May Be Good for Children

I ran across an interesting entry at Scientific Blogging, explaining a study in Developmental Neuroscience. The study's authors compared images of the prefrontal cortex of spider monkeys, and concluded that those monkeys who had been through mildly stressful experiences showed an increase in certain brain cells, which cells in turn enabled them to deal successfully with stressful experiences later in life. The study's authors noted several limitations, such as that the study was skewed toward female subjects. And, of course, the findings would not hold true for major emotional trauma. Still, it is a very interesting study about the inoculative effect of new and mildly stressful experiences.

To quote the blogger, Andrea Kuszewski, who reviewed the study,

Even as children, being faced with challenging situations is a good thing. We learn to problem-solve, think for ourselves, and build resilience to protect us from harm in future unexpected events. As an added bonus, dealing with stress early on helps us to develop emotional stability as well. 

This is one of those studies that reinforces what experienced youth service workers already know -- encouraging children to take on new challenges is good for them. Learning to master skills, whether it is speaking in front of a crowd or camping or sports, is a necessary part of becoming a well-adjusted adult.

Experts May Not Be Objective

A recent project led me to an interesting study in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology looking at what factors influence the opinions of clinicians about whether child sexual abuse occurred in a given case.  It should come as no surprise that the study found that even expert clinicians are human, with many unexamined biases.

What I did find disconcerting was the study's conclusion that the clinicians noticed leading questions, but not other suggestive techniques.  The study included interviews that, in addition to leading questions,  used (a) inducing stereotypes ("he is bad"), (b) statements that assume abuse ("don't be afraid to tell"); and (c) praise or criticism for certain disclosures from the child.  Although experienced clinicians were more likely to note the leading questions, few of them noticed the other three suggestive techniques.

As the study's authors noted, this finding "is surprising as there is ample evidence that a number of suggestive interviewing techniques apart from leading questions may affect children's testimony in a negative way.  This is an alarming finding because if the clinicians do not recognize such influences as harmful, it would not be possible for them to take steps to avoid such influences when interviewing children themselves."  

The authors recommended more training about suggestive techniques and pre-existing beliefs, as well as (of course) more studies on the subject.

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