Showing 30 posts from 2015.
I almost missed a very important article in Psychology Today, describing the serious challenges that colleges face in dealing with students who lack resilience to deal with everyday life:
Recent examples mentioned included a student who felt traumatized because her roommate had called her a “bitch” and two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them.
The author, Dr. Peter Gray, believes that this trend is a serious problem:
Speaking of over-protection and resilience, I will be presenting a session on those topics at the upcoming ACA Southeastern Fall Camp Conference in Jacksonville, FL. If you are there, be sure to come by and say hello. I will be speaking on Tuesday afternoon, October 6, and the topic is "Managing Risk: Encouraging Children to Conquer Their Fears, Reassuring Parents, and Fending Off Lawyers."
I just ran across an excerpt from a new book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success,” that I hope gets wide circulation. The author, Julie Lythcott-Haims, served as Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising at Stanford, and believes that helicopter parenting harms children. The part that caught my eye was an outline of recent mental health research suggesting that overly-protective parenting causes significant mental health problems:
A study published in the May issue of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics concludes that more than 60 minutes of mandatory nap time at child care can disrupt a child’s sleep patterns. The researchers studied 168 preschoolers, and found that children who had more than 60 minutes of mandatory nap time a day had significantly less sleep at night. They also found that the effects continued into the following school year.
Of course, this is only one study with a limited sample. Even so, day care centers and regulators need to be aware of its results. The researchers defined “mandatory nap time” as “the period in which children were not permitted any alternative activity except lying in their bed.” It is consistent with other studies showing that children need time for high-energy play. The trend of current research is that young children need nap time, but not too much of a good thing.
Hat tip: www.science20.com
I am always outraged by the stories of parents arrested for allowing their children to play in ways that earlier generations considered routine. But a recent court decision reminded me that the story is not always as clear as it first appears. Tammy Cooper made headlines when she sued over her arrest for leaving her children unsupervised. She said, “I took my lawn chair and put it on the sidewalk where I always sit and watch them outside when they’re playing." Nevertheless, a neighbor reported that the children were unsupervised and a police officer charged Ms. Cooper with child endangerment.
A recent court opinion, however, sets out a different scenario.
We are seeing significant changes in protocols for dealing with children with allergies. Traditionally, doctors advised completely avoiding allergens such as peanuts and pet fur. Now research indicates that, in some cases, limited exposure may actually help prevent allergies. The American Academy of Pediatricians issued an interim statement recommending that babies at risk for developing peanut allergies be given peanuts. Specifically, “Health care providers should recommend introducing peanut-containing products into the diets of high-risk infants between ages 4 and 11 months.” Of course, parents should consult an allergist to be sure that the child has not already developed an allergy.
Similarly, another study indicates that household pets can help boost children’s immune systems. The results are still tentative, but the study cites other research showing that early exposure to animals helps protect against respiratory allergies. The study’s coauthor concluded, that, at a minimum, avoiding animals does not prevent allergies. “If a family with a pregnant mother or an infant wants to have a pet, the family can be encouraged to have one, because the development of allergic disease cannot be prevented by avoiding pets.”
Day care centers, of course, cannot make these decisions on their own. But we can encourage our parents to be aware of the recent research, and to realize that mildly stressing a child’s immune system is an essential part of lifelong good health.
The federal requirements for responding to campus rape has garnered much criticism for lack of due process, presumption of guilt, and discrimination against men. Recent reports indicate that it also is based on bad science.
The marquee study of campus assaults is the 2002 study by David Lisak and Paul Miller. Dr. Lisak has built a career on his subsequent claims that 90 percent of college rapes are committed by serial rapists who cannot be educated about consent. He says flatly, “These are predators.”
That study and Dr. Lisak’s claims have driven the government’s policy about campus rape. President Obama’s memo announcing his new initiative to combat campus rape cited Dr. Lisak’s study numerous times. Senators are pushing federal legislation based largely on Dr. Lisak’s claims. Activists and journalists demand action to stop campus predators. New studies and investigations of Dr. Lisak’s study, however, indicate that many of those predators do not exist.
A volunteer who reported child abuse to church administration in Illinois now is facing defamation charges. The case illustrates the difficulty that organizations face in dealing with in-house reports of child abuse. According to the Illinois Court of Appeals opinion, a member of a Catholic parish wrote to the parish pastor, alleging that a child in the church had sexually touched another child. The mother of the alleged perpetrator filed a discovery action against the church, seeking the name of the letter-writer and alleging that the letter was false. According to the mother, the letter had caused her son to be ostracized in the community. The court decided only that the mother set out a claim of defamation and that the clergy-penitent privilege did not cover the letter.
The court’s description of the letter, however, illustrates the dilemma that faces organizations that deal with children.
Now here's the kind of study that I like to see, saying that children who break rules and defy authority end up making more money than their more compliant peers. Developmental Psychology has published the abstract of a forthcoming study that followed 745 children in Luxembourg from age 12 to age 52. I cannot yet access the full study, but Quartz reports that the study found the expected correlation between success and IQ, parents' socioeconomic status, and teacher assessment of "studiousness."
Researchers, however, were surprised to find that "rule-breaking and defiance of parental authority" were the best predictors of which children made the highest income. The study's authors gave the usual cautions about the finding, and had only tentative theories to explain the results. Of course, they called for further studies.
I don't really care about the caveats, because I like the result. I will be sending this link to all my relatives and friends, claiming that this proves that I've been right all along. And of course, to my children's teachers, explaining how they need to adapt their teaching style to accommodate children who question the rules.
An important and fascinating analytical review from Canada concludes that risky play for children has significant benefits that outweigh potential harm. The researchers reviewed 21 academic studies of children, and concluded that giving children opportunities for risky play increased physical activity, social health, creativity, and resilience.
“Risky,” of course, does not mean unlimited. The review limited itself to activities “whereby a child can recognize and evaluate a challenge and decide on a course of action,” specifically excluding “hazards that children cannot assess for themselves and that have no clear benefit.” Thus, the article looked at play that included “play at height, speed, near dangerous elements (e.g., water, fire), with dangerous tools, rough and tumble play (e.g., play fighting), and where there is potential for disappearing or getting lost.” All of those types of play showed clear benefits, with risk of injury much lower than what adults assume.
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