Showing 5 posts from July 2015.
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.
Most people quite logically think of the impact of abuse on children as uniformly negative. Child Maltreatment, however, has a new study in which childhood survivors of sexual abuse reported both positive ("I am a stronger person") and negative ("I don't trust anyone now") changes in their lives. As you would expect, the study found more negative changes overall than positive, but it also found some promising possibilities for helping children recover from the trauma.
The researchers found that "although not frequent (13.9%), healthy processing strategies that involved effortful regulation of emotion and attention to abuse material were related to better adjustment." Accordingly, they recommend therapies such as trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) that encourage children to process the abuse rather than avoid reminders of it, and "foster a perspective that frames abuse as a part rather than a defining feature of youths’ lives."
Recognizing that abuse survivors often report positive changes afterward in no way justifies abuse. But it is important to recognize that victims are not doomed to a life of misery. As the authors of this study concluded, "Although not a panacea for the serious adjustment problems faced by many sexually abused youth, the ability to construct a life story that allows for positive meanings from a traumatic personal past may facilitate growth and resilience."
Although reporting suspected child abuse is a legal and moral duty, it is not without risk. In Kansas, a parent has sued a Catholic school for reporting suspicions that a child was being abused. The suit claims that the school made the report in retaliation for the mother's complaints that her daughter was being bullied at school.
There is no way to know whether the allegations are accurate, but they are similar to this case from Connecticut, where parents sued a school for what they claimed was leading questioning, leading to a report to child protection authorities. The state investigators determined that the report was unfounded, but the parents alleged various damages from the investigation process. The Connecticut court dismissed most of the claims, but allowed a single claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress to proceed.
I have not been able to determine how the Connecticut case ended, but this is one situation where the process is the punishment. Given the state-imposed and moral obligations to report suspected abuse, there is no way to completely avoid these sort of lawsuits. The only protection I have found is to have very good liability insurance to cover the costs of defending a decision to report.
The Georgia legislature has made some small but important changes to the state's mandated reporter law. Effective July 1, 2015, mandated reporters (that list is unchanged) must report when they have "reasonable cause to believe that suspected child abuse has occurred." The old standard was reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused. The addition of "suspected" lowers the threshold for what you must report. In other words, adults caring for children must report incidents not only when they think abuse has occurred, but when they suspect that child abuse may have occurred.
The amended statute also includes a section clarifying that someone working within a medical or child-caring institution may report suspected abuse to a supervisor or designated contact person. Anyone following that procedure "shall be deemed to have fully complied" with the statute.
The supervisor or designated contact person then has the obligation to report the suspected abuse to child services. That person cannot "exercise any control or restraint or modification or make any other change" to the initial information, but they can provide "any additional, relevant and necessary" information.
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