Showing 61 posts in Mental Health Research.
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:
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.
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."
A recent post in Scientific Blogging reports on soon-to-be-published research into inclusive classrooms for children with disabilities. Noting the fact that 40 percent of children with disabilities “enter kindergarten without age-appropriate social relationship skills,” the author of the study, Lori Erbrederis Meyer, found that inclusive classrooms with disability awareness curricula did “not equate to increased acceptance, classroom membership or peer relationship.”
A new study from California indicates that children under the age of 7 do not understand much about the difference between a few minutes and a few hours. The researchers found that, even when children use words like “minute” or “hour,” they really don’t know how much time those words measure. So when you place a child in a corrective time out, he or she may not understand how to predict when it will end, or how it relates to the offense.
The researchers recommend formal instruction in concepts such as how hours are divided into minutes, and how those are divided into seconds. It also may help if caretakers use a concrete measure that children already know. For example, instead of just saying “five minutes,” or “until the big hand reaches the three,” it might help to say “until the other children finish their snack” or “until everyone else has picked a toy to play with.”
My post earlier this week about false memories in adults reminded me of relatively recent mental health research about false memories in children. Developmental Review in September 2012 published a special issue about child witnesses, and one study upends much of what we thought we knew about how younger children remember events. The researchers staged various events in a classroom of young children, and then repeated only some of the events in a second classroom. A third group of children were never in either classroom.
A few weeks later, researchers interviewed all three groups. They found that many of the children who had never witnessed all of the events nevertheless claimed to have memories of them. In fact, many of those children provided more detail in their false narratives than the children who had actually witnessed the events.
This study brings into question many common interview and therapy techniques for children who may have been abused. Group interviews are common, as are group counseling sessions. This study suggests that such techniques with younger children actually can implant false memories and corrupt the investigation. Lawyers defending these cases need to carefully review all of the interview and therapy protocols with this study in mind.
Researchers recently found it surprisingly easy to convince a group of adults that they had committed crimes in early adolescence. The study, recently published in Psychological Science, had interviewers use suggestive memory-retrieval techniques when questioning the study subjects. After three interviews, 70% of the people had false memories of having committed crimes. Their reports actually had "all the same kinds of complex details as real memories," according to the lead researcher.
This study had a small sample size, but is is a fascinating addition to the research on this topic. The forensic interviewing community has known about the importance of neutral questions when interviewing children, but there have been few studies suggesting the same precautions when interviewing adults. If subsequent studies replicate these findings, and if investigators can plant inaccurate memories in the minds of innocent people, then we will need to change all sorts of interviewing protocols. At the very least, attorneys now have another means of challenging interviews that produce confessions.
Hat Tip: www.science20.com
It is not often that I use “California” and “sensible policy” in the same sentence, but the California Supreme Court has issued a ground-breaking (and sensible) decision invalidating restrictions on where sex offenders can live. The court reviewed “Jessica’s Law,” a statute prohibiting any registered sex offender from residing within 2000 feet of “any public or private school, or park where children regularly gather.” The plaintiffs did not challenge the statue on its face, but only the state’s blanket application of it to registered sex offenders on parole. The court found that one-size-fits-all application to be unconstitutional, but noted that the state retains the authority, based on other statutes, to fashion special parole conditions for sex offenders.
Contrary to some claims, this decision is not a setback for child abuse prevention, simply because residency-based restrictions do not prevent child abuse. As Dr. David Finkelhor, one of the giants in the field of child abuse prevention, wrote in 2009, restrictions on where sex offenders live “have been adopted without any evidence about their efficacy.” Furthermore, “[t]he logic model behind these restrictions appears fundamentally flawed, given that most sexual abuse occurs within established family and social networks and also that motivated offenders, wherever they happen to live, can go where they wish in search of victims.”
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