Youth Services Law

Showing 64 posts in Mental Health Research.

Resilience and Self-Esteem: Which Comes First?

Posted In Mental Health Research, Resilience

Children dressed as superheros

A pattern that shows up very often in studies of resilience is a high correlation between resilience and self-esteem. It would be very easy to conclude that, if we help children develop self-esteem, we can also increase their resilience. These studies, however, only measure correlation, not causation. Furthermore, other studies of self-esteem indicate that it comes not from adult encouragement or self-talk, but actual accomplishments. In other words, resilience may lead to self-esteem rather than vice-versa.

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Reading, Writing, and … Mindfulness?

Posted In Mental Health Research

Small girl meditating on grass

Two recently-published studies claim that mindfulness training can help children cope with stress in school. The first study was small, with only 99 middle-school children participating. Half of them received 8 weeks of mindfulness-based interventions, while the other half received active-control interventions.

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Resilience After Child Abuse

Posted In Child Abuse, Mental Health Research, Resilience

Mother and daughter hugging

One very important issue for youth-serving organizations is what factors help children recover from abuse or neglect. It is a complicated question, in part because children are at such varying developmental stages when they suffer maltreatment. A recent systematic review of several mental health studies offers possible factors that organizations can consider to help children overcome adverse experiences.

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Mental Health Problems in Overly-Protected Kids

Posted In Mental Health Research, Over-Protection, Resilience, Risk Avoidance, Schools, Youth Camps

Bubble-wrapped childI 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:

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Bad Science Makes Bad Policy on Campus Rapes

Posted In Mental Health Research, Schools

Campus PredatorThe 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.

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Rebellious Kids Make More Money

Posted In Mental Health Research

Teenage GirlNow 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.

Benefits of Risky Play for Children Outweigh the Harms

Posted In Day Care, Mental Health Research, Over-Protection, Resilience, Risk Avoidance, Schools

Child Standing on a PoleAn 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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Resilience after Child Abuse

Posted In Child Abuse, Mental Health Research, Resilience

Therapy for childhood sexual abuseMost 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."

For Children with Disabilities, Successful Projects Trump Sensitivity Training

Posted In Mental Health Research, Schools

For Children with Disabilities, Successful Projects Trump Sensitivity TrainingA 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.”

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Limits of A Time Out

Posted In Day Care, Mental Health Research

Limits of A Time OutA 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.”

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