Saturday, February 25, 2012
ScienceDaily (Oct. 27, 2011) — Parents who joke and pretend with their toddlers are giving their children a head start in terms of life skills. Most parents are naturals at playing the fool with their kids, says a new research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). However parents who feel they may need a little help in doing this can learn to develop these life skills with their tots.
"Parents, carers and early years educators shouldn't underestimate the importance of interacting with young children through jokes and pretending," researcher Dr Elena Hoicka points out. "Spending time doing this fun stuff with kids helps them learn how to do it themselves and gives them a set of skills which are important in childhood and beyond."
The latest research findings on joking and pretending with children will be highlighted at a half-day event organised as part of the ESRC's Festival of Social Science 2011. One key aim of the event will be to boost parents' confidence in joking and pretending with their toddlers through a range of hands-on activities.
Dr Hoicka's study has examined how the two very similar concepts of joking and pretending develop in children aged between 15 and 24 months. Explaining the difference between joking and pretending, Dr Hoicka says: "Both involve intentionally doing or saying the wrong thing. However, joking is about doing something wrong just for the sake of it. In contrast, pretending is about doing something wrong which is imagined to be right. For example, parents might use a sponge like a duck while pretending but use a cat as a duck when joking."
The study examined whether parents offer different cues such as tone or pitch of voice in order to help their toddlers understand and differentiate between joking and pretending. Findings reveal that parents rely on a range of language styles, sound and non-verbal cues. For example, when pretending, parents often talk slowly and loudly and repeat their actions. Conversely, parents tend to cue their children to jokes by showing their disbelief through language, and using a more excited tone of voice.
"We found that most parents employ these different cues quite naturally to help their toddlers understand and differentiate these concepts," Dr Hoicka points out. "While not all parents feel confident in their natural abilities, the research does show that making the effort to interact in this way with toddlers is important. Knowing how to joke is great for making friends, dealing with stress, thinking creatively and learning to 'think outside the box'. Pretending helps children learn about the world, interact with others, be creative and solve problems."
Parents can learn more about the different cues used in joking and pretending during an event to be held later this week. "We will be offering a range of activities to help parents experiment with joking and pretending," says Dr Hoicka. "We will also give some short talks on the early development of joking and pretending in toddlers as well as some initial findings from our research project."
Over-Reactive Parenting Linked to Negative Emotions and Problem Behavior in Toddlers
ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2012) — Researchers have found that parents who anger easily and over-react are more likely to have toddlers who act out and become upset easily.
The research is an important step in understanding the complex link between genetics and home environment. In the study, researchers from Oregon State University, Oregon Social Learning Center, and other institutions collected data in 10 states from 361 families linked through adoption -- and obtained genetic data from birth parents as well as the children.
They followed the children at nine, 18 and 27 months of age, and found that adoptive parents who had a tendency to over-react, for example, were quick to anger when children tested age-appropriate limits or made mistakes. These over-reactive parents had a significant effect on their children, who exhibited "negative emotionality," or acting out and having more temper tantrums than normal for their age.
Genetics also played a role, particularly in the case of children who were at genetic risk of negative emotionality from their birth mothers, but were raised in a low-stress or less-reactive environment.
The study was published in the latest edition of the journalDevelopment and Psychopathology.
"This is an age where children are prone to test limits and boundaries," said lead author Shannon Lipscomb, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences at OSU-Cascades. "However, research consistently shows that children with elevated levels of negative emotionality during these early years have more difficulties with emotion regulation and tend to exhibit more problem behavior when they are of school age."
Researchers also found that children who exhibited the most increases in negative emotionality as they developed from infants to toddlers (from nine to 27 months of age) also had the highest levels of problem behaviors at age two, suggesting that negative emotions can have their own development process that has implications for children's later behaviors.
"This really sets our study apart," Lipscomb said. "Researchers have looked at this aspect of emotionality as something fairly stable, but we have been able to show that although most kids test limits and increase in negative emotionality as they approach toddler age, the amount they increase can affect how many problem behaviors they exhibit as 2-year-olds."
Lipscomb said the take-away message for parents of young children and infants is that the way they adapt to toddlerhood -- a challenging time marked by a child's increasing mobility and independence -- can have an impact on how their child will develop.
"Parents' ability to regulate themselves and to remain firm, confident and not over-react is a key way they can help their children to modify their behavior," she said. "You set the example as a parent in your own emotions and reactions."
Researchers from the Oregon Social Learning Center, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, University of New Orleans, University of Minnesota, University of California, Davis and Yale Child Study Center contributed to this study, which was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Babies Know What's Fair
ScienceDaily (Feb. 18, 2012) — "That's not fair!" It's a common playground complaint. But how early do children acquire this sense of fairness? Before they're 2, says a new study. "We found that 19- and 21-month-old infants have a general expectation of fairness, and they can apply it appropriately to different situations," says University of Illinois psychology graduate student Stephanie Sloane, who conducted the study with UI's Renée Baillargeon and David Premack of the University of Pennsylvania.
The findings appear in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science.
In each of two experiments, babies watched live scenarios unfold. In the first, 19-month-olds saw two giraffe puppets dance around at the back of a stage. An experimenter arrived with two toys on a tray and said, "I have toys!" "Yay!" said the giraffes. Then the experimenter gave one toy to each giraffe or both to one of them. The infants were timed gazing at the scene until they lost interest. Longer looking times indicated that something was odd -- unexpected -- to the baby. In this experiment, three-quarters of the infants looked longer when one giraffe got both toys.
In the second experiment, two women faced each other with a pile of small toys between them and an empty plastic box in front of each of them. An experimenter said, "Wow! Look at all these toys. It's time to clean them up." In one scenario, one woman dutifully put the toys away, while the other kept playing -- but the experimenter gave a reward to both the worker and the slacker. In another scenario, both women put the toys away and both got a reward. The observing 21-month-old infants looked reliably longer when the worker and the slacker were rewarded equally.
"We think children are born with a skeleton of general expectations about fairness," explains Sloane, "and these principles and concepts get shaped in different ways depending on the culture and the environment they're brought up in." Some cultures value sharing more than others, but the ideas that resources should be equally distributed and rewards allocated according to effort are innate and universal.
Other survival instincts can intervene. Self-interest is one, as is loyalty to the in-group -- your family, your tribe, your team. It's much harder to abide by that abstract sense of fairness when you want all the cookies -- or your team is hungry. That's why children need reminders to share and practice in the discipline of doing the right thing in spite of their desires.
Still, says Sloane, "helping children behave more morally may not be as hard as it would be if they didn't have that skeleton of expectations."
This innate moral sense might also explain the power of early trauma, Sloane says. Aside from fairness, research has shown that small children expect people not to harm others and to help others in distress. "If they witness events that violate those expectations in extreme ways, it could explain why these events have such negative and enduring consequences."
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Monday, February 6, 2012
" I would say Primary Care Giver/Mom/ Dad"
"I would say from birth. Absolutely from Birth"
"School Age is too late everyone..."
Early Right brain development is the foundation of all other healthy development and Gene expression across childhood and a life span.... "
Mom's Love Good for Child's Brain
ScienceDaily (Jan. 30, 2012) — School-age children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress.
"This study validates something that seems to be intuitive, which is just how important nurturing parents are to creating adaptive human beings," says lead author Joan L. Luby, MD, professor of child psychiatry. "I think the public health implications suggest that we should pay more attention to parents' nurturing, and we should do what we can as a society to foster these skills because clearly nurturing has a very, very big impact on later development."
The brain-imaging study involved children ages 7 to 10 who had participated in an earlier study of preschool depression that Luby and her colleagues began about a decade ago. That study involved children, ages 3 to 6, who had symptoms of depression, other psychiatric disorders or were mentally healthy with no known psychiatric problems.
As part of the initial study, the children were closely observed and videotaped interacting with a parent, almost always a mother, as the parent was completing a required task, and the child was asked to wait to open an attractive gift. How much or how little the parent was able to support and nurture the child in this stressful circumstance -- which was designed to approximate the stresses of daily parenting -- was evaluated by raters who knew nothing about the child's health or the parent's temperament.
"It's very objective," Luby says. "Whether a parent was considered a nurturer was not based on that parent's own self-assessment. Rather, it was based on their behavior and the extent to which they nurtured their child under these challenging conditions."
The study didn't observe parents and children in their homes or repeat stressful exercises, but other studies of child development have used similar methods as valid measurements of whether parents tend to be nurturers when they interact with their children.
For the current study, the researchers conducted brain scans on 92 of the children who had had symptoms of depression or were mentally healthy when they were studied as preschoolers. The imaging revealed that children without depression who had been nurtured had a hippocampus almost 10 percent larger than children whose mothers were not as nurturing.
"For years studies have underscored the importance of an early, nurturing environment for good, healthy outcomes for children," Luby says. "But most of those studies have looked at psychosocial factors or school performance. This study, to my knowledge, is the first that actually shows an anatomical change in the brain, which really provides validation for the very large body of early childhood development literature that had been highlighting the importance of early parenting and nurturing. Having a hippocampus that's almost 10 percent larger just provides concrete evidence of nurturing's powerful effect."
Luby says the smaller volumes in depressed children might be expected because studies in adults have shown the same results. What did surprise her was that nurturing made such a big difference in mentally healthy children.
"We found a very strong relationship between maternal nurturing and the size of the hippocampus in the healthy children," she says.
Although 95 percent of the parents whose nurturing skills were evaluated during the earlier study were biological mothers, the researchers say that the effects of nurturing on the brain are likely to be the same for any primary caregiver -- whether they are fathers, grandparents or adoptive parents.
The fact that the researchers found a larger hippocampus in the healthy children who were nurtured is striking, Luby says, because the hippocampus is such an important brain structure.
When the body faces stresses, the brain activates the autonomic nervous system, an involuntary system of nerves that controls the release of stress hormones. Those hormones help us cope with stress by increasing the heart rate and helping the body adapt. The hippocampus is the main brain structure involved in that response. It's also key in learning and memory, and larger volumes would suggest a link to improved performance in school, among other things.
Past animal studies have indicated that a nurturing mother can influence brain development, and many studies in human children have identified improvements in school performance and healthier development in children raised in a nurturing environment. But until now, there has not been solid evidence linking a nurturing parent to changes in brain anatomy in children.
"Studies in rats have shown that maternal nurturance, specifically in the form of licking, produces changes in genes that then produce changes in receptors that increase the size of the hippocampus," Luby says. "That phenomenon has been replicated in primates, but it hasn't really been clear whether the same thing happens in humans. Our study suggests a clear link between nurturing and the size of the hippocampus."
She says educators who work with families who have young children may improve school performance and child development by not only teaching parents to work on particular tasks with their children but by showing parents how to work with their children.
"Parents should be taught how to nurture and support their children," Luby says. "Those are very important elements in healthy development."
Funding for this research comes from grants awarded by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
" I don't get why I think of stuff and then decades later it turns out to have been a very good guess, that is why I love scientific discoveries. I get to clean the attic up there with some awhawww moments! so satisfying sometimes. Thank you, our world scientists, for my sanity........ Now here is one of those thoughts I never revealed, but I can say, I knew it.!"
I have followed Dr. Allan Schore, one of my most beloved Gurus of Neuroscience, Attachment, Child Development and Therapeutic treatment (UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and at the UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and Development). He has stated for over a decade that the human genome is nurture dependent due to right brain activity during the first year of life. This brain organization and re-organiztion and prunes itself as a direct result of the dyadic regulatory mechanism that the attuned primary attachment figure provides. He has always suggested that Opiate system, the Endorphin system and Cortisol amongst other complex RB sub systems help regulate our genetic expression almost irrelevant or at least along side of predisposition....
Therefore, now, I totally believe that those (-50% of infants born in US have unhealthy attachments, a 20% drop in healthy infancy in a decade--NIMH-Shaver.) poorly attached infants born in the United States every year, approx. 445,000 each year, their families and the US are in for a disturbing discovery during the next two or three decades.
Gene Regulator in Brain's Executive
Hub Tracked Across Lifespan
ScienceDaily (Feb. 2, 2012) — For the first time, scientists have tracked the activity, across the lifespan, of an environmentally responsive regulatory mechanism that turns genes on and off in the brain's executive hub. Among key findings of the study by National Institutes of Health scientists: genes implicated in schizophrenia and autism turn out to be members of a select club of genes in which regulatory activity peaks during an environmentally-sensitive critical period in development. The mechanism, called DNA methylation, abruptly switches from off to on within the human brain's prefrontal cortex during this pivotal transition from fetal to postnatal life. As methylation increases, gene expression slows down after birth. "This new study reminds us that genetic sequence is only part of the story of development. Epigenetics links nurture and nature, showing us when and where the environment can influence how the genetic sequence is read," said NIMH director Thomas R. Insel, M.D.