* A new longitudinal study has found that not only does early childhood investments improve cognitive abilities, it also substantially boosts adult health.
In the study, about 100 infants from low-income families in the US were followed from early infancy to their mid-30s. The infants were randomly assigned to one group or the other, allowing researchers to isolate the effects of the program.
The researchers had already answered their original question about cognitive development: whether not only found that the treated children would do better cognitively and were less likely to fail in school. The participants’ abilities as infants were about the same, but by age 3 they had diverged. By age 30, those in the group given special care were four times as likely to have graduated from college.
However, they also found the treated group was far healthier, with sharply lower rates of high blood pressure and obesity, and higher levels of so-called good cholesterol.
* Positive school environments deter teenagers from smoking marijuana more than drug testing, according to a report in the Journal of studies of Alcohol and Drugs.
Researchers interviewed 361 students about their school environments and drug and alcohol use and followed up with them a year later. They found that students who said their schools had drug testing policies were no less likely than other students to try marijuana, cigarettes or alcohol. However, students who considered their schools to have positive climates — characterized by having clear rules and students and teachers who treat each other with respect — were about 20 percent less likely to try marijuana and 15 percent less likely to try smoking
* Children with a history of depression appear to be at increased risk of showing signs of heart disease as early as their teens, according to research led by a University of South Florida psychologist. The study compared heart disease risk factors — such as smoking, obesity, physical activity level and parental history — among 210 adolescents with histories of clinical depression and 195 of their siblings who never had depression. The researchers also gathered information from 161 unrelated adolescents with no history of depression. The increased risk of heart disease held true even for participants who were no longer experiencing depressive symptoms
* Want to make sure you don't confuse your children's names? Don't give them names that begin or end with the same sound. Researchers conducted online surveys with 334 siblings, asking them to rate similarities in appearance and personality with their siblings, as well as the frequency of their parents' accidentally transposing their names. Participants whose names shared initial (Jamie/Jason) or final (Amanda/Samantha) sounds with a sibling's reported that their parents accidentally called them by the wrong name more often than those without such name overlap.
* One in 68 kids has autism, according to new study that suggests the developmental disorder is on the rise.
The sobering new stat, based on 2010 data released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, represents a 29 percent increase in autism prevalence since 2008 and a 62 percent increase since 2006.
One in 42 boys and one in 189 girls fall on the autism spectrum, according to the study.
* Children who are homeless or move frequently (three or more moves in a year) had consistently lower math and reading skills in elementary and middle school than other students. However, there was a wide variation in reading and math skills, with 45 percent scoring within the average range or better.
Describing one's feelings during a stressful experience may reduce fear and anxiety according to a recent study. Psychologists asked 88 people with a fear of spiders to approach and — if they could — touch a live tarantula. The participants were then shown a different spider and were instructed either to verbalize their fears, describe the spider neutrally, talk about something else entirely or say nothing. When asked to approach and touch the spider again, researchers found that the participants who were asked to verbalize their fears were able to get closer to the tarantula and their hands were sweating significantly less than the participants in all of the other groups. Read more in Psychological Science.
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