News

Hanging out with the right group of friends is especially important as children transition from elementary to middle school. The new friendships may directly influence a teenager’s potential academic success or future challenges in high school and beyond. A new study, appearing in the February issue of the <a href=”http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/01/13/middle-school-friends-are-critical-for-future-success/22593.html”target=blank>Journal of Early Adolescence,” </a>found that boys and girls whose friends are socially active in ways where rules are respected do better in their classroom work.

A new study soon to be published in The Journal of Pediatrics explores the relationship between fast food advertisements, parental influence, and the food choices made by children. Children in the study watched a series of two cartoons, with commercials shown between each cartoon. The children were divided into two groups; half watched a commercial for French fries, and the other half watched a commercial for apple slices with dipping sauce. After watching the cartoons and commercials, the children were allowed to choose a coupon for either advertised food with input from their parents, half of whom encouraged their child to choose the healthy option, and the other half remained neutral. Of the children who viewed the commercial for French fries, 71% chose the coupon for French fries if their parents remained neutral. However, the number only dropped to 55% when the children were <a href=”http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=113214&CultureCode=en”target=blank>encouraged by their parents to choose the healthier option. </a>

People with many close friends tend to be more creative than those with smaller social circles according to new research. The study analyzed traits such as IQ, inhibition and social network size and assessed their creativity by asking them about their creative achievements. Higher IQ and lower inhibition both contributed to more creative achievements, but the biggest predictor of creativity was the number of close friends. Having a large group of acquaintances and faint friends wasn’t <a href=”http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2011-01012-001″target=blank>associated with greater creativity. </a>

A controlled diet could help alleviate symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, according to a new study. Researchers assigned half of participants to a control group and restricted the other children’s diet to foods such as rice, white meat and fruits and vegetables, and excluded potentially allergenic foods, such as tomatoes, dairy, wheat and eggs. More than half of the children in the diet group showed improvement in their symptoms. Among these children, the researchers selectively added back into their diets excluded foods and watched to see if the improvements persisted or disappeared. Different children’s symptoms reacted to different foods indicating that selectively investigating and controlling the diets of children with ADHD <a href=”http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2810%2962227-1/abstract”target=blank>could help manage the disorder’s symptoms. </a>

Changing your lifestyle to include a better diet and more exercise, time outdoors or helping others could offer relief from such mental health disorders as depression and anxiety, according to a study of current research. Regular exercise reduces feelings of depression and anxiety and boosts cognitive performance; vegetable-, fruit- and fish-heavy diets reduce symptoms of affective and schizophrenic disorders; spending time in nature promotes general well-being; and participating in community service enhances feelings of love, joy and generosity.

Adding pureed vegetables to entrees reduces the number of calories the meals pack without sacrificing texture or taste, according to Pennsylvania State University researchers who tried it on unsuspecting study subjects. Using “stealth vegetables” to pad dishes provided a double-helping of dietary benefit because some of the participants more than doubled their intake of fiber- and vitamin-packed veggies — without even knowing it. It’s a great way to get your children to <a href=”http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/hidden-veggies-lower-calories-may-help-shed-pounds”target=blank> eat vegetables without a fuss. </a>

Having rich exposure to science, technology, engineering and math experiences early in one’s academic life predicts success in the disciplines as an adult, <a href=”http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=browsePA.volumes&jcode=edu”target=blank>according to recent studies. </a>

Girls who start puberty early could be more likely to experience adolescent depression than girls whose puberty begins later, finds a new study. The study found that girls who began menstruating before age 11.5 were at an increased risk of experiencing depression by age 13 or 14. Girls who began menstruating after age 13.5 were at lower risk of experiencing depression over the same age range, the researchers found. Other researchers have theorized that the results could reflect the fact that girls who mature faster than their peers tend to have lower <a href=”http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/abstract/198/1/17″target=blank>self-esteem and poorer body image.</a>

A new study says that self-control makes the difference between getting a good job or going to jail — and <a href=”http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133629477/for-kids-self-control-factors-into-future-success”target=blank> we learn it in preschool. </a>”Children who had the greatest self-control in primary school and preschool ages were most likely to have fewer health problems when they reached their 30s,” says Terrie Moffitt, a professor of psychology at Duke University and King’s College London.

A simple writing exercise can relieve students of test anxiety and may help them get better scores than their less anxious classmates, a new study has found. The report in Friday’s edition of the <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/14/testing-anxiety-research_n_809221.html”target=blank>journal Science” </a> says students who spend 10 minutes before an exam writing about their thoughts and feelings can free up brainpower previously occupied by testing worries and do their best work.

Hanging out with the right group of friends is especially important as children transition from elementary to middle school. The new friendships may directly influence a teenager’s potential academic success or future challenges in high school and beyond. A new study, appearing in the February issue of the <a href=”http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/01/13/middle-school-friends-are-critical-for-future-success/22593.html”target=blank>Journal of Early Adolescence,” </a>found that boys and girls whose friends are socially active in ways where rules are respected do better in their classroom work.

Having a mother who lived within 1,000 feet of a freeway while pregnant doubles a child’s odds of having autism. The finding comes from a study looking at environmental factors that might play a role in autism. University of Southern California researcher Heather E. Volk, PhD, MPH, and colleagues collected data from 304 California children with confirmed autism and from 259 children who developed normally. Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy is suspected of a wide range of negative effects on the fetus. A particularly crucial period may be the third trimester, <a href=”http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/news/20101217/fast-lane-to-autism-living-near-freeways?ecd=wnl_prg_010211″target=blank>when the brain develops rapidly.” </a>

Air pollution is particularly heavy within a thousand feet of a highway. Volk and colleagues found that the 10% of women who lived closest to a freeway during pregnancy were within about 1,000 feet of center line. Children born to these women were 86% more likely to have autism than kids born to women who lived farther from the freeway.

Children over the age of seven suffered worse asthma attacks if their mother was over protective. But younger children suffered more in the following year if their mother was chronically angry, irritated or suppressed their emotions. Apparently stressed mothers made children more stressed which increased their suffering from asthma. Researcher Jun Nagano said: “Our results suggest that the mothers of younger children may be advised to pay more attention to the reduction of their own stress. Mothers of older children may be encouraged to increase their own wellbeing via proper egocentric and self-defensive activities, being careful to <a href=”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8046118/Stressed-out-mothers-make-asthma-in-children-worse.html”target=blank>avoid too much interference with their children.” </a>

Children do not see objects in a fully grown-up way until the age of 13, <a href=”http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20827844.700-children-really-do-see-things-differently.html”target=blank>a new study suggests.</a> When judging whether shaded images are convex or concave, adult brains assume that light comes from above unless there is reason to think otherwise. Young children have to learn this ability. “Children really do see the world differently to adults, inasmuch as their perceptions seem to be more variable,” says UK researcher Jim Stone. “No wonder they can’t look at a cloud without seeing a dog or a bear.”

A new study reveals that people are less happy when they day dream than if they remain focused on the activity they are doing at the <a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/16/science/16tier.html?_r=1&src=ISMR_AP_LO_MST_FB”target=blank>time their mind wandered. </a>

The UK’s Department of Health is putting the fast food companies McDonald’s and KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease, <a href=”http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/12/mcdonalds-pepsico-help-health-policy”target=blank>according to the Guardian. </a>

Children exposed to high levels of manganese in drinking water perform more poorly on intelligence tests. Researchers discovered that children who drank higher concentrations of the naturally occurring metal performed more poorly on tests of cognition and motor skills than did children who drank manganese in lower concentrations — though researchers aren’t sure yet why manganese <a href=”http://news.softpedia.com/news/Manganese-in-Drinking-Water-Affects-Children-s-Intellectual-Abilities-157131.shtml “target=blank> might cause adverse effects to the brain. </a>

A simple online intervention could help stave off depression, according to recent research done by Acacia Parks, PhD, a psychology professor at Reed College in the US. After six weeks of online exercises designed to evoke pleasure, engagement and meaning, such as writing to a loved one, 661 mildly depressed self-help seekers reported a significant decrease in their depression for the following year. This may be a useful tool for expats in remote areas to help alleviate their depression.

Very young children and those with autism don’t contagiously yawn, possibly indicating a lack of empathy. In the study, only typically developing children age 4 and older reliably yawned when they watched other people yawn. Across all ages, the children with autism were less likely to yawn <a href=”http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01495.x/abstract “target=blank>responsively than their same-age peers. </a>

<a href=”http://www.foxnews.com/health/2010/11/08/kids-mental-health-dip-parents-deployed/”"target=blank>A new study in Pediatrics </a>found that children of military parents in wartime are more stressed than we can imagine and their mental health and behavior suffers when a parent is deployed overseas. Over two years the study found the overall rate of doctor visits for behavioral or mental health problems was 0.6 visits per child per year. That rate was 11 percent higher during a parent’s deployment compared with when he or she was home.

Children who sneak time on their cell phones, computers and other electronic devices after bedtime are more likely to have sleep disorders that may be linked to other difficulties, such as learning problems, anxiety, ADHD and depression, according to a study conducted at the Sleep Disorders Center at <a href=”http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2010/11/01/study-finds-teens-late-night-media-use-comes-at-a-price.html”target=blank>JFK Medical Center in Edison, N.J.</a>

Scientists have uncovered a gene that  makes women – but not men — happy, according to a study led by scientists at the University of South Florida. Researchers analyzed data from a sample of 345 participants in a longitudinal mental health study. They found that women with one copy of the low-expression form of the gene monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) reported higher levels of happiness than those without the gene. Women with two copies of the gene reported even greater happiness. While a substantial number of men carried a copy of the “happy” version of the MAOA gene, they reported no more happiness than those without it. (Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, online Aug. 4)

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. (Psychological Science, online Aug. 16)

Seven-year-old children only need to interact with a person once to learn who to trust and seek information from, according to a study published in the September 2010 issue of Developmental Psychology.

Researchers at the University of Granada in Spain have concluded that students at private schools are better at solving problems and dealing with negative situations than their public school counterparts. Private school kids concentrate deeply on solving a problem and come up with strategies for solving it, according to the study. They also use more emotion-oriented coping, which means that they employ more strategies based on their relations with the others. Some examples of such strategies are seeking spiritual support, talking with their friends, seeking professional assistance, etc.

Today’s superheroes set a worse example for boys than did superhero icons of the past, according to presenters at an American Psychology Association symposium. In the past, superheroes were real people with real problems once the costumes came off. Today’s heroes keep up their tough-guy swagger full-time. One survey of boys ages 4 to 18 determined that many identify with one of two narrow images of masculinity: either the tough, “player” superhero type, or the “slacker” who wisecracks and doesn’t take anything seriously. Not the kind of stuff that makes a good man.

Binge drinking and smoking marijuana may cause mental health problems for adolescents, including long-term issues with decision-making skills, according to a recent study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Frequent marijuana use appears to damage memory and resulted in lower cognition skills.

Before criticizing your daughter, take a breath and digest this: A new UK survey has revealed that mothers are much more critical of their daughters than their sons. Of the more than 2500 mothers surveyed 88% admitted that they treated their sons and daughters differently despite thinking that this was ‘wrong’. Mothers are twice as likely to criticize daughters. One in five admitted to letting their sons get away with more and more than half of all respondents (55%) even went as far as admitting they have stronger bonds with their sons.

A Dutch study has linked jaundice in newborn babies to autism. Nearly 734,000 children were studied and it was determined that babies who developed serious jaundice in the days after birth were 67 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism later on. Babies with jaundice were also more likely to develop other types of “psychological development” delays, according to the study.

Researchers have determined that children who are taught to eat healthy foods actually do. They followed the eating patterns of children to determine if a comprehensive nutrition program would turn junk food eaters into kids who are thoughtful about their food choices. Students in the more advanced programs increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by 1.5 servings a day, while the other students decreased their intake. They also requested “more leafy greens, such as chard, spinach and kale, with their meals.”

A new book on happiness reveals that pleasure and knowledge are intimately connected and what you think about something affects the pleasure you get from it. So, if you’ve got mixed feelings about your new home, delve into some aspect of the country that interests you. Learn about the history, architecture or language and your attitude will change.  can be ordered on Amazon.com.

Kids are swallowing button batteries at an alarming rate causing severe damage to their throats and digestive systems, according to a recent report in Pediatrics. Most children swallow a 20-mm-diameter lithium cell, which is a common power source for household products and is often found in toys distributed at fast food restaurants. Make sure all battery compartments are secure on all your child’s toys and any household appliance he may have access to.

The best way to stop your child from procrastinating is to teach him to forgive himself for it and to move on. A study measuring how much students procrastinated found that students who’d forgiven themselves for their initial bout of procrastination before an exam were less likely to procrastinate before the second round of exams. More importantly, self-forgiveness wasn’t related to performance in the first set of exams but it did predict better performance in the second set.

Sometimes we’ve got to step back and allow our children to fail if we want them to succeed. While success is surely sweeter than failure, it seems failure is a far better teacher, and organizations that fail spectacularly often flourish more in the long run, according to a new study.

Another reason to get your teens to bed early: A study in the Sept. 1 issue of the journal Sleep shows that teens who slept less than eight hours per weeknight ate higher proportions of fatty foods and snacks than adolescents who slept eight hours or more. The results suggest that short sleep duration may increase obesity risk by causing small changes in eating patterns that cumulatively alter energy balance, especially in girls.

A paper published in the journal Psychological Science shows that very young children can be far more attuned to the “desires, preferences, beliefs [and] emotions” of others, including adults, than previously believed. The paper suggests that young children possess a skill many adults assume they lack: they are able to judge when a human behavior is statistically probable versus when it is unusual. Very young kids, it turns out, often know when adults are not acting as they usually do.

A recent meta analysis of paternal depression revealed that men also suffer from prenatal and postpartum depression. Depression was evident in about 10% of men in the reviewed studies and was relatively higher in the 3- to 6-month postpartum period.

A study released  in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine this summer adds to the debate over whether television impairs children’s language development. It found that parents and children virtually stop talking to each other when the TV is on, even if they’re in the same room. For every hour in front of the TV, parents spoke 770 fewer words to children. Adults usually speak about 941 words an hour.

New research on infant sleep appears to deal a blow to those in the cry-it-out camp. A US researcher examined the role of emotional availability on infant sleep and found that regardless of a family’s night-time routine, infants with parents who were responsive and warm had fewer night wakings and an easier time drifting off. The work adds to a growing skepticism toward sleep training – not only that it may not work, but that it may, in turn, affect the parent-child relationship itself.

Wondering whether you should give your baby another cuddle? Go ahead and do it. A study has revealed that children whose mothers showed them lots of affection at 8 months were healthier, happier adults. These findings suggest that early nurturing and warmth have long-lasting positive effects on mental health well into adulthood.”

A new technology that analyzes recordings of children’s voices can help diagnose autism and language delays earlier than previously possible, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Language Environment Analysis (LENA) system is attached to specially-designed clothing worn by the child and records all the sounds he makes in a typical day at home.

Giving infants a few drops of cow’s milk may protect them from a dangerous milk allergy later on, according to a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The study contradicts the widespread recommendation that women breast-feed exclusively for the first six months of life. Researchers found babies exposed to cow’s milk in baby formula in the first 14 days after birth seemed to be protected from developing an allergy to milk protein later in life.

Parents worry more about their children being murdered than much more widespread health problems such as obesity, a survey suggests. The findings, in a YouGov poll of 1,244 parents, contrast with data showing the risk of a child being killed by a stranger is a million to one. The risk of severe health problems for children due to lack of exercise is one in three, figures have suggested.

Wondering what an expat life means for your child? Check out TCK Academy’s first free teleclass “7 Things Every TCK Should Know” and download the e-book. (Scroll down until you find the class and e-book). Registration required.

Children and teens who have poor problem-solving skills are more at risk of becoming bullies, victims or both than peers who don’t have such difficulties, according to a new review of studies conducted over the past 30 years.

A simple half-hour delay in high school start time led to a significant improvement in students’ mood, alertness, and motivation, and increased their average sleep time during the week,  according to a new study.

Interaction International has compiled an international therapist directory.

A study published in Pediatrics provides the strongest evidence yet that children’s short-term response to spanking may make them act out more in the long run. Of the nearly 2,500 youngsters in the study, those who were spanked more frequently at age 3 were much more likely to be aggressive by age 5.

One in seven teens thinks he or she is going to die before age 35, and this belief leads many to engage in risky behaviors, suggests research in the journal Pediatrics. In the study, investigators analyzed data from a sample of more than 20,000 youth in grades seven through 12. They found that adolescents who thought they had a good chance of dying earlier were more likely to engage in illicit drug use, suicide attempts, fighting and unsafe sexual activity than those who didn’t feel that way.

New research shows that being highly favored in a family may be as damaging to the child as being disfavored; both contribute to an increased chance of being aggressive. Researcher Jennifer Jenkins, a professor of human development at the University of Toronto in Canada, says the findings are “explained either by children feeling bad about what seems to be unequal resource allocation in the family or adverse consequences on the sibling relationships.”
USA Today article


Violent video games make children more aggressive regardless of gender or culture, according to a recent study in the Psychological Bulletin. Playing violent video games is  risk factor for future aggressiveness and the study suggests that lawmakers focus on how to help parents make responsible decisions about video game.


Conversely, people who play “pro-social” video games are more likely to clean up after a mess, assist in further experiments, and intervene when someone is being harassed, according to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.


Is your teen having trouble sleeping? It could be she isn’t getting enough morning sunlight, which regulates our circadian rhythms (sleep cycles). A new study suggests that students who wake early for school and spend the morning in a classroom may develop sleep issues. It suggests school administrators and parents consider the need for morning light when setting schedules and planning classroom time.


Torn between getting a much needed and much deserved massage or a new kitchen appliance? Go for the massage. New research reveals that experiential spending on things like massages and vacations provide more long-term happiness than material purchases. Researchers say it may be because people second-guess their purchases by comparing it to what others buy. (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.)


Supportive friendships help overweight teens handle bullying more than average-weight children, according to new research. Overweight students with supportive friends were less likely to passively accept bullying. Those with conflict-heavy friendships said they thought they deserved the bullying. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.


When mothers soothe their children, levels of hormones involved with love and trust surge, and stress hormones plummet. Now, for the first time, a study shows that just a mother’s voice can set off the same chemical cascade. The study suggests that the human brain is wired to respond not just to sight and touch, but even to sounds. The study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.