What Makes a Popular Kid, Popular?

October 17, 2019

The concept of popularity is something that adolescents are keenly aware of. Popularity influences the social pecking order as long as kids are in school. Teenagers are well aware of the difference between being popular and being well-liked, and how the two sometimes aren’t interchangeable. So what is being popular, if not being well liked? Researchers have found that there are three types of popularity among teenagers: being feared, being loved, and being both feared and loved. The popular teens in the “loved” group maintain their status through kindness, and cooperation. The “feared” teens maintain their status through aggression and coercion. However, the third group, “feared and loved”, are aggressive in protecting their status and interacting with others, but are able to make amends and play nice when they need to. This group was found to be the one ranked most popular among their peers. Looks like “Mean Girls” got it right. 

Read the Science Daily article here.

Children are natural optimist- which comes with psychological pros and cons

October 11, 2019

According to studies within the fields of Social Psychology and Personality Sciences, first impressions are determined in about 3/10 of a second. In other words, with little empirical information about such person or even hearing them for the first time, we have already concluded a mental picture or idea of who, what, and how they are. However, for children, this analysis is quite different. Children tend to focus more on positive actions or selective information that leads to a positive judgment.

Following research statistics, children between 3-6 years of age only need to see one positive behavior to judge a story as nice, but several negative behaviors to judge a character as mean. A similar concept fits in for children within the ages 6-7, as they are more likely to trust an unfamiliar animal (such as “friendly”) but disregard negative descriptions (like “dangerous”). Altogether, research reveals that children begin to develop positive bias as early as 3 years of age. However, it usually tends to weaken in late childhood. According to psychologists, age promotes harsher realities that reveal children’s social standings when compared to their peers. With this in mind, a struggle may take place since the ideas of optimism and positivity are “ingrained” in the child’s mind. However, this same struggle is what motivates children to try new things fearlessly. Children who approach situations positively are more likely to have positive interactions in school and social settings. The best thing to do for children being raised in today’s society is to simply talk about beliefs that make them think about the evidence that supports them. A balance between a positive yet honest approach is probably the best way for children to develop in today’s society.

 

https://theconversation.com/children-are-natural-optimists-which-comes-with-psychological-pros-and-cons-93532

Responding to the Needs of Children and Families Following Disaster

September 19, 2019

In recent years, natural disasters have taken the spotlight more frequently than what we are used to. Following the article, natural disasters are “unpredictable” and “hard to control”, but can we do something to prepare ourselves for the disasters? This is where psychology makes its entrance, not just to ease individual suffering, but also in organizing and assembling the resources for the community as a whole, therefore ensuring the most effective measures to counteract the catastrophe.

The circumstances of natural disasters in the past years led to the development of the study “Helping Families and Communities Recover from Disaster: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina and its Aftermath” in which psychologists examine key “lessons learned” and offer recommendations and practical applications for better meeting the needs of children, families, and communities following disaster. Their research highlights the range of risks, resources, and factors relating to adaptations related to the aftermaths following disasters and emphasizes the role of the community in providing and enhancing resources. With this in mind, further research has taken part in emphasizing on how the needs of caregivers, children, and family are fulfilled after disasters. In their research findings, they realized how children needing the most attention when compared to adults. Among their most common needs, counseling, tutoring, and medical needs stand out. Due to the progress of natural disasters in the past years, psychologists and other field-related professionals are working on the development of new methods to manage disasters and their aftermaths.

https://www.apa.org/research/action/disaster

Do Violent Video Games Lead to Violent Behavior?

The question about whether or not violent video games lead to antisocial behavior has been one on the public conscious for decades now. Increasingly, research points to the answer being no.

A 2016 study assessed the correlation between violent video games and antisocial or bullying behavior in children, as well as parental involvement, using a survey. The children’s reasons for playing were also assessed. The research revealed no correlation between violent video games and real life violent behavior, and even a loose correlation between the usage of video games and civic engagement. Parental involvement also had no effect on violent video game exposure. It was found that boys played violent video games more than girls, but both did it simply for fun and many, as an escape or to release stress. These findings were in line with other studies that pointed to youth turning to action oriented games to reduce stress. 

Perhaps the notion of violent video games being a gateway to real life acts of violence will be a thing of the past. Afterall, we’ve moved away from the ideas that rock music or comic books inherently negatively impact youth. The more we study the phenomenon, the more we come to the conclusion that many art forms, video games included, aren’t a predictor of violence. 

Read the research paper here

Mentorship Matters!

July 27, 2018

A new study from researchers at the University of Kansas finds that children who experience informal mentorship from a non-kin adult are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as physical fighting, shoplifting, and lying. The positive effects of these mentoring relationships were particularly noteworthy when teens were made to feel that they were important and appreciated. According to researchers, participants of the study indicated closeness, a sense of belonging, and an ongoing feeling of importance as the key factors of a successful mentor relationship. The study also indicated that when teens are able to continuously maintain these non-kin mentors, especially if the mentor is a teacher, they are less likely to get in trouble.

The results from this study may be particularly important for organizations that work with children by providing them with a designated mentor: the type of relationship that a child forms with a mentor is just as important as the existence of the relationship itself. The study also found that starting these relationships early in a child’s life is important. Encouraging children to develop relationships with teachers and other community members can go a long way in helping to reduce delinquency in adolescents.

 

Read the Science Daily article

Read the full scientific article in Children and Youth Services Review

Music lessons and language learning

July 6, 2018

A new study published by Proceedings of the National Academies of Science found an unlikely link between musical training and speech processing. Researchers found that specifically, six months of piano lessons were shown to better a child’s speech-sound processing. Children with piano training gained better word discrimination, and in comparison to a reading group, gained better consonant discrimination:

“Even compared to their peers in the extra reading group, children who took piano lessons were significantly better at distinguishing between spoken words that differed by only one consonant, [the researcher] explains. (Both the piano and reading groups performed better than the control group at differentiating between vowels.) This, he says, suggests that piano lessons affect a crucial and complex element of language processing.

Consonants, like ‘T’ and ‘D’, can sound so similar that the human brain has to make a snap decision about what it’s hearing. ‘Consonants require a bit more precision to tell one from another than do vowels,’ [the researcher] says. ‘The biggest benefit showed up where there’s the biggest challenge.’

While this small study was completed with Mandarin-Speaking children, the results certainly indicate the positive effects of musical training for young children.

Read more of the Time article here

Read the full scientific article

Rates of Anxiety increase in Children

May 22, 2018

A new study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics has found a significant increase in cases of reported anxiety in children aged 6 to 17. Researchers asked parents whether their child’s doctor has ever told them if their child has anxiety and/or depression. Researchers found that “Based on the parent report, lifetime diagnosis of anxiety or depression among children aged 6 to 17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2011–2012. Current anxiety or depression increased from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.3% in 2011–2012; current anxiety increased significantly, whereas current depression did not change. ”

Several factors may be playing into the increase in anxiety among our nation’s youth, including the increased role that social media plays in our children’s lives, or pressures from a competitive school environment. One provider interviewed for the Washington Post  article linked below stated “School is putting so much pressure on them with the competitiveness … I’ve seen eighth graders admitted as inpatients, saying they have to choose a career!”

Clink the links below to learn more about this study.

Read the Washington Post Article

Read the full Scientific Article

Mother’s Depression may impact Child Development

May 4, 2018

Taking care of mom’s mental health may be important to the overall development of their children, a new study finds. Wu et al (2018) researched the impact that a mother’s depression can have on a child’s emotional and intellectual development, finding that children with depressed mother’s had significantly lower verbal IQ scores than that of children whose mother was not depressed.

Cheryl Platzman Weinstock writes in Reuters “At age five, children with severely depressed mothers had an average verbal IQ score of 7.3 (on a scale of 1 to 19), compared to a higher score of 7.8 in children without depressed mothers. The discrepancy “might not seem like a big difference, but it is truly significant and important and highly meaningful for children’s learning skills,” [the researchers] told Reuters Health by phone. These children will have a smaller vocabulary and poorer comprehension skills…The study team also found that depressed moms didn’t interact as well with their children. Researchers had observed the mothers’ emotional and verbal communication with their children during spontaneous interactions in the home. They observed how often mothers praised their children, read to them, conveyed positive feelings and hugged their child, among other things. Highly depressed moms were less responsive, affectionate, loving and warm. They didn’t invest emotionally or provide learning materials to their child as much as mothers who were not depressed, the authors write in the journal Child Development.”

While we cannot be certain that mother’s depression is the source of these lower IQ scores, this study certainly highlights the need to focus our attention on the mother’s mental health in addition to children’s overall well-being. Mother’s who screen for depression should be provided with resources and support necessary to combat depressive symptoms, ensuring their child’s development is not impacted!

 

Read the Reuter’s Article here

Read the Full Article in Child Development

The Rise of Childhood Trauma

April 20, 2018

According to the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine, by the age of 4, one in four children in the United States have experienced a traumatic event. For children who come from low-income households, this trauma risk doubles to one in two children. Dr. Julian Ford, a psychiatry professor and director of the Center for Trauma Recovery and Juvenile Justice at UConn Health. His specialty is focused on childhood trauma, its impact on brain development, and how to prevent the effects of trauma.

Dr. Ford defines trauma as “abuse whether verbal, emotional, physical or sexual, neglect, violence, witnessing violence, or being involved in an accident or natural disaster.” However, trauma does not have to involve something physically life threatening. Just verbal or emotional abuse can make a child feel unworthy of living. Dr. Ford wants to encourage more adults, parents, and teachers to become more “trauma informed” to prevent or even detect childhood trauma and serve as role models.

Read the whole study here

The Benefits of Taking Breaks During School

April 6, 2018

It is widely known that elementary school students can have a short attention span when it comes to doing school work. In order to keep them away from getting distracted, short breaks throughout their lessons can help them focus better. The short brain breaks and recess breaks are not just downtime for students. It is also a portion of time then students increase their productivity and provide them with opportunities to develop creativity and social skills.

In a 2016 study, psychologist Karrie Godwin, along with her fellow researchers measured how attentive elementary students were during class. They discovered that they spent about a quarter of the time distracted, unable to focus while the teacher was talking and while completing a current task. Teachers found that it was more effective to give more 10 minute lessons than fewer 30 minute lessons. There are other benefits to taking breaks during school hours. It was proven that it can decrease stress, increase productivity, boosts brain function, and provides opportunities for children to learn social skills.

To successfully incorporate breaks during school time, it is recommended to add a few minutes of exercise in the classroom to reset their attention. Also, use brain breaks to stimulate curiosity and boost students’ motivation and improve their mood. Lastly, set some time aside during class for creativity to help increase students imaginations.

Read the article here

Read more about the 2016 study here