Aug 7, 2009 | 60
TORONTO—Corporal punishment has long been a hotly debated subject, with conflicting study results and opposing ideologies feeding the fire. Now the results of a five-year effort to review the scientific literature are in: a task force appointed by the American Psychological Association concludes that "parents and caregivers should reduce and potentially eliminate their use of any physical punishment as a disciplinary measure."
The recommendation was announced at the APA's annual meeting here today by the task force chair, psychologist Sandra A. Graham-Bermann of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. In a presentation, she explained that the group of 15 experts in child development and psychology found correlations between physical punishment and an increase in childhood anxiety and depression, an increase in behavioral problems including aggression, and impaired cognitive development—even when the child's pre-punishment behavior and development was taken into consideration.
Aug 7, 2009 | 13
TORONTO—All kids like to use their imagination, and many play fantasy games where they pretend to be characters in a made-up world. Some children persist in building especially elaborate imaginary worlds, with impressive depth in terms of histories, taxonomies, language and maps. This detailed, sustained "world play" may be an early marker of broad, general creativity (as opposed to creative excellence in one field such as music), according to two professors from Michigan State University.
Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein—he's a physiologist and she's in the theater department, and both are part of an interdisciplinary group studying creativity—explained the importance of recognizing the breadth of creativity in children yesterday in a symposium here at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. When studying creativity, they explained, most scientists have traditionally focused on a person's main creative endeavor—Mozart's music or Picasso's art, for example. The truth is, however, that most highly creative people are polymaths—they enjoy and excel at a range of challenging activities. For instance, in a survey of scientists at all levels of achievement, the Root-Bernsteins found that only about one sixth report engaging in a secondary activity of an artistic or creative nature, such as painting or writing non-scientific prose. In contrast, nearly all Nobel Prize winners in science have at least one other creative activity that they pursue seriously. Creative breadth, the Root-Bernsteins argue, is an important but understudied component of genius.
Mar 31, 2009
Environmental regulators will measure the air quality outside 62 schools in 22 states, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today, following news reports that questioned whether schools located in "toxic hotspots" near large industrial facilities and in urban areas were safe for kids.
“As a mother, I understand that concerned parents deserve this information as quickly as we can gather and analyze it,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement. (Jackson, 47, is the mother of two sons.) “EPA, state, and local officials are mobilizing to determine where elevated levels of toxics pose a threat, so that we can take swift action to protect our children at their schools.”
Mar 30, 2009 | 2
Here's something to drink to: easy access to water fountains and a nudge from teachers to use them might help kids stay lean. A new study published today in Pediatrics suggests that installing fountains in elementary schools and pushing students to drink more water may reduce their risk of being plump by as much as a third.
"Drinking fountains won't solve the obesity epidemic, but they could be effective components of the solution," says study co-author Rebecca Muckelbauer, a nutritionist at the Research Institute of Child Nutrition Dortmund in Dortmund, Germany.
Muckelbauer and her colleagues studied the water-drinking habits of nearly 3,000 second and third graders attending schools in the neighboring cities of Dortmund and Essen during the 2006-2007 academic year. At the beginning of the school year, the researchers had water fountains installed in 17 of the schools and worked with teachers to implement educational programs to promote water drinking. (In contrast to U.S. schools, few German schools actually have water fountains, according Muckelbauer). The researchers surveyed the children about their drinking habits and measured their heights and weights at the beginning and end of the school year.
Dec 5, 2008 | 4
Out shopping for toys for those special kiddies in your life who have been nice (and even naughty)? Be careful: some of those would-be stocking stuffers may be toxic. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Public Citizen yesterday sued the feds to force them to order stores to remove tot's toys and child care products that contain toxic plastics called phthalates from their shelves pronto.
The watchdog groups charge in the complaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is flouting "the will of Congress'' by allowing retailers to stockpile and continue to sell products from dolls to rubber ducks containing the chemicals after Feb. 10—the date a federally mandated ban on their production and sale is set to take effect—as long as they were manufactured before the deadline.
Aug 25, 2008 | 10
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the U.S. has seen more cases of measles than at any time since 1996 in the last six months—and its stories like that that have caught the attention of actress Amanda Peet, among others concerned about the resurgence. In Europe and the U.K., children are dying of measles. Declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and as recently as the early 1960s, as many as 500 children in this country died every year from the viral disease, characterized by a red rash and highly infectious cough.
The first outbreak of 2008 came via a 7-year-old boy from San Diego, who traveled to Switzerland with his family. He had not been vaccinated and contracted measles, which he subsequently passed on to schoolmates, infants at his doctor's office and children around him in the hospital.
Jul 11, 2008 | 1
Scientists in Spain and France have developed a new implant designed to help children with scoliosis, abnormal curvature of the spine. Developed at NADAR Computerized Medical Systems in Langreo, Spain, the implant uses a hydraulic piston to apply a force between two points along the spine—gradually straightening the excess bend, according to New Scientist. As the child grows and the spine expands, doctors would send a wireless signal to adjust the implant—which has been tested in sheep but is at least three years away from human trials—opening a valve that moves fluid from the implant's reservoir into the piston to increase the implant's hydraulic pressure. The device, described in the journal Mechatronics, is removed completely once the spine is straight. If successful, this hydraulic implant could replace back braces or, in more extreme cases, spinal fusion surgery to graft sections of bone or metal rods onto the spine to help straighten it. The hydraulic implant can be used in young children and can be adjusted as they grow, whereas these other approaches cannot be performed until a child is almost fully grown (by then their scoliosis has grown worse over time). Scoliosis affects up to four children in every thousand, with girls accounting for 80 percent of the cases.
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