Family Violence Changes Children's Brains
1/20/2012 7:31:10 AM
A recent study in Current Biology explores the ways in which exposure to family violence changes children's brains. Exposure to violence in the household includes physical abuse, which is experienced by between 4 and 16% of children, and intimate partner violence, which is witnessed by between 8 and 25% of children. The study used MRIs to compare the responses of children exposed to family violence with those of children not exposed to family violence when shown pictures of angry, neutral and sad faces.
When shown the angry face, children who had experienced family violence showed greater reactivity in both the amygdala, which moderates emotional responses and preparation for stress, and the anterior insula (AI), which works with the amygdala to anticipate pain, than children who had not experienced family violence. Although this heightened response may be beneficial when faced with an immediate threat, previous research links increased reactivity in these areas of the brain to several anxiety disorders.The authors suggest that this hypervigilance may limit a child's ability to master certain social skills and may even predispose children to future aggression. The study did not include children with symptoms of depression or anxiety disorders, implying that there are neurological consequences of family violence even in children without mental health symptoms.
Several Schubert Center Faculty Associates study violence and its effects on children. Daniel Flannery researches the effects of violence on children in Cuyahoga County. Read a policy brief on his work. Patrick Kanary studies youth violence prevention and childhood exposure to violence. Jeffrey Kretschmar studies violence and aggression. Judith Lipton studies inter-disciplinary strategies for addressing domestic violence and the rights of immigrant victims of family violence. Mark Singer studies youth violence and the community. James Spilsbury researches how family violence can affect children's sleep and health.
Read The Atlantic's summary of the study.
Tags: Children, Family, Health, Violence
Michael Wald Speaks On Rethinking Child Protection
12/2/2011 7:49:49 AM
On November 29, the Schubert Center hosted Stanford University Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law, Emeritus, Michael Wald as part of the Schubert Center's 2011-2012 lecture series Child Well-Being in Challenging Times. In the talk, titled Rethinking Child Protection, he discussed how child protective services should focus on threats to children's physical well-being and that the development of a second system is needed to serve at-risk families of children with developmental challenges. Additionally, he highlighted key areas of achievement that all children should reach by adulthood, including graduating high school, avoiding criminal conviction and incarceration, and delaying parenthood until age 18 or later. He argued that the current systems and intervention programs during early childhood do not improve these outcomes for the "bottom 20 percent" of children, due to their parents' isolation from the larger community. After his talk, Professor Wald was joined by Patricia Rideout, the Director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Juvenile and Family Services, and Dr. Mark Feingold, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at CWRU's School of Medicine, who discussed their experiences working with maltreated children and the Child Protective Service in Cuyahoga County. The Schubert Center and its faculty associates have long been involved in issues of child maltreatment. Director Dr. Jill Korbin, Dr. Claudia Coulton, Dr. David Crampton, and Dr. James Spilsbury studied the impact of neighborhood conditions on child maltreatment and child wellbeing. Read an article on their findings, co-written by former Child Policy Director Molly Irwin.
Learn more about this event.
Get information about upcoming Schubert Center lectures.
Tags: Children, Family, Parenthood, Violence, Welfare
Study Finds Achievement Gap Between White and Black Children Present as Early as Age 3
10/28/2011 11:35:31 AM
Photo by nycstreets
This month's issue of Child Development contains an article exploring the origins of a phenomenon known as the Black-White Achievement Gap, which refers to the substantial difference in achievement in reading and mathematics present when African American and White children enter school, which grows throughout schooling. The authors followed 314 lower income American children from birth through fifth grade. Measures of academic achievement, demographic characteristics, childrearing attitudes, depressive symptoms, parenting, neighborhood disadvantage, child care, school characteristics, and early cognitive skills were used to asses children at eight time periods.
The authors found that differences in family, child care and schooling experiences accounted for much of the gap, which was present in children by age 3. Instructional quality was especially important for Black children, who made gains in mathematics skills in the presence of certain school characteristics. These findings suggest the importance of early intervention to reduce racial inequalities in school achievement. The authors also note the importance of programs that focus on parenting skills to promote cognitive and social development in children under 3, as well as high quality child-care access for low income families.
Several Schubert Center Faculty Associates study the importance of early childhood development and interventions, especially for disadvantaged children. Dr. Claudia Coulton studies urban poverty and neighborhood impacts on children and families. Dr. David S. Crampton conducts research on child and family welfare policy. Dr. Gerald J. Mahoney studies the role of family and parental influences on children's development and socio-emotional well being. Dr. H. Gerry Taylor researches the developmental and educational impacts of low birthweight and premature birth.
In March 2010, Nobel Laureate James Heckman spoke at at a lecture sponsored by the Schubert Center on the importance of investment in early childhood education. Find out more information about his talk and watch a video of his lecture.
Tags: Children, Development, Early Childhood, Education, Family, Neighborhoods, School
Child Abuse Increased During the Recession, Study Says
9/19/2011 12:15:48 PM
A study, published this week in Pediatrics and conducted in Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Washington, found that the number of children diagnosed with abusive head trauma in hospitals rose from 8.9 in 100,000 before the recession to 14.7 in 100,000 during the recession. Abusive head trauma, such as Shaken Baby Syndrome, is the leading cause of child death, and previous research suggests that times of stress can lead to increases in child abuse.
The study found 422 cases of abusive head trauma in hospital emergency rooms, with the average age of the child at 9 months. Sixteen percent of the children in the study died due to their injuries. The authors mention that an important factor in the rise in cases of AHT may be that the recession forced many people who had previously not been caretakers to be the primary caretakers for young children. In a MSNBC article on the study, Dr. Rachel P. Berger, one of the authors, notes the importance of teaching parents that it is ok to leave a crying baby safely in a crib and walk away after all basic needs have been taken care of when stressed. She also says that government decreases in programs to help infants and young children may also contribute to increased parental stress.
Schubert Center Director Dr. Jill Korbin has studied child maltreatment for over 35. She is currently editing a volume on C. Henry Kempe, a pediatrician who was the first to identify child abuse in a medical setting.
To read the study, click here.
To read an NPR article on the study, click here.
To read an MSNBC article on the study, click here.
Tags: Children, Early Childhood, Family, Parenthood, Violence
Article Proposes Prenatal and Early Childhood Origins of Violence
9/14/2011 11:08:30 AM
In an article published in January 2011 in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior, Dr. Jianghong Liu of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing proposes a framework for understanding the pre- and early post-natal origins of violence. Dr. Liu argues that the current literature neglects the role of early childhood in child and adolescent violent behavior and lacks long-term studies of how early childhood health impacts later behavior.
She proposes a variety of early health risk factors that may increase risk of childhood aggression, including smoking during pregnancy, birth complications, alcohol and drug consumption during pregnancy, teenage pregnancy, maternal depression, malnutrition, lead exposure, head injury, child abuse and maternal stress. These risk factors do the most damage during early childhood, when children’s neuro-development is at its peak. She argues that public health prevention programs targeting these risk factors are a heretofore-unused opportunity for violence prevention.
In a news article about her research, Dr. Liu says, “As a society we should invest in better health care for early life – as early as a growing fetus – in order to minimize their health risk factors for violence. It is never too early to intervene in the development of violent tendencies.” Her statement echoes the work of Dr. James Heckman, Nobel Laureate, who advocates for economic investment in early childhood education. A summary of his talk at the Schubert Center in March 2010 can be accessed here.
On September 27, Schubert Center Faculty Associate Dr. Daniel Flannery will be giving a talk on Merging Research, Practice, and Policy in Addressing Children’s Exposure to Violence. He is the director of the Semi J. and Ruth J. Begun Center for Violence Prevention at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. His current research projects include Project Tapestry, which studies violence prevention services for youth, and evaluation of the Fugitive Safe Surrender Program.
Several other Faculty Associates study violence in children and youth. Dr. James Spilsbury of the Center for Clinical Investigation studies the role of sleep disturbances in children who have been exposed to violence. Dr. Mark Singer of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences studies youth violence and co-existing drug and mental disorders.
To read the original article online, click here.
To read a Science Direct article on the study, click here.
Tags: Children, Development, Early Childhood, Family, Infancy, Violence
Announcing the Adoption Network Cleveland Scholars Program
9/7/2011 10:40:49 AM
Congratulations to CWRU junior and former “Child Policy” student Mai Segawa, who has developed the new Adoption Network Cleveland Scholars Program. Undergraduate and graduate students who complete the 12-hour program will receive a certificate from Adoption Network Cleveland. Registration deadline is Friday, October 14, 2011. Click here for more information.
Recent Killings Draw Attention to Mothers Who Kill Their Children
4/21/2011 12:49:27 PM
Last week, a shocking case of a mother who drover her car filled with her four children into the Hudson River made national headlines. However, a series of articles following this event note that parents and particularly mothers are far more common than the public perceives them to be. One such article notes that parents kill their children at least 100 times a year and that mothers are more likely than fathers to kill children under the age of 5.
Schubert Center Director Dr. Jill Korbin has studied women who fatally maltreat their children for over 35 years. In a recent Associated Press article, she noted that, unlike reducing auto fatalities, finding means of preventing these deaths has proved difficult. She does state that society’s desire to be supportive of a “good mother” may result in hesitancy to intervene even when friends and family members may see a mother struggling.
Case Western Medical School professor Dr. Phillip Resnick is a forensic psychologist who has testified in a number of prominent cases, including the 2001 Andrea Yates case. He spoke with NPR about a variety of circumstances in which parents kill their children, including what he calls an “altruistic killing” which occurs when a depressed parent decides to kill his or her children to spare them from the cruelty of the world. In a previous study, he found one in every 33 mothers in the United States is a parent killing his or her child.
To read the Associated Press article that Dr. Korbin contributed to, click here.
To listen to an NPR conversation with Dr. Resnick and two mothers, click here.
Tags: Children, Family, Mental Health, Parenthood, Violence, Welfare
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
4/14/2011 10:40:22 AM
Since 1983, Congress has declared April National Child Abuse Prevention Month. In 2007, Child Protective Services confirmed 772,000 cases of abused or neglected children, and in 2006, 1,530 children died from maltreatment. In addition to short-term physical injuries, child abuse can cause permanent visual, motor and cognitive impairments as well as long-term mental health impacts.
However, there are protective factors that can be nurtured in order to prevent child abuse. Childwelfare.gov describes 5 protective factors in preventing child maltreatment: nurturing and attachment, knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development, parental resilience, social connections, and concrete supports for parents.
Several Schubert Center Faculty Associates study issues related to child abuse and neglect:
To learn more about National Child Abuse Prevention Month and what you can do, click here.
- Schubert Center Director Dr. Jill Korbin has over 35 years of experience in the field of child maltreatment and neglect, with a focus on child abuse in a cross-cultural setting. She is currently participating in a committee at the Centers for Disease Control to rewrite the parameters defining child abuse. Additionally, she is editing a series of edited volumes on contemporary issues in child maltreatment research and policy.
- Dr. Victor Groza of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences studies child welfare in the context of adoption.
- Dr. Lolita McDavid in Pediatrics is the medical director of the department of Child Advocacy and Protection at University Hospital’s Case Medical Center.
To learn more about the health effects of child abuse and neglect, click here.
Tags: Children, Family, Parenthood, Welfare
Women Abused During Childhood at Increased Risk for Having Low Birthweight Babies
3/31/2011 9:12:44 AM
A recent study from the University of Washington has found that emotional, sexual, and physical abuse and poverty before age 10 leads to an increased risk of having a low birth weight baby. The study also found links between alcohol and drug use during adolescence and pregnancy and low birth weight.
Children are considered low birth weight if they are born weighing less than 2500 grams. Low birth weight has been linked with a variety of negative impacts to health and development including cerebral palsy, increased rates of conduct disorders, obesity, and increased risk of death before age one.
The study is the first to find a link between maternal childhood maltreatment and low birth weight. The authors also found the childhood maltreatment increased risk of substance abuse during high school and that women who used drugs during high school were more likely to smoke and drink alcohol during later pregnancies. The study is part of a recent trend in looking at the effects of early life experiences on later health outcomes.
Several Schubert Center Faculty Associates study various issues related to low birth weight and child maltreatment.
- Schubert Center Director Dr. Jill Korbin has studied child maltreatment with a focus on child abuse in a cross-cultural setting for 35 years.
- Dr. Maureen Hack studies the outcomes for low birth weight and very low birth weight children. A policy brief on the findings of her research on the impact of low birth weight throughout the lifespan can be downloaded here.
- Dr. H. Gerry Taylor studies the impact of low birth weight and premature birth and future learning and neurological status. A policy brief from a recent talk he gave on early school progress for children with extreme prematurity can be downloaded here.
- Dr. Marilyn Lotas studies the health issues related to low and very low birth weight.
To read the article, click here.
To read a news article about the study, click here.
Tags: Children, Family, Low Birth Weight, Parenthood, Poverty, Violence
Study Finds Parental Involvement Key in Reducing Childhood Obesity
3/29/2011 10:31:18 AM
A study released today in Pediatrics found that an obesity reduction program that combined twice-weekly exercise sessions for children with once-weekly nutrition and behavior modification classes for children and parents resulted in improvements in body weight, body composition, blood lipids and insulin that were sustained for 2 years after the intervention. To read a brief LA Times article on the study, click here.
The findings of this study are particularly noteworthy because the study specifically targeted ethnically diverse children with very high BMIs. The intervention took place in disadvantaged, inner-city areas and was offered in both Spanish and English. The study was the first to provide long-term results in a disadvantaged or minority population. The study also shows the importance of including parents in nutrition education programs in order to promote long-term adoption of healthier lifestyles.
Several Schubert Center Faculty Associates conduct research and other programs that aim to reduce the prevalence of obesity in children.
To read the study on Pediatrics's website, click here.
To download a policy brief on Dr. Lotas’s program to screen children in CMSD for hypertension and obesity, click here.
Tags: Children, Healthy Eating, Family, Health, Obesity
Recession Leaves Increasing Numbers of Children Homeless
3/18/2011 10:54:52 AM
60 Minutes recently profiled several families with children who had become homeless as a result of the current economic recession. The number of American children in poverty has increased from 14 million in 2008 to 16 million in 2010. A million houses were foreclosed on in 2010. An accompanying article also states that the child poverty is expected to hit 25 percent. In Seminole County, Florida, just outside of Disney World, nearly 1000 children have recently lost their homes and are living in cars, homeless shelters or motels. According to the county’s director of programs for homeless children, between 5 and 15 students are newly homeless every day. Click here to watch the segment from 60 Minutes.
According to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, in Cuyahoga County, 1,944 children in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District used services for homeless children in the second half of 2009, as compared to 1657 in the second half of 2008. While family and friends take in 60 percent of these children, 19 percent reported living in shelters and 20 percent were unaccompanied homeless youth. An earlier report from Case’s Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development found that from 2005 to 2008, 65 percent of all homeless individuals living in families are children, and the average length of stay in a shelter for individuals in families was 51 days.
Several Schubert Center Faculty Associates study the impact of child homelessness and the recession.
Click here to read the 2009 State of Homelessness report from the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.
Click here to read the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development’s report on Family Homelessness in Cuyahoga County.
Tags: Children, Family, Poverty
Schubert Center associate director weighs in on how to tell if you are too strict with your children
2/8/2011 12:15:13 PM
Schubert Center associate director Dr. Elizabeth J. Short was recently interviewed for a WebMD article on signs a parent may be too strict with their child.
In the article, Dr. Short states that, although Americans tend not to be strict enough with their children, being too strict may also lead to negative outcomes because “They are eager to please and worried about parental approval, so you end up with kids that are anxious and indecisive. Or sometimes they know there is no way they can hit the bar you have set, so they don’t even try.”
The article then provides sixteen signs that parents are being too strict with their children and examples of how parents can recognize these signs. The signs include setting too many rules, setting rules that overstep parental boundaries, not putting in time to help kids successfully follow rules, not giving children time to express their opinions, not giving kids time to play and not being warm towards children.
In addition to her role as the Schubert Center’s associate director, Dr. Short is a professor of Psychology at Case Western Reserve University. Her research is on cognitive development in preschool- and school-aged children as well as various learning disabilities. A research and policy brief on Dr. Short’s work on assessing developmental differences through play is available at the Schubert Center’s website.
Tags: Children, Family, Parenthood
The Importance of Imaginative Play
1/10/2011 9:44:46 AM
Published on January 5, 2011, a recent New York Times article draws attention to the importance of imaginative play in child development. As children become increasingly scheduled with extracurricular activities and schools reduce time for play in order to prepare for tests, finding time for creative play often falls on busy parents. American children ages 8 to 18 spend 7 hours and 38 minutes a day looking at television, computer and video game screens, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Additionally, only one in five children live within walking distance of a playground or park, contributing to the rise in childhood obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The article also describes the important skills, such as impulse control, problem solving and teamwork, learned through classic games such as Simon Says and building forts. Parents can encourage creative play by providing more unstructured time and limiting screen time. The article notes the value of spaces set aside for play and the mess that comes with it, as well as toys that inspire creative play such as blocks and dress-up supplies.
Schubert Center faculty associate Sandra Russ studies the role of pretend play in child development and in child psychotherapy. “It is important to educate parents about the importance of children’s play – especially pretend play,” says Dr. Russ, “Parents should enjoy their child’s play and provide time and space for play. Children are not ‘wasting time’ when they play.”
In New York City, a recent event, called the Ultimate Block Party and supported by the National Science Foundation, attracted 50,000 people to Central Park with games such as I Spy, puzzles and sidewalk chalk. Dr. Roberta Golinkoff and Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, founders of the event, are now working to create similar events in other cities and to make the New York event an annual gathering.
Organizations such as KaBOOM! and Creative Play Plus encourage creative play. KaBOOM! helps parents identify local areas to play and provides tools for parents and community members to fundraise and build playscapes in their area. Creative Play Plus, written by several Cleveland area child educators and sponsored by Step2, provides information about the benefits of creative play and provides ideas for caregivers for inspiring creative play in children.
To read the article, visit NYTimes.com
To learn more about creative play and get ideas for engaging children in imaginative play visit Creative Play Plus.
To learn more about finding and creating accessible and safe play areas in your neighborhood visit KaBOOM!’s website.
Tags: Children, Development, Early Childhood, Family, Neighborhoods, Play, School
Research on Childhood Obesity at CWRU
11/16/2010 8:55:00 AM
Childhood obesity is a widespread problem affecting children’s health. Obesity during childhood is associated with a range of health problems including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint problems and sleep apnea. In addition, obese children are at greater risk for becoming obese adults, which affects their long-term health.
In Cleveland, approximately 40 percent of children are overweight or obese, a rate significantly higher than the national average, estimated at around 30 percent. These rates have been rising in recent years, despite increasing public awareness of the problem. This trend is due, at least in part, to the lack of obesity treatment interventions that are effective over the long term. While clinical interventions may be effective in treating obesity over the short term, their impact is rarely sustainable once the intervention is complete.
Schubert Center Faculty Associate Dr. Leona Cuttler
is on the front lines of the fight against childhood obesity. Cleveland has been chosen as one of four sites in the NIH-sponsored Childhood Obesity Prevention and Treatment Research initiative. Dr. Cuttler, together with her colleagues at CWRU and University Hospitals, will be collaborating with other local partners to recruit and follow more than 400 families to assess the effectiveness of various treatment interventions for obesity. The three treatment interventions include:
- “Usual Care,” a program including education on healthy lifestyles that will be used as a control group,
- “HealthyChange,” a program of additional interventions targeting variables associated with obesity such as TV watching and sleep habits,
- “SystemChange,” an even more intensive intervention designed to reconfigure the microdynamics of the family environment by mapping the families' daily behaviors and targeting unhealthy patterns.
Each family will receive one of these three intervention programs. The researchers will follow the families throughout the six month intervention and a six month follow-up period in order to determine the relative effectiveness of the different interventions. The most success intervention could provide a new model for treating childhood obesity nationally.
Tags: Children, Healthy Eating, Family, Health, Obesity
Family-Based Treatment for Anorexia
10/13/2010 7:41:28 AM
New research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry this month suggests that family-based treatment may be an effective long-term strategy for treating anorexia-nervosa in adolescents. As featured in the New York Times (Oct. 5th, 2010), these results are based on a longitudinal, randomized control trial involving 120 adolescents.
The adolescents involved received either traditional individual-based therapy for anorexia or family-based treatment. Family-based treatment is designed to give parents the tools to first help their child gain weight and then to address other mental health issues that may be associated with anorexia. This is different than traditional therapy both in the emphasis on the role of the family and in addressing weight gain as the first step in treatment.
In the study, both individual and family-based treatment strategies were effective in treating patients with anorexia in the short-term. However, adolescents receiving family-based therapy were far less likely to relapse. After one year of treatment, only 10 percent of patients receiving family-based treatment had experienced a relapse of anorexia, compared to 40 percent of those receiving traditional individual treatment. These results suggest that family-based treatment may be a more effective strategy for treating adolescents suffering from anorexia.
To read the New York Times article, click here.
To access the original article published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, .
Dr. Eileen Anderson-Fye, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at CWRU and a Schubert Center Faculty Associate, also conducts research on adolescent mental health, and has specifically examined the phenomenon of eating disorders in other cultural context. Click here to learn more about Dr. Anderson-Fye’s work.
Dr. Arin Connell, Assistant Professor of Psychology at CWRU and a Schubert Center Faculty Associate, also conducts research on adolescent mental health, and has specifically examined the role of family in treatment of adolescent mental health disorders. Click here to learn more about Dr. Connell’s work
Tags: Adolescence, Family, Girls, Health, Mental Health