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
Study Finds 42% of India's Children Under 5 Are Malnourished
1/11/2012 2:32:32 PM
Photo by Neil Palmer of CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture
A recent survey
by the Naandi Foundation found that 42% of all Indian children younger than five are underweight, defined as having low weight for their age. Another 59% were found to be stunted, defined as having low height for age. The study surveyed 109,093 children in 3,360 villages in 9 states. The report also notes that 58% of mothers do not exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months, which is important for preventing childhood malnutrition. Key factors in child malnutrition were family socioeconomic status and the educational status of mothers.
With recent droughts leading to famine in East Africa
, child hunger is increasingly gaining international attention. Doctors Without Borders/Médicins Sans Frontières
estimates that 146 million children under the age of five are underweight, with sixty million children considered wasted, meaning below the normal weight for height. Most of these children live in the Sahel, South Asia and the Horn of Africa. UNICEF
notes that malnutrition is implicated in 40% of all child deaths under the age of five in developing countries. In addition to deaths from starvation, malnutrition can stunt children's growth, reduce their immunity, and damage intellectual achievement.
In 2010, MSF launched the Starved for Attention
campaign to draw attention to the issue of widespread child malnutrition and the importance of providing malnourished children with nutritionally adequate foods. According to MSF
most food aid provided to malnourished people in crises is a corn-soy blend that does not adequately meet the nutritional needs of growing children.
Tags: Children, Early Childhood, Healthy Eating, Poverty
Article Profiles the Success of the Finnish Educational System
1/5/2012 9:55:25 AM
This month's issue of The Atlantic
highlights the success of the Finnish educational system in achieving near the top of international educational assessments while using methods quite different from those in the United States. Finland's schools focus on education as a means of achieving social equality, rather than producing high achieving students. Additionally, Finnish schools eschew extensive drilling and testing for less homework and more creative play. All education is publicly financed, from preschool to university. The article notes that, although Finland has fewer foreign-born residents than the United States, its achievement levels continue to exceed that of Norway, a neighboring country with similar ethnic makeup that uses a more American approach to education.
Understanding successful educational models is particularly important as the United States considers how to replace No Child Left Behind, which has long been criticized for its emphasis on standardized testing. In September 2011
, President Obama announced that states would be allowed to apply for waivers to NCLB's requirement that all students achieve proficiency in reading and math by 2014, as long as states were willing to replace NCLB with their own accountability measures. The importance of including play in school has been studied by Schubert Center Faculty Associate Sandra Russ
. In a previous blog post
, she stated that play, especially pretend play, has an essential role in child development and that playtime should be included within children's daily lives.
Tags: Children, Development, Education