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Psychological Abuse: Common & Harmful

Psychological abuse — including demeaning, bullying and humiliating — may be the most prevalent form of child maltreatment. Yet it’s among the hardest to identify or to treat.

Psychological Abuse: More Common, as Harmful as Other Child Maltreatment It may be the most common kind of child abuse — and the most challenging to deal with. But psychological abuse, or emotional abuse, rarely gets the kind of attention that sexual or physical abuse receives.

That’s the message of a trio of pediatricians, who write this week in the journal Pediatrics with a clarion call to other family doctors and child specialists: stay alert to the signs of psychological maltreatment. Its effects can be every bit as devastating as those of other abuse.

Psychological maltreatment can include terrorizing, belittling or neglecting a child, the pediatrician authors say.

“We are talking about extremes and the likelihood of harm, or risk of harm, resulting from the kinds of behavior that make a child feel worthless, unloved or unwanted,” Harriet MacMillan, one of the three pediatrician authors, told reporters.

What makes this kind maltreatment so challenging for pediatricians and for social services staff, however, is that it’s not defined by any one specific event, but rather by the nature of the relationship between caregiver and child. That makes it unusually hard to identify.

Keeping a child in a constant state of fear is abuse, for example. But even the most loving parent will occasionally lose their cool and yell. Likewise, depriving a child of ordinary social interaction is also abuse, but there’s nothing wrong with sending a school-aged boy to stew alone in his room for an hour after he hits a younger sibling. All of this means that, for an outsider who observes even some dubious parenting practice, it can be hard to tell whether a relationship is actually abusive, or whether you’ve simply caught a family on a bad day.

Psychological abuse can also include what you might call “corrupting a child” — encouraging children to use illicit drugs, for example, or to engage in other illegal activities.

In their Pediatrics paper, MacMillan and co-authors say that 8% to 9% of women and 4% of men reported severe psychological abuse in childhood when the question was posed in general-population surveys of the U.S. and Britain. A number of U.S. surveys have also found that more adults claim they faced psychological maltreatment as kids than claim they experienced any other form of abuse. This suggests that psychological maltreatment may be the most common form of abuse inflicted on kids.

Because of that, pediatricians must be as sensitive to signs of emotional maltreatment as they are to signals of sexual or physical abuse, the authors say. And while it may be possible in the event of psychological abuse to intervene to improve the child’s home life — especially where the root cause is a parent’s own mental-health issue — the authors stress:

Consideration of out-of-home care interventions should not be restricted to cases of physical or sexual abuse; children exposed to psychological maltreatment may also require a level of protection that necessitates removal from the parental home.

 

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Light at Night may Contribute to Depression

By Nika Soon-Shiong Los Angeles Times

Exposure to light at night may contribute to depression, study saysTV sets, laptops, iPads and iPhones are modern society’s instruments for increased productivity, social connectedness and entertainment after a long day’s work. Ironically, a new study published in Molecular Psychiatry shows that these devices also contribute to an increase of major depressive disorder.

The 24-hour society made possible by the advent of the electric light bulb has come at a significant biological cost. Light at night disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythms and has been linked to breast cancer, heart disease  and obesity.

The new experiment, led by Tracy Bedrosian, a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University, analyzed the relationship between exposure to artificial light at night and mood disorder. The subjects of the study were adult female hamsters, since females — both rodent and human — are twice as likely as males to develop major depressive disorder. One group of hamsters was kept on a cycle of 16 hours of normal light and eight hours of dim light, which was five times brighter than the maximum light power of a full moon and comparable to light pollution in urban centers. The control group of hamsters was on a schedule of 16 hours of daylight and eight hours of darkness.

The researchers tested the hamsters in the nighttime light group for signs of depression. After four weeks of sleeping with light at night, the hamsters lost some of their appetite for sugar. In addition, when forced to swim, the animals spent more time immobile in the water and less time trying to reach safety.

According to the research team, the results show that there was some physiological change in the hamsters’ brains when they were exposed to light at night.

For instance, they produced more of a protein called TNF, or tumor necrosis factor. This is one of a family of proteins called cytokines — chemical messengers in the body that are released in response to injury or inflammation. If they are released constantly — such as during exposure to light at night — damage occurs that could result in depression. In the brain, the hippocampus is extremely vulnerable because it has many receptors for these cytokines. The hippocampus plays a critical role in major depressive disorder.

Furthermore, the amount of nighttime light used in the study is enough to suppress the release of melatonin, which is linked to depressive effects. Melatonin is a hormone secreted during the dark, and when that doesn’t happen, the body’s time-of-day information is distorted. In rodents, melatonin prevents stress-induced, depression-like behaviors.

The study authors noted that 99% of people in the United States and Europe deal with light pollution on a nightly basis. This could account for some of the increase in the incidence of major depression over the last few decades, they wrote, adding that further research is necessary to explore the extent of the link.

There was some good news: The negative effects of exposure to light at night are reversible if that exposure is decreased. Within two weeks of returning the hamsters to a standard light/dark cycle, the hamsters regained their taste for sugar and were more willing to swim, the researchers reported. Also, hamsters that were forced to endure the nighttime light but allowed to take a drug that inhibited their production of TNF swam just as much as the control hamsters on the normal light/dark schedule.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-light-at-night-depression-20120725,0,7482402.story

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Technology-crazy: Are we setting our kids up for future addiction?

See on Scoop.itHealthcare Continuing Education

Is the internet making us crazy? New research finds 61 percent of those surveyed feel addicted to the internet, and 68 percent say they suffer from internet “disconnect anxiety.” Another study found people check their smartphones 34 times a day.

See on www.kens5.com

 

Academics Say ‘No Truth’ to Lying Eyes Theory

Academics say 'no truth' to lying eyes theoryResearch by academics at two universities have concluded that the common belief of lying eyes is a myth.

Many psychologists think when a person looks up to their right they are likely to be telling a lie and glancing up to the left is said to indicate honesty.

However, the experts from Edinburgh University and Hertfordshire University carried out tests and found the theory to be wrong.

The research appeared in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.

The claimed link between eye movements and truth telling is a key element of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a method of enhancing people’s lives using psychological techniques.

One aspect of NLP involves teaching people about the relationship between eye movements and thought.

According to the theory, when right-handed people look up to their right they are likely to be visualising a “constructed” or imagined event.

In contrast when they look to their left they are likely to be visualising a “remembered” memory.

For this reason, when liars are constructing their own version of the truth, they tend to look to the right.

The idea was tested by filming volunteers and recording their eye movements as they told the truth or lied.

A second group of volunteers was then asked to watch the films and try to detect the lies by watching the eye movements.

Co-author Dr Caroline Watt, from Edinburgh University, said: “A large percentage of the public believes that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organisational training courses.

“Our research provides no support for the idea and so suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to detecting deceit.”

Psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman, from Hertfordshire University, said: “The results of the first study revealed no relationship between lying and eye movements, and the second showed that telling people about the claims made by NLP practitioners did not improve their lie detection skills.”

A follow-up study involved analysing videos of high-profile press conferences in which people appealed for help in finding missing relatives, or claimed to have been victims of crime.

While some were telling the truth, others turned out to be lying.

Again, there was no evidence of a correlation between lying and eye movements.

Five Ways to Detect a Liar

Prof Richard Wiseman outlined other ways to spot a liar:

  1. Me, myself I: Liars make up stories that never actually happened, and so tend to reduce the number of times they refer to themselves. Look out for any sudden drop in words like me, mine and I
  2. Shifty: Lying is difficult and people tend not to move around when they are concentrating on something. Be wary if a person suddenly becomes very still
  3. Umm … err: Liars are far more hesitant than truth tellers and tend to stumble over their words. Listen out for tell-tale umms and errs.
  4. Timing: Liars often have to think about what they are going to say before they speak. Be suspicious if someone suddenly pauses before starting to answer a question.
  5. Token gesture: Liars tend to move their hands around more than truth tellers. Be wary if someone suddenly starts covering up their mouth or touching their hair as they chat.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-18812072

 

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Inside The Digital Lives of Teens

Three facts parents should know about social media natives.

By: Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD

Inside The Digital Lives of TeensMost American teenagers have used some form of social media. And 75% maintain an online social profile, mostly through Facebook. A recent research study, Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives, provides fascinating insight into the digital habits of today’s 13-17 year-olds and how social media makes them feel about themselves.

When asked how social media affected their emotional well-being, teens overwhelmingly reported positive outcomes. They were far more likely to say they felt more confident, less depressed, more outgoing, more popular, less shy, and more sympathetic to others because of their online interactions. However, for about 5% of young people, the results were more negative.

The majority of teens (52%) say that social media has improved their relationships with friends while only 4% say that friendships have been harmed. Similarly, many more report that social media has helped relationships with family members (37%) rather than hurt them (2%).

From the 40-page study, three findings stood out that will be particularly pertinent to parents of social media natives..

1. Face-to-Face Communication Ranks High

Contrary to fears that digital communications will turn young people into robotic creatures unable to relate intelligently in the real world, most teenagers prefer face-to-face interactions. This finding supports my own research study on civically-engaged youth. While the teens in my study were highly active in the online world, they admitted their greatest learning and enjoyment came from face-to-face relationships.

The reason we observe so many young people texting is because 68% of them do so on a daily basis! Next to face-to-face interactions, texting is king. Why? Teens say It’s quick, easy, and gives them the opportunity to think before responding.

Because they value face-to-face relationships, many agreed that social media takes time away from being with people in-person, which they often perceive as a dilemma.

2. Teens Sometimes Want to Unplug

Like adults, teens often feel the need to unplug from their digital lives. One young person said, “Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and relax with no way possible to communicate with anyone.”

When asked if they felt “addicted” to their cell phones, 41% answered “Yes.” And they also pointed out that parents were addicted to gadgets too. In fact, many wished parents would spend less time on their devices and felt frustrated when people surfed the internet, checked email, or texted while they are hanging out together.

3. Social Networking Begins Early

Facebook is by far the most favorite social networking experience for teens. Three-quarters of 13 to 14-year-olds frequent social networking sites, and that goes up to 87% by the time they reach 15 to 17 years of age.

While most teens say they understand Facebook privacy policies, many do not. Before your teen posts a profile, this is one of the most important things to help them review and understand. Young people must recognize that their digital profiles will follow them for the rest of their lives.

Among teens with an online social profile, there are three reasons why they enjoy and benefit from social networking. 1) It helps them keep in closer touch with friends, particularly the ones they don’t see regularly, 2) They become more deeply acquainted with students at their own schools, and 3) They are able to connect with people with whom they share common interests.

Should Parents Worry?

Many parents worry that Facebook and other social networking sites will bring emotional harm to their children, either from predators, cyber-bullying, or inconsiderate friends. But the majority of teens don’t believe these sites affect them emotionally, one way or the other.

For young people who do report a change in psychological health, only a small percentage reported a negative change. In fact, emotional well-being was not discernibly different if a teen was a heavy or light social networker.

One troublesome result of this study is how often teens encounter online hate speech. This includes language that is sexist, homophobic, racist, or derogatory in other ways. Forty percent of teens report this to be a common element of online dialogue. It’s a good idea for parents to prepare teens for this and teach them how to respond. Check out the article, Teaching Civility in an F-Word Society, for some guidance.

This study, while limited in scope, can give parents some peace of mind. While cyber-bullying is real and some young people are genuinely harmed by their online relationships, these situations are the exception, not the rule. We should set rules and give children guidelines for online behavior just as we do for behavior in the real world.

The bottom line: Take a deep breath and be grateful for the fact that most teens using social media and digital devices report an overall sense of happiness and confidence. And despite the fact that their lives are intertwined with technology for evermore, they mostly appreciate the face-to-face time they spend with their friends and family. Let’s hope that never changes!

Source: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moment-youth/201207/inside-the-digital-lives-teens

 

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Media violence: 1 of 6 Risk Factors for Bullying

A new tool may help schools identify students who are more likely to commit aggressive acts against other students, research shows.

See on www.futurity.org

 

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Does Your Teen Have a Severe Anger Disorder?

Does your teen have a severe anger disorder?Teenagers are often characterized as over-emotional, prone to outbursts that confuse their parents and leave teachers reeling.

But a study published in the July issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry says 1 in 12 adolescents may in fact be suffering from a real and severe anger problem known as intermittent explosive disorder (IED).

Study author Katie McLaughlin, a clinical psychologist and psychiatric epidemiologist, says IED is one of the most widespread mental health disorders – and one of the least studied.

“There’s a contrast between how common the disorder is and how much we know about it,” she said.

IED is characterized by recurrent episodes of aggression that involve violence, a threat of violence and/or destruction of property, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It often begins around the age of 12, but scientists don’t know whether it continues into adulthood. (A similar study which focused on adults found 7.2% met the criteria for IED).

“Intermittent explosive disorder is as real or unreal as many psychiatric disorders,” wrote CNN’s mental health expert Dr. Charles Raison in an e-mail. “There are people who get really pissed off really quick and then regret it, just as there are people who get unreasonably sad and depressed. In both cases, but especially with [IED], it’s really just a description of how people behave.”

In this large study, researchers authors interviewed 6,483 adolescents and surveyed their parents. They excluded anyone who had another mental health disorder, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or conduct disorder (CD).

Of the teenage participants, 7.8% reported at least three IED anger attacks during their life.  More than 5% had at least three attacks in the same year.

McLaughlin said one of the most interesting things her team found was that very few of the adolescents who met the criteria for IED had received treatment for anger or aggressive behavior.  More research needs to be done to determine if treatments that have been developed for ODD or CD anger issues would apply to IED as well.

Additional research should also look into the risk factors for IED, she said. “We know not that much about course of the disorder… Which kids grow out of it and which kids don’t?”

Source: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/02/does-your-teen-have-a-severe-anger-disorder/

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