Category Archives: At home

Children prefer reading on paper, more technology means less reading.

This new study that I found via Casper Hulshof examined how the access to eReaders, computers and mobile phones influenced the children’s book reading frequency.

In short:

  • Children underutilised devices for recreational book reading, even when daily book readers, which means that children prefer paper over screens for reading.
  • Reading frequency was less when children had access to mobile phones.
  • Reading in general was less when children were given access to more digital devices.

Abstract of the study:

Regular recreational book reading is a practice that confers substantial educative benefit. However, not all book types may be equally beneficial, with paper book reading more strongly associated with literacy benefit than screen-based reading at this stage, and a paucity of research in this area. While children in developed countries are gaining ever-increasing levels of access to devices at home, relatively little is known about the influence of access to devices with eReading capability, such as Kindles, iPads, computers and mobile phones, on young children’s reading behaviours, and the extent to which these devices are used for reading purposes when access is available. Young people are gaining increasing access to devices through school-promoted programs; parents face aggressive marketing to stay abreast of educational technologies at home; and schools and libraries are increasingly their eBook collections, often at the expense of paper book collections. Data from the 997 children who participated in the 2016 Western Australian Study in Children’s Book Reading were analysed to determine children’s level of access to devices with eReading capability, and their frequency of use of these devices in relation to their recreational book reading frequency. Respondents were found to generally underutilise devices for reading purposes, even when they were daily book readers. In addition, access to mobile phones was associated with reading infrequency. It was also found that reading frequency was less when children had access to a greater range of these devices.

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New study confirms: cyberbullying rarely occurs in isolation

It’s something I’ve known from other studies, but this new research from the University of Warwick, published in European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, confirms it: cyberbullying is mostly an extension of playground bullying — and doesn’t create large numbers of new victims.

In short:

  • Cyberbullying doesn’t create large numbers of new victims
  • Most bullying is face-to-face – with cyberbullying used as a modern tool to supplement traditional forms
  • 29% of UK teenagers reported being bullied – only 1% were victims of cyberbullying alone
  • Bullying intervention strategies should focus on traditional bullying as well as cyberbullying

From the press release:

Professor Dieter Wolke in the Department of Psychology finds that although cyberbullying is prevalent and harmful, it is a modern tool used to harm victims already bullied by traditional, face-to-face means.

In a study of almost 3000 pupils aged 11-16 from UK secondary schools, twenty-nine percent reported being bullied, but one percent of adolescents were victims of cyberbullying alone.

During the survey, pupils completed the Bullying and Friendship Interview, which has been used in numerous studies to assess bullying and victimization.

They were asked about direct victimisation (e.g., “been hit/beaten up” or “called bad/nasty names”); relational victimization (e.g., “had nasty lies/rumours spread about you”); and cyber-victimization (e.g., “had rumours spread about you online”, “had embarrassing pictures posted online without permission”, or “got threatening or aggressive emails, instant messages, text messages or tweets”).

All the teenagers who reported being bullied in any form had lower self-esteem, and more behavioural difficulties than non-victims.

However, those who were bullied by multiple means – direct victimisation, relational victimisation and cyber-victimisation combined – demonstrated the lowest self-esteem and the most emotional and behavioural problems.

The study finds that cyberbullying is “another tool in the toolbox” for traditional bullying, but doesn’t create many unique online victims.

As a result, Professor Wolke argues that public health strategies to prevent bullying overall should still mainly focus on combatting traditional, face-to-face bullying – as that is the root cause of the vast majority of cyberbullying.

Professor Wolke comments:

“Bullying is a way to gain power and peer acceptance, being the ‘cool’ kid in class. Thus, cyber bullying is another tool that is directed towards peers that the bully knows, and bullies, at school.

“Any bullying prevention and intervention still needs to be primarily directed at combatting traditional bullying while considering cyberbullying as an extension that reaches victims outside the school gate and 24/7.”

Abstract of the study:

Cyberbullying has been portrayed as a rising ‘epidemic’ amongst children and adolescents. But does it create many new victims beyond those already bullied with traditional means (physical, relational)? Our aim was to determine whether cyberbullying creates uniquely new victims, and whether it has similar impact upon psychological and behavioral outcomes for adolescents, beyond those experienced by traditional victims. This study assessed 2745 pupils, aged 11–16, from UK secondary schools. Pupils completed an electronic survey that measured bullying involvement, self-esteem and behavioral problems. Twenty-nine percent reported being bullied but only 1% of adolescents were pure cyber-victims (i.e., not also bullied traditionally). Compared to direct or relational victims, cyber-victimization had similar negative effects on behavior (z = −0.41) and self-esteem (z = −0.22) compared to those not involved in bullying. However, those bullied by multiple means (poly-victims) had the most difficulties with behavior (z = −0.94) and lowest self-esteem (z = −0.78). Cyberbullying creates few new victims, but is mainly a new tool to harm victims already bullied by traditional means. Cyberbullying extends the reach of bullying beyond the school gate. Intervention strategies against cyberbullying may need to include approaches against traditional bullying and its root causes to be successful.

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You’re not like your brother: disruptive children do not inspire similar behavior in their siblings

I’m coming from a big family with a lot of brothers and sisters. Luckily they are all great, but what does it mean to have a rather disruptive brother or sister? A new longitudinal study on +900 children tries to answer this question.

From the press release:

A new Tel Aviv University study published in Child Development finds that the disruptive behavior of an individual child does not encourage similar behavior in their brothers and sisters.

On the contrary, Dr. Ella Daniel of TAU’s Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education finds that siblings, predominantly older siblings, of disruptive children tend to exhibit less disorderly behavior over time. The research, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Jenkins and colleagues at the University of Toronto and funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Research, examines the role of sibling training on disruptive behavior during early childhood and concludes that disruptive behavior produces greater disparity — rather than resemblance — among siblings.

“The development of disruptive behavior in early childhood is extremely important, as disruptive behavior starts early in life and behavioral patterns may become stable and resistant to influence later on,” Dr. Daniel says. “We found that in early childhood, children do not learn from each other how to be disruptive, violent or disobedient.

“In fact, they are more likely to learn what not to do, or how not to behave. The older siblings of young children who are disruptive tend to become less disruptive themselves over time, creating a polarizing effect on their behaviors.”

Focusing on younger children

Existing research on disruptive behavior is largely focused on adolescents. The new study harnessed data assessing the rate of disruptions as witnessed by both parents to track 916 toddlers and their preschool- and school-aged siblings in some 400 families in and around Toronto.

The families examined had given birth to an infant between 2006 and 2008, and had at least one other child (younger than four years of age) at home. The researchers conducted observations and interviews with the family, including all the siblings in the family, every 18 months.

The scientists collected information when the youngest child in the family was 18, 36 and 54 months old. On these three occasions, both parents reported the disruptive behaviors of each of their children. Using advanced statistical models, the researchers were able to identify the role of siblings in the development of each child’s disruptive behavior over time, taking into account heredity, parenting, social environment and shared history.

“The study teaches us that we have little to worry about one sibling being ‘a bad influence’ on their brothers or sisters,” says Dr. Daniel. “Instead, we should be more worried of pigeon holing: that one child will be labeled as a ‘black sheep,’ and that all children in the family will develop based on pre-assigned roles. We should let each child develop his or her individuality, which naturally changes over time.”

The researchers are currently examining the role of siblings in the development of childhood depression and anxiety.

Abstract of the study:

ibling training for disruptive behavior (one sibling teaching another disruptive behavior) is examined during early childhood. We used a conservative, recently developed, statistical model to identify sibling training. Sibling training was operationalized as the cross-lagged association between earlier child behavior and later sibling behavior, and differentiated from other reasons that contribute to sibling similarity. A three-wave longitudinal study tracked 916 children (Mage = 3.46, SD = 2.23) in 397 families using multi-informant data. Evidence for sibling training was found. Earlier younger siblings’ disruptive behavior predicted later lower levels of older siblings’ disruptive behavior. Thus, the sibling training found in early childhood was producing greater dissimilarity, rather than similarity, on disruptive behavior.

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Causal relation or correlation? Too much TV related to drops in school readiness

The amount of screen time for younger kids has been subject to many discussion, with the guidelines presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) often as an important element in it. While there are comments that the present guidelines aren’t that supported by science, this study seems to do so. But I beg to differ, as it seems that – as often is the case in such kind of studies – the researchers only found a correlation, not a causal relation. In fact: the study actually suggests an other possible explanation…

From the press release:

Watching television for more than a couple of hours a day is linked to lower school readiness skills in kindergartners, particularly among children from low-income families, finds a study by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and Université Sainte-Anne.

The findings, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, reinforce the need for limits on screen time, such as those laid out by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

In its 2001 guidelines, the AAP recommended that children over the age of 2 watch no more than two hours of television per day. These guidelines, updated in October 2016, now recommend that children between 2 and 5 watch no more than one hour of television.

“Given that studies have reported that children often watch more than the recommended amount, and the current prevalence of technology such as smartphones and tablets, engaging in screen time may be more frequent now than ever before,” said Andrew Ribner, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Applied Psychology at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s lead author.

Research has shown that watching television is negatively associated with early academic skills, but little is known about how socioeconomic status influences television viewing and child development. In the current study, the researchers examined whether the negative relationship between watching television and school readiness varied by family income.

Ribner and his colleagues looked at data from 807 kindergartners of diverse backgrounds. Their parents reported family income, as well as the number of hours of television their children watch on a daily basis. Video game, tablet, and smartphone use were not included in the measurement.

Children were assessed using measures of math, knowledge of letters and words, and executive function – key cognitive and social-emotional competencies, including working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control, that are viewed as fundamental for school readiness.

The researchers found that the number of hours of television young children watch is related to decreases in their school readiness, particularly their math skills and executive function. This association was strongest when children watched more than two hours of television.

As family incomes decreased, the link between television watching and drops in school readiness grew, meaning children from low-income families are hurt more by watching too much television. Those at or near the poverty line (an annual income of around $21,200 for a family of four) saw the largest drop in school readiness when children watched more than two hours of television. A more modest drop was observed among middle-income families (measured as $74,200 per year for a family of four), while there was no link between school readiness and television viewing in high-income homes (measured as around $127,000 per year for a family of four).

Interestingly, while television viewing was negatively associated with math skills and executive function, a similar link was not found with letter and word knowledge. The researchers speculate that television programming, especially educational programs for children, may work to improve literacy among young children in ways that are not found in math.

While the study did not measure the type of content the children watched, nor the context of their television viewing, the researchers note that both may be relevant to their findings, particularly in understanding why more affluent families appeared to be protected from the decline in school readiness linked to too much television.

For instance, children in higher-income homes may be watching more educational programming and less entertainment, which has been found in earlier studies. In addition, more affluent parents may be more likely to watch television with their children – offering explanation and discussion that can promote understanding – based on having more time and resources.

“Our results suggest that the circumstances that surround child screen time can influence its detrimental effects on learning outcomes,” said Caroline Fitzpatrick of Canada’s Université Sainte-Anne, who is also an affiliate researcher at Concordia University and a coauthor on the study.

The researchers recommend that efforts be made by pediatricians and child care centers to reinforce the AAP guidelines and help parents limit the amount of television children watch to fewer than two hours a day.

Abstract of the study:

Objective: We examined whether the negative relation between television viewing that exceeds the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and school readiness varied by family income.

Methods: Data were collected from 807 children from diverse backgrounds. Parents reported hours of television viewing, as well as family income. Children were assessed using measures of math, knowledge of letters and words, and executive function (EF).

Results: Television viewing was negatively associated with math and EF but not with letter and word knowledge. An interaction between television viewing and family income indicated that the effect of television viewing in excess of the AAP recommended maximum had negative associations with math and EF that increased as a linear function of family income. Furthermore, EF partially mediated the relation between television viewing and math.

Conclusion: Television viewing is negatively associated with children’s school readiness skills, and this association increased as family income decreased. Active efforts to reinforce AAP guidelines to limit the amount of television children watch should be made, especially for children from middle- to lower-income families.

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Kind of logic, but important to repeat: kids want parental help with online risk, but fear parental freak outs

This study doesn’t say that much new, we’ve known this also from previous research. Still, the insights are too important not to be repeated and shared again: kids think that parents just don’t understand what it is like to be a teen in an internet-connected world and this lack of understanding may hinder the development of skills necessary to safely navigate online. Or more to the point: kids want to ask their parents for advice, but not so if they think they will get an angry mom or dad shouting ‘I told you so’. I haven’t been able to read the actual study, as it is something shared on a conference, so we’ll have to do with the press release.

From the press release:

In a study, teens rarely talked to their parents about potentially risky online experiences, according to Pamela Wisniewski, formerly a post-doctoral scholar in information sciences and technology, Penn State, and currently an assistant professor in computer science at the University of Central Florida. She added that parents and children often have much different perceptions of and reactions to the same online situations. Some of these situations may include cyberbullying, sexual exchanges and viewing inappropriate content online.

“There seems to be a disconnect between what types of situations teens experience every day and what types of experiences parents have online,” said Wisniewski. “Teens tended to be more nonchalant and say that the incident made them embarrassed, while parents, even though they were reporting more low-risk events, emoted much stronger feelings, becoming angry and scared. For teens, some felt these types of experiences were just par for the course.”

The researchers suggest that this disconnect may lead teens to refrain from talking about situations that may upset their parents.

“When you asked why teens didn’t talk to their parents, a lot of times they mention risky situations, which they didn’t think were a big deal, but they add that if they told their parents, they would just freak out and make things worse,” Wisniewski said.

She added that while overreacting may curb communication, parents should avoid acting dismissive when a teen does come to them with an issue.

“When teens actually talked to their parents about what had happened, they often wanted help understanding or navigating the situation, but parents tended to misinterpret their intent, not realizing that their teens were trying to open lines of communication,” said Wisniewski. “It seemed like a missed opportunity. One of the takeaways for parents, then, is that if their teen goes to them with something that they are experiencing online, parents might realize that there are likely other events that their teen doesn’t come to them about. If it’s important enough for the teen to bring up to the parent, it may be important enough to use as a teachable, yet nonjudgmental, moment.”

The researchers, who present their findings at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing today (Feb. 27), suggest that parental reactions — both over reactions or under reactions — may not just thwart teens from seeking their parents’ help with a current problem, but also diminish the teens’ ability to successfully navigate future online encounters that may be even more risky.

“Parental engagement can serve as teachable moments and increase the teens’ resilience in safely interacting online and in social media,” Wisniewski added.

A total of 136 participants — 68 parents and their teens — completed diaries about their online experiences during the study. The participants filled out a pre-survey, post-survey and eight weekly diary entries. Each week, parents and teens were expected to report on four potential types of online risks — information breaches, online harassment and bullying, sexual solicitations and exposure to explicit content — that they may have encountered during the week.

“The important point here is that the parent and the teen could both report on the same event, the teen could report on an event that the parent didn’t report on and the parent could report on an event that the teen didn’t report on,” said Wisniewski.

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Another reason why we have music? Parenting?

I love music. Actually, I couldn’t imagine living without it. But where does music comes from? Why does music exist? I’ve heard several explanations in the past, and this new study adds a new theory, and it has all to do with parenting.

From the press release:

A new theory paper, co-authored by Graduate School of Education doctoral student Samuel Mehr and Assistant Professor of Psychology Max Krasnow, proposes that infant-directed song evolved as a way for parents to signal to children that their needs are being met, while still freeing up parents to perform other tasks, like foraging for food, or caring for other offspring. Infant-directed song might later have evolved into the more complex forms of music we hear in our modern world. The theory is described in an open-access paper in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

Music is a tricky topic for evolutionary science: it turns up in many cultures around the world in many different contexts, but no one knows why humans are the only musical species. Noting that it has no known connection to reproductive success, Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker, described it as “auditory cheesecake” in his book How the Mind Works.

“There has been a lot of attention paid to the question of where music came from, but none of the theories have been very successful in predicting the features of music or musical behavior,” Krasnow said. “What we are trying to do with this paper is develop a theory of music that is grounded in evolutionary biology, human life history and the basic features of mammalian ecology.”

At the core of their theory, Krasnow said, is the notion that parents and infants are engaged in an “arms race” over an invaluable resource — attention.

“Particularly in an ancestral world, where there are predators and other people that pose a risk, and infants don’t know which foods are poisonous and what activities are hazardous, an infant can be kept safe by an attentive parent,” he said. “But attention is a limited resource.”

While there is some cooperation in the battle for that resource — parents want to satisfy infants appetite for attention because their cries might attract predators, while children need to ensure parents have time for other activities like foraging for food — that mutual interest only goes so far.

Attention, however, isn’t the only resource to cause such disagreements.

The theory of parent-offspring conflict was first put forth over forty years ago by the evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, then an Assistant Professor at Harvard. Trivers predicted that infants and parents aren’t on the same page when it comes to the distribution of resources.

“His theory covers everything that can be classified as parental investment,” Krasnow said. “It’s anything that a parent could give to an offspring to help them, or that they may want to hold back for themselves and other offspring.”

Sexual reproduction means that every person gets half of their genes from each parent, but which genes in particular can differ even across full siblings.

Krasnow explains, “A gene in baby has only a fifty percent chance of being found in siblings by virtue of sharing two parents. That means that from the baby’s genetic perspective, she’ll want a more self-favoring division of resources, for example, than her mom or her sister wants, from their genetic perspectives.”

Mehr and Krasnow took the idea of parent-offspring conflict and applied it attention. They predict that children should ‘want’ a greater share of their parents’ attention than their parents ‘want’ to give them. But how does the child know it is has her parent’s attention? The solution, Krasnow said, is that parents were forced to develop some method of signaling to their offspring that their desire for attention was being met.

“I could simply look at my children, and they might have some assurance that I’m attending to them,” Krasnow said. “But I could be looking at them and thinking of something else, or looking at them and focusing on my cell phone, and not really attending to them at all. They should want a better signal than that.”

Why should that signal take the form of a song?

What makes such signals more honest, Mehr and Krasnow think, is the cost associated with them — meaning that by sending a signal to an infant, a parent cannot be sending it to someone else, sending it but lying about it, etc. “Infant directed song has a lot of these costs built in. I can’t be singing to you and be talking to someone else,” Krasnow said. “It’s unlikely I’m running away, because I need to control my voice to sing. You can tell the orientation of my head, even without looking at me, you can tell how far away I am, even without looking.”

Mehr notes that infant-directed song provides lots of opportunities for parents to signal their attention to infants: “Parents adjust their singing in real time, by altering the melody, rhythm, tempo, timbre, of their singing, adding hand motions, bouncing, touching, and facial expressions, and so on. All of these features can be finely tuned to the baby’s affective state — or not. The match or mismatch between baby behavior and parent singing could be informative for whether or not the parent is paying attention to the infant.”

Indeed, it would be pretty odd to sing a happy, bubbly song to a wailing, sleep-deprived infant.

Krasnow agrees. “All these things make something like an infant directed vocalization a good cue of attention,” he continued. “And when you put that into this co-evolutionary arms race, you might end up getting something like infant-directed song. It could begin with something like primitive vocalizations, which gradually become more infant directed, and are elaborated into melodies.”

“If a mutation develops in parents that allows them to do that quicker and better, then they have more residual budget to spend on something else, and that would spread,” he said. “Infants would then be able to get even choosier, forcing parents to get better, and so on. This is the same kind of process that starts with drab birds and results in extravagant peacocks and choosy peahens.” And as signals go, Krasnow said, those melodies can prove to be enormously powerful.

“The idea we lay out with this paper is that infant-directed song and things that share its characteristics should be very good at calming a fussy infant — and there is some evidence of that,” he said. “We’re not talking about going from this type of selection to Rock-a-Bye Baby; this theory says nothing about the words to songs or the specific melodies, it’s saying that the acoustic properties of infant directed song should make it better at calming an infant than other music.”

But, could music really be in our genes?

“A good comparison to make is to language,” Krasnow said. “We would say there’s a strong genetic component to language — we have a capability for language built into our genes — and we think the same thing is going to be true for music.”

What about other kinds of music? Mehr is optimistic that this work could be informative for this question down the road.

“Let’s assume for a moment that the theory is right. How, then, did we get from lullabies to Duke Ellington?” he asked. “The evolution of music must be a complex, multi-step process, with different features developing for different reasons. Our theory raises the possibility that infant-directed song is the starting point for all that, with other musical behaviors either developing directly via natural selection, as byproducts of infant-directed song, or as byproducts of other adaptations.”

For Pinker, the paper differs in one important way from other theories of how music evolves in that it makes evolutionary sense.

“In the past, people have been so eager to come up with an adaptive explanation for music that they have advanced glib and circular theories, such as that music evolved to bond the group,” he said. “This is the first explanation that at least makes evolutionary sense — it shows how the features of music could cause an advantage in fitness. That by itself doesn’t prove that it’s true, but at least it makes sense!”

Abstract of the paper:

We present a theory of the origin and evolution of infant-directed song, a form of music found in many cultures. After examining the ancestral ecology of parent-infant relations, we propose that infant-directed song arose in an evolutionary arms race between parents and infants, stemming from the dynamics of parent-offspring conflict. We describe testable predictions that follow from this theory, consider some existing evidence for them, and entertain the possibility that infant-directed song could form the basis for the development of other, more complex forms of music.

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Another study on a kind of bias: students more likely to succeed if teachers have positive perceptions of parents

Last week I took part in some offline and online discussions about teacher bias towards different students. This new study adds an important element to these discussions as they found found that teacher ratings of parental involvement early in a child’s academic career can accurately predict the child’s academic and social success. One could argue that this more correlational in nature, but – to me – more important: the scientists suggest based on a randomized controlled trial that teacher training can help.

From the press release:

Parental involvement is commonly viewed as vital to student academic success by most education experts and researchers; however, the quality of research on how to measure and improve parental involvement is lacking. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that teacher ratings of parental involvement early in a child’s academic career can accurately predict the child’s academic and social success. Additionally, they found that a teacher training program can help improve the quantity and quality of teacher-parent interactions. Keith Herman, a professor in the MU College of Education and co-director of the Missouri Prevention Center, says these findings show the importance of teacher-parent connections and also the need for training teachers on how to create effective relationships with all parents.

“It’s clear from years of research that teacher perceptions, even perceptions of which they are not aware, can greatly impact student success,” Herman said. “If a teacher has a good relationship with a student’s parents or perceives that those parents are positively engaged in their child’s education, that teacher may be more likely to give extra attention or go the extra mile for that student. If the same teacher perceives another child’s parents to be uninvolved or to have a negative influence on the child’s education, it likely will affect how the teacher interacts with both the child and the parent.”

For their study, Herman and a team of MU researchers randomly assigned more than 100 teachers to receive a professional development program called the Incredible Years. The program is designed to prepare teachers to develop more effective relationships with parents and students, and to improve their classroom management skills. Teachers completed surveys about their more than 1,800 students and parents at the beginning and end of the school year, including answering questions asking about the quantity and quality of their relationships with parents and the parents’ involvement in their children’s education. The researchers also collected ratings and observations on student behavior and academic performance. Children whose parents were identified by teachers as more positively involved had higher levels of prosocial behaviors and more academic success. Additionally, the researchers found that parents who had children in classrooms where teachers received the training were more likely to develop more positive behaviors, including higher involvement and bonding with the teacher.

“Negative perceptions often bring out negative behaviors,” Herman said. “We also know, from this and prior studies, that teachers are more likely to report less comfort and alignment with parents whose children have academic and social problems, and parents from low income and/or from racial or ethnic minority groups. In other words, often the families and students who need the most positive attention and support to re-engage them in education, are often the ones who are viewed the least favorably. Fortunately, this study shows that we can support teachers to improve their relationships with all parents, resulting in a better education for all children while also encouraging parents to become more involved in the education process.”

Herman and other MU researchers have successfully implemented a teacher training program that improves teacher-parent relationships and creates more positive perceptions of parental involvement. Papers outlining this study and the teacher training program have been accepted for publication in School Psychology Quarterly and the Journal of School Psychology. Wendy Reinke, professor in the MU College of Education and co-director of the Missouri Prevention Center, co-authored both studies with Herman. Aaron Thompson, an assistant professor in the MU School of Social Work within the College of Human Environmental Sciences, was the lead author on the teacher training study published in the Journal of School Psychology. Melissa Stormont, a professor in the MU College of Education, and Carolyn Webster-Stratton, a professor emeritus at the University of Washington, also co-wrote Thompson’s paper with Herman and Reinke.

I was able to find and read the first study mentioned in the press release of which this is the abstract, I haven’t been able to read the second study yet:

For children with the most serious and persistent academic and behavior problems, parent involvement in education, particularly teacher perceptions of involvement, is essential to avert their expected long-term negative outcomes. Despite the widespread interest in and perceived importance of parent involvement in education, however, few experimental studies have evaluated programs and practices to promote it. In this group randomized trial, we examined the effects of the Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management program (IY TCM) on teacher perceptions of contact and comfort with parents. One hundred five classrooms with 1818 students were randomly assigned to an IY TCM or to a control, business as usual condition. Measures of key constructs included teacher ratings of parent and student behaviors, direct observations in the classroom, and a standardized academic achievement test. Latent transition analysis (LTA) was used to identify patterns of involvement over time and to determine if intervention condition predicted postintervention patterns and transitions. Four patterns of involvement were identified at baseline and at follow-up; parents of students with academic and behavior problems were most likely to be in classes with the least adaptive involvement patterns. Intervention status predicted group membership at follow-up. Specifically, intervention classroom parents were significantly more likely to transition to more adaptive teacher-rated parenting profiles at follow-up compared to control classroom parents. This is the first randomized trial we are aware of that has found that teacher training can alter teacher perceptions of parent involvement patterns. Clinical implications for students with behavior and academic problems are discussed.

 

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No shit, Sherlock: School bullying linked to lower academic achievement

This study sounds almost too obvious to share, still I think it’s very important: this study that tracked hundreds of children from kindergarten through high school found that chronic or increasing levels of bullying were related to lower academic achievement, a dislike of school and low confidence by students in their own academic abilities.

From the press release:

While pop culture often depicts more frequent bullying in high school, the study found that bullying was more severe and frequent in elementary school and tended to taper off for most students as they got older. However, 24 percent of the children in the study suffered chronic bullying throughout their school years, which was consistently related to lower academic achievement and less engagement in school, said lead researcher Gary Ladd, PhD, a psychology professor at Arizona State University.

“It’s extremely disturbing how many children felt bullied at school,” Ladd said. “For teachers and parents, it’s important to know that victimization tends to decline as kids get older, but some children never stop suffering from bullying during their school years.”

Most studies on bullying have tracked children for relatively short periods of time and focused on psychological effects, such as anxiety or depression. This is the first long-term study to track children for more than a decade from kindergarten through high school and analyze connections between bullying and academic achievement, Ladd said. The research, which was published online in the Journal of Educational Psychology, was part of the Pathways Project, a larger longitudinal study of children’s social, psychological and academic adjustment in school that is supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The study, which began with 383 kindergarteners (190 boys, 193 girls) from public schools in Illinois, found several different trajectories for children related to bullying. Children who suffered chronic levels of bullying during their school years (24 percent of sample) had lower academic achievement, a greater dislike of school and less confidence in their academic abilities. Children who had experienced moderate bullying that increased later in their school years (18 percent) had findings similar to kids who were chronically bullied. However, children who suffered decreasing bullying (26 percent) showed fewer academic effects that were similar to youngsters who had experienced little or no bullying (32 percent), which revealed that some children could recover from bullying if it decreased. Boys were significantly more likely to suffer chronic or increasing bullying than girls.

“Some kids are able to escape victimization, and it looks like their school engagement and achievement does tend to recover,” Ladd said. “That’s a very hopeful message.”

The researchers faced the difficult challenge of tracking children for more than a decade, from kindergarten through high school, as some families moved across the United States. The study began in school districts in Illinois, but the children were living in 24 states by the fifth year of the study. “People moved and we had to track them down all over the country,” Ladd said. “We put people in cars or on planes to see these kids.”

The study included annual surveys administered by researchers to the children, teacher evaluations, and standardized reading and math test scores. Children described their own experiences about bullying in questions that asked whether they had been hit, picked on or verbally abused by other kids. Some children may be more sensitive to bullying, with one child who is shoved thinking it is bullying while another might think it is just playful, but parents and teachers shouldn’t dismiss what may seem like minor bullying, Ladd said.

“Frequently, kids who are being victimized or abused by other kids don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “I worry most about sensitive kids who are not being taken seriously and who suffer in silence. They are being told that boys will be boys and girls will be girls and that this is just part of growing up.”

The children from the study were followed into early adulthood, although researchers lost track of approximately one-quarter of the youngsters during the lengthy study. Approximately 77 percent of the children in the study were white, 18 percent were African-American, and 4 percent were Hispanic, biracial or had other backgrounds. Almost one-quarter of the children came from families with low annual incomes ($0- $20,000), 37 percent had low to middle incomes ($20,001-$50,000), and 39 percent had middle to high incomes (more than $50,000).

Schools should have anti-bullying programs, and parents should ask their children if they are being bullied or excluded at school, Ladd said. In the early years of the study, school administrators sometimes claimed there weren’t any bullies or victims in their schools, but the researchers stopped hearing that view as bullying has received more attention nationwide, Ladd said.

“There has been a lot of consciousness raising and stories of children being bullied and committing suicide, and that has raised public concern,” he said. “But more needs to be done to ensure that children aren’t bullied, especially for kids who suffer in silence from chronic bullying throughout their school years.”

Abstract of the study:

This investigation’s aims were to map prevalence, normative trends, and patterns of continuity or change in school-based peer victimization throughout formal schooling (i.e., Grades K–12), and determine whether specific victimization patterns (i.e., differential trajectories) were associated with children’s academic performance. A sample of 383 children (193 girls) was followed from kindergarten (Mage = 5.50) through Grade 12 (Mage = 17.89), and measures of peer victimization, school engagement, academic self-perceptions, and achievement were repeatedly administered across this epoch. Although it was the norm for victimization prevalence and frequency to decline across formal schooling, 5 trajectory subtypes were identified, capturing differences in victimization frequency and continuity (i.e., high-chronic, moderate-emerging, early victims, low victims, and nonvictims). Consistent with a chronic stress hypothesis, high-chronic victimization consistently was related to lower—and often prolonged—disparities in school engagement, academic self-perceptions, and academic achievement. For other victimization subtypes, movement into victimization (i.e., moderate-emerging) was associated with lower or declining scores on academic indicators, and movement out of victimization (i.e., early victims) with higher or increasing scores on these indicators (i.e., “recovery”). Findings provide a more complete account of the overall prevalence, stability, and developmental course of school-based peer victimization than has been reported to date.

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A different tune on personality: personality traits ‘contagious’ among children

Last semester I explained to my students that there are different views on personality: dynamic versus static theories which could be summed up by the simple question “can you ever change your partner?”. This new study by Michigan State University psychology researchers is rather in the dynamic area as it shows that when preschoolers spend time around one another, they tend to take on each others’ personalities. Guess you are already looking at your kids in a whole different way…

From the press release:

The study, published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests personality is shaped by environment and not just genes.

“Our finding, that personality traits are ‘contagious’ among children, flies in the face of common assumptions that personality is ingrained and can’t be changed,” said Jennifer Watling Neal, associate professor of psychology and co-investigator on the study. “This is important because some personality traits can help children succeed in life, while others can hold them back.”

The researchers studied two preschool classes for an entire school year, analyzing personality traits and social networks for one class of 3-year-olds and one class of 4-year-olds.

Children whose play partners were extroverted or hard-working became similar to these peers over time. Children whose play partners were overanxious and easily frustrated, however, did not take on these particular traits. The study is the first to examine these personality traits in young children over time.

Emily Durbin, study co-investigator and associate professor of psychology, said kids are having a bigger effect on each other than people may realize.

“Parents spend a lot of their time trying to teach their child to be patient, to be a good listener, not to be impulsive,” Durbin said. “But this wasn’t their parents or their teachers affecting them – it was their friends. It turns out that 3- and 4-year-olds are being change agents.”

Abstract of the study:

Children enter preschool with temperament traits that may shape or be shaped by their social interactions in the peer setting. We collected classroom observational measures of positive emotionality (PE), negative emotionality (NE), effortful control (EC), and peer social play relationships from 2 complete preschool classrooms (N = 53 children) over the course of an entire school year. Using longitudinal social network analysis, we found evidence that children’s traits shaped the formation of play relationships, and that the traits of children’s playmates shaped the subsequent development of children’s own traits. Children who exhibited high levels of NE were less likely to form social play relationships over time. In addition, children were more likely to form play relationships with peers who were similar to their own levels of PE. Over the course of the school year, children’s level of PE and EC changed such that they became more similar to their playmates in levels of these traits. Finally, we observed moderate to strong rank-order stability of behavioral observations of PE, NE, and EC across the school year. Our results provide evidence for the effects of traits on the formation of play relationships, as well as for the role of these play relationships in shaping trait expression over time.

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Funny on Sunday: a Chinese choir on nagging parents (put the English captions on)

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