Saturday, August 17, 2013

Vision Statement: Reducing Unwanted Pregnancies & Abortion Through Prevention in Early Childhood. A Proposal for Research and Policy Change © 2005
By A Donlan, Ph.D.

Few national policy issues have so polarized citizens as has abortion. Citizens concerned with the issue say its rate in the US is higher than many other nations. Yet political officials and partisans remain extremely divided over what to do. One side highlights the need for prohibitions and punitive measures, while the other side just points to the need to sustain personal freedom. On the whole, there might seem little hope of resolution.

An essential issue is that many portray abortion as only a matter of personal character, one entirely separate from various realities of life. But few aspects of life are entirely separable from social and economic conditions around us. If abortion is seen only as a matter of moral character, then the question allegedly becomes only one of legal restrictions and punishments; opponents of abortion will advocate circumstances in which a doctor and/or woman undertaking the procedure will be imprisoned or otherwise sanctioned. But abortion rates are influenced by the world around the woman, and this raises the question of how positive supports, not just reactive punishments, could affect unwanted pregnancy.

The “punishment only” approach fails to appreciate decades of findings in child development and sociology on the remarkable influence of early family life on countless later outcomes. Vast research famously indicates that early childhood is a period in human development critical to later social and economic outcomes. A child subject to various difficult conditions in early years is more likely to re-experience those conditions in adulthood.

Consider the research. Early childhood factors found to affect adulthood are diverse and include various aspects of parent-child interactions and socioeconomic status. These can in turn affect later academic success, interpersonal bonding, prosocial behavior and economic status. Even from studies of neglected orphans we know that the seeds of instability in adulthood are often sewn in childhood. In short, poverty, violence and related factors in youth are important determinants of later life circumstances.

This has important implications for unwanted pregnancy abortion.

The decision to have a child is affected by whether the woman feels supported (by the father and others) and by whether she believes she can support the child materially. Since early childhood experiences affect whether a person later forms strong social bonds and is economically stable, those early experiences have implications for unwanted pregnancy. This is the model that needs to be understood and communicated as clearly as possible.

In this way, prevention can be part of a comprehensive approach. It differs from many policies that wait too long - until after a person’s risk profile for later life unwanted pregnancy is already established. Proactive prevention has advantages over policies that are reactive, ones that would only punish the woman for electing abortion or the doctor for implementing it.

Policy initiatives related to early childhood that have a track record of positively affecting later outcomes are not hard to find. Research has even identified programs that yield benefits greater than program costs. Such initiatives are not commonly highlighted in national media, but they are a remarkable achievement of modern man. When benefits exceed costs, society overall can come out ahead. Examples of initiatives identified as effective include domestic violence prevention, high quality early education, parenting classes, family support through home visitation, and WIC.

Development of the vision of prevention here will show that it draws on empirical research to a greater degree than many policy proposals in Washington. The case for early prevention is very strong in that hundreds of studies form an interlocking web of support. This research is found in multiple academic fields, suggesting the need to bring the strands together into a coherent whole. Support for new research is essential in order to explain the matter simply.

It is no surprise that there are those who seek from policy a way to mobilize voters for various political aims and to express moral censure of abortion, forgetting that abortion is often a reflection of a difficult situation of unwanted pregnancy. Such opponents of abortion may say that, if a policy does not express their visceral moral censure, it is not worth consideration. The necessary response is that punitive and coercive public policy has inevitable limits. Furthermore, public policy has multiple functions other than moral censure. If citizens concerned with abortion really have its reduction as their priority, they will be interested in how this can be achieved through initiatives that are proactive and supportive, rather than merely reactive and punitive.

To put the issue in context, it may be useful to remember how pervasive is violence in modern society and to ask what might be the root causes. The US has had among the highest rates of violent crime in the developed world and among the highest rates of prison incarceration. The number of murders in other developed countries is often less than the number of murders in medium sized US cities. Whatever the benefits of incarceration, the high rates of violence persist. And despite the visceral appeal of incarceration, we know that early life is the seed of a later life outcomes and circumstances. How long shall we persist in our disinterest in the fact that so many children in the US face severe hardship in early life, and at far greater rates than most other developed nations? Does that disinterest support the sanctity of life?

For many decades political officials have pushed easy answers instead of addressing the most important factor in human development, the experiences in early childhood. When we realize the importance of those experiences, we can recognize their importance to abortion too. Unlike policies that are reactive and rely on punishment only, policies of prevention hold the promise of helping make society more humane in many ways. I invite interested citizens and researchers to join in advancing this vision to advance the common good.

Prevention Model

Sunday, May 20, 2012

U.S. Worst in Child Abuse : Discovery News

U.S. Worst in Child Abuse : Discovery News
Twenty-seven children under the age of 15 die from physical abuse or neglect every week in America. According to UNICEF, the United States has 2.4 annual deaths per 100,000 children, compared to 1.4 for France; 1 in Japan, and 0.9 in the United Kingdom.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

US Hunger Rate Triple That in China

US Hunger Rate Triple That in China

American workers are now three times more likely than Chinese workers to lack the means of feeding their families, according to a startling new report from the Gallup organization. The polling group found that 19 percent of Americans worried about being able to feed themselves or their families, compared to only 6 percent of Chinese.

The Gallup finding showed a near reversal in the proportions of American and Chinese workers at risk of hunger over the past three years, an indication of the shattering impact of the economic slump brought on by the 2008 Wall Street financial crash. In 2008, 16 percent of Chinese said they at times lacked the money to put food on the table, compared to 9 percent of Americans.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The effect of brief interventions on the drinking behaviour of pregnant women in a high-risk rural South African community: a cluster randomised trial

From Early Child Development and Care:

The purpose of this paper is to assess the impact of a series of brief interventions (BIs) on anti-natal alcohol consumption of women from a disadvantaged and high-risk background attending state health clinics in a rural district, Western Cape Province, South Africa. A pragmatic cluster randomised trial design was followed. All pregnant women, who were less than 20 weeks pregnant and more than 15 years of age, were eligible for the study. The intervention comprised a comprehensive assessment for current and lifetime alcohol use plus information (control group) or comprehensive assessment plus four BI sessions over the pregnancy period (intervention group). The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) was completed pre- and post-intervention. Although both groups demonstrated declines in AUDIT scores, findings showed a statistically significant difference in the total AUDIT scores between the intervention and control groups post-intervention (F = 9.54, p = 0.002). The difference was two units (SE = 0.6). The follow-up rate was 92% (N = 179 of the original 194 eligible women). The impact of BIs is shown to be a powerful tool. Information and an understanding, supportive attitude seem to be crucial agents for behaviour change.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Long-Term Sequelae of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Women

Child Maltreatment:

The authors conducted a meta-analytic review of the relationship between a history of child sexual abuse (CSA) and psychological problems in adult women in 38 studies meeting rigorous research criteria. Across all symptoms, a significant association was found between history of CSA and adult symptomatology. Analysis of the role of moderating variables indicated the associations were stronger among subjects recruited from clinical populations. When individual symptom domains were examined, anxiety, anger, depression, revictimization, self-mutilation, sexual problems, substance abuse, suicidality, impairment of self-concept, interpersonal problems, obsessions and compulsions, dissociation, posttraumatic stress responses, and somatization all yielded significant associations with sexual abuse. These results are discussed in light of their relevance to research methodology and clinical intervention.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Creating a culture of vocabulary acquisition for children living in poverty

Journal of Children and Poverty: _
This paper presents a compelling case for early and sustained vocabulary development for children reared in poverty. Research findings indicate that vocabulary knowledge is a critical factor in literacy and academic success for low-income children from preschool to higher levels of schooling. Vocabulary proficiency is strongly related to language and reading understanding and to success in academic subjects, particularly when topics are presented with semantically laden words related to conceptual knowledge. Practitioners learn which words to emphasize in the continuum range of high frequency/high utility to rare words and why conversation, discussion, book readings, morpheme and root word play, and writing become so important in the learning of new words. Presented are four broad suggestions relating to (1) using enhanced talk in the classroom, (2) capitalizing on the rich vocabulary of children's book authors, (3) manipulating morphemes with word roots, and (4) developing the vocabulary of informational topics. Practitioners can readily implement these suggestions in their own classroom contexts, thereby creating positive climates of vocabulary acquisition for children with low and meager receptive and productive vocabularies.

Maternal Socialization of Positive Affect: Impact of Invalidation on Adolescent Emotion Regulation and Depressive Symptomatology

Child Development:__
This study examined the relations among maternal socialization of positive affect (PA), adolescent emotion regulation (ER), and adolescent depressive symptoms. Two hundred early adolescents, 11–13 years old, provided self-reports of ER strategies and depressive symptomatology; their mothers provided self-reports of socialization responses to adolescent PA. One hundred and sixty-three mother–adolescent dyads participated in 2 interaction tasks. Adolescents whose mothers responded in an invalidating or "dampening" manner toward their PA displayed more emotionally dysregulated behaviors and reported using maladaptive ER strategies more frequently. Adolescents whose mothers dampened their PA more frequently during mother–adolescent interactions, and girls whose mothers reported invalidating their PA, reported more depressive symptoms. Adolescent use of maladaptive ER strategies mediated the association between maternal invalidation of PA and early adolescents' concurrent depressive symptoms.

Preventing Problem Behavior by Increasing Parents' Positive Behavior Support in Early Childhood

Child Development:__
Seven hundred thirty-one income-eligible families in 3 geographical regions who were enrolled in a national food supplement program were screened and randomized to a brief family intervention. At child ages 2 and 3, the intervention group caregivers were offered the Family Check-Up and linked parenting support services. Latent growth models on caregiver reports at child ages 2, 3, and 4 revealed decreased behavior problems when compared with the control group. Intervention effects occurred predominantly among families reporting high levels of problem behavior at child age 2. Families in the intervention condition improved on direct observation measures of caregivers' positive behavior support at child ages 2 and 3; improvements in positive behavior support mediated improvements in children's early problem behavior.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Can Technology and the Media Help Reduce Dysfunctional Parenting and Increase Engagement With Preventative Parenting Interventions?

Child Maltreatment
In an evaluation of the television series "Driving Mum and Dad Mad," 723 families participated and were randomly assigned to either a standard or technology enhanced viewing condition (included additional Web-support). Parents in both conditions reported significant improvements from pre- to postintervention in their child's behavior, dysfunctional parenting, parental anger, depression, and self-efficacy. Short-term improvements were maintained at 6-months follow-up. Regressions identified predictors of program outcomes and level of involvement. Parents who watched the entire series had more severe problems at preintervention and high sociodemographic risk than parents who did not watch the entire series. Few sociodemographic, child, or parent variables assessed at preintervention predicted program outcomes or program engagement, suggesting that a wide range of parents from diverse socioeconomic status benefited from the program. Media interventions depicting evidence-based parenting programs may be a useful means of reaching hard to engage families in population-level child maltreatment prevention programs.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cost-Effective Investments in Children - Brookings Institution

Brookings Institution
American children are facing an uncertain economic future. Rising spending for health and retirement benefits for an aging population, combined with falling tax revenues after several rounds of tax cuts, have led to a fiscal crisis. If the current generation fails to take on the responsibility for balancing the budget, future generations will pay the cost—plus interest—of paying off the debt and addressing unfunded financial commitments. Balancing the budget will require a combination of reductions in entitlement spending, reforms in defense and other discretionary spending, and increases in revenues. While the major focus of a responsible, future-oriented budget plan should be deficit reduction, a good budget strategy also needs to make targeted investments in programs that will improve America’s future economic well-being. Chief among these is effective investments in children to ensure they have the skills to become tomorrow’s adult workers, caregivers, taxpayers, and citizens.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Abortion Reduction Has Its Day

Third Way
The Democrats are showing signs of change on abortion. Yesterday, the Democratically controlled House easily passed an appropriations bill that contains a major – and brand new – abortion initiative. But unlike Democratic abortion bills of yore, this one brings together both sides of the debate and is aimed squarely at abortion reduction.

This “Reducing the Need for Abortions Initiative,” which grew out of a bill crafted by Tim Ryan (pro-life D-OH) and Rosa DeLauro (pro-choice D-CT) passed as part of the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill. It invests real money – $647 million – in reducing the need for abortion by funding programs that address the circumstances that lead to abortion. It contains provisions that prevent unintended pregnancies, such as increasing the funding for the nation’s only dedicated family planning program (Title X) and also creates and funds a new teen pregnancy prevention program at CDC. At the same time, it includes measures designed to help support pregnant women and new families who need more support to go forward with their pregnancies, such as increased funding for child care, after-school programs, and nurse home visitation programs for new moms. It also funds an adoption awareness campaign at CDC and domestic violence prevention.

In proposing and then passing this bill, the Democrats have made a bold new statement about their changed outlook on abortion. First, they are showing that they are dedicated to finding common ground on this divisive issue. As Congressman Ryan put it: “It is our moral obligation to address those issues with which all sides agree. Whether you are pro-life like me or pro-choice like my friend Congresswoman DeLauro, the common ground we must build upon is our serious desire to reduce the rate of abortions.”

Second, – the Party is now letting pro-life Democrats inside the tent. We saw this with their loyalty to Bob Casey, Jr. in Pennsylvania – his dad was barred from the podium at the 1992 Democratic Convention for his pro-life views, but now-Senator Casey (who shares his father’s views on abortion) was warmly embraced by the Party during his Senate run last year. We are seeing it again in their decision to listen closely and follow the lead of pro-life Congressman Tim Ryan.

Third, by prioritizing an initiative designed to reduce the need for abortion, Democrats are making a clear statement that they understand the moral complexity of abortion.

The Democrats remain and will always be the party of abortion rights, but they are looking more and more like they are ALSO the party of reducing the need for abortion.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Importance of Early Neglect for Childhood Aggression

RESULTS. Only early neglect significantly predicted aggression scores. Early abuse, later abuse, and later neglect were not significantly predictive in a controlled model with all 4 predictors.

CONCLUSION. This longitudinal study suggests that child neglect in the first 2 years of life may be a more-important precursor of childhood aggression than later neglect or physical abuse at any age.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Community Violence, Interpartner Conflict, Parenting, and Social Support as Predictors of the Social Competence of African American Preschool Children

Journal of Black Psychology
Adopting an ecological framework, this study examines the role of community violence exposure, interpartner conflict, positive parenting, and informal social support in predicting the social skills and behavior problems of low-income African American preschoolers. Participants were 184 African American mothers and female caregivers of Head Start children who completed study measures in a structured interview. Regression analyses revealed that greater community violence exposure predicted more internalizing and externalizing child behavior problems and lower levels of self-control and cooperation. Greater interpartner conflict predicted more internalizing problems. Positive parenting was predictive of fewer internalizing and externalizing problems and higher levels of child self-control and cooperation. Greater informal social support predicted higher levels of all four child social skills, including self-control, cooperation, assertion, and responsibility. Positive parenting and informal social support failed to moderate the relationships between community violence exposure and interpartner conflict and child outcomes. Implications of the findings for intervention and future research are discussed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Predictors (0–10 months) of psychopathology at age 1½ years ...

J Child Psychol & Psychiatry
Conclusions: Predictors of neuro-developmental disorders and parent–child relationship disturbances can be identified in the first 10 months of life in children from the general population.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Current-Generation Youth Programs: What Works, What Doesn't, and at What Cost?

Policymakers nationwide must decide how to best invest in education and related opportunities, such as out-of-school-time programs targeting youth and early-childhood education programs. In this paper, we review the costs, benefits, and costs and benefits relative to one another for one alternative type of investment: youth programs that are offered during the time that students are not in school. Such programs are often viewed as a mechanism for addressing working parents’ needs for care of their school-age children, for improving the developmental outcomes of youth, and for reducing the gap in academic achievement between advantaged youth and disadvantaged youth.

At this time, the evidence of evaluations of such programs, all of which were geared to at-risk youths, is strongest for programs that are costlier and provide more-intense resources to youth.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Family: America's Smallest School

If the United States is to reach our ambitious national education goals, we need to focus as much attention on the starting line as we do on the finish line. While most reform debate centers on improving schools, increasing teaching quality and raising student achievement, success also requires changes within America’s smallest school as well: the family.

In the ETS Policy Information Center’s new report, The Family: America's Smallest School, ETS researchers Paul E. Barton and Richard J. Coley outline the family and home conditions affecting children’s cognitive development and school achievement and how gaps beginning early persist throughout life. With a preface and endorsement by Marc H. Morial, President of the National Urban League, both organizations call on leaders and policymakers to improve not only schools, but also home and family conditions, to help all students succeed.

Critical factors examined in the report include child care quality, parental involvement in schools, parent/pupil ratio, family finances, literacy development, student absences and physical home environments.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Early motherhood and subsequent life outcomes

Journal Child Psychology & Psychiatry
Results: Early motherhood was associated with higher levels of mental health disorders, lower levels of educational achievement, higher levels of welfare dependence, lower levels of workforce participation, and lower income. Control for confounding factors reduced the associations between early motherhood and later mental health disorders to statistical non-significance. However, the associations between early motherhood and later educational achievement and economic circumstances persisted after control for potentially confounding factors.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that early motherhood puts young women at risk for educational underachievement and poorer economic circumstances. The linkages between early motherhood and later mental health difficulties can largely be accounted for by childhood, family, and related circumstances that occurred prior to parenthood.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Reducing Maternal Depression and Its Impact on Young Children

Maternal depression is a significant risk factor affecting the
well-being and school readiness of young children. Low-income
mothers of young children experience particularly high levels
of depression, often in combination with other risk factors.
This policy brief provides an overview of why it is so important
to address maternal depression as a central part of the effort
to ensure that ALL young children enter school ready to succeed.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Early motherhood and subsequent life outcomes

Blackwell Synergy - J Child Psychol & Psychiat, Volume 49 Issue 2 Page 151-160, February 2008 (Article Abstract)
Results: Early motherhood was associated with higher levels of mental health disorders, lower levels of educational achievement, higher levels of welfare dependence, lower levels of workforce participation, and lower income. Control for confounding factors reduced the associations between early motherhood and later mental health disorders to statistical non-significance. However, the associations between early motherhood and later educational achievement and economic circumstances persisted after control for potentially confounding factors.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that early motherhood puts young women at risk for educational underachievement and poorer economic circumstances. The linkages between early motherhood and later mental health difficulties can largely be accounted for by childhood, family, and related circumstances that occurred prior to parenthood.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Programs that Work | Healthy Families New York (HFNY)

Promising Practices Network | RAND
The Healthy Families New York program seeks to improve the health and well-being of children at risk for abuse and neglect by providing intensive home visitation services. The study on which the updated HFNY program summary is based found that this Proven program continued to reduce child abuse and neglect in the second year of the study. This study is noteworthy because it is one of the few evaluations of home visiting programs that have used a rigorous randomized control design. Additionally, it is the only study of a program using the Healthy Families America guidelines that meets PPN study design criteria, and it finds significant and sizeable effects at a much lower cost than models that rely exclusively on nurses.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Twenty-First Century Pink or Blue: How Sex Selection Technology Facilitates Gendercide and What we Can do About It

Family Court Review
In the midst of a genetic revolution in medicine, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has become a well-established technique to help infertile women achieve pregnancy. But many women are now turning to ART not just to circumvent infertility, but consciously to shape their families by determining the sex of their children. Many patriarchal cultures have a gender preference for males and to date have used technological advances in reproductive medicine to predetermine the sex of the child being born. Women have sought sex-selective abortions, where the pregnancy was being terminated solely on the basis of the sex of the unborn fetus. The combination of ART advances and gender preference has led to the disappearance of at least 100 million girls from the world's population leading to a mass gendercide. This article examines the societal impact of unbalanced gender ratios and the need to regulate sex selection to avoid nations of bachelors.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Perspect Sexual Reprod Health

Perspectives Sexual Reproductive Health
RESULTS: In recent years, more countries experienced a decline in legal abortion rates than an increase, among those for which statistics are complete and trend data are available. The most dramatic declines were in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where rates remained among the highest in the world. The highest estimated levels were in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, where surveys indicate that women will have close to three abortions each, on average, in their lifetimes. The U.S. abortion rate dropped by 8% between 1996 and 2003, but remained higher than rates in many Northern and Western European countries. Rates increased in the Netherlands and New Zealand. The official abortion rate declined by 21% over seven years in China, which accounted for a third of the world’s legal abortions in 1996. Trends in the abortion rate differed across age-groups in some countries.

Monday, December 10, 2007

In Gaps at School, Weighing Family Life

New York Times
In Gaps at School, Weighing Family Life

THE federal No Child Left Behind law of 2002 rates schools based on how students perform on state standardized tests, and if too many children score poorly, the school is judged as failing.

But how much is really the school’s fault?

A new study by the Educational Testing Service — which develops and administers more than 50 million standardized tests annually, including the SAT — concludes that an awful lot of those low scores can be explained by factors that have nothing to do with schools. The study, “The Family: America’s Smallest School,” suggests that a lot of the failure has to do with what takes place in the home, the level of poverty and government’s inadequate support for programs that could make a difference, like high-quality day care and paid maternity leave.

The E.T.S. researchers took four variables that are beyond the control of schools: The percentage of children living with one parent; the percentage of eighth graders absent from school at least three times a month; the percentage of children 5 or younger whose parents read to them daily, and the percentage of eighth graders who watch five or more hours of TV a day. Using just those four variables, the researchers were able to predict each state’s results on the federal eighth-grade reading test with impressive accuracy.

“Together, these four factors account for about two-thirds of the large differences among states,” the report said. In other words, the states that had the lowest test scores tended to be those that had the highest percentages of children from single-parent families, eighth graders watching lots of TV and eighth graders absent a lot, and the lowest percentages of young children being read to regularly, regardless of what was going on in their schools.

Which gets to the heart of the report: by the time these children start school at age 5, they are far behind, and tend to stay behind all through high school. There is no evidence that the gap is being closed.

“Kids start school from platforms of different heights and teachers don’t have a magic wand they can wave to get kids on the same platform,” said Richard J. Coley, director of E.T.S.’s policy information center and co-author of the report with Paul E. Barton, a senior researcher. “If we’re really interested in raising overall levels of achievement and in closing the achievement gap, we need to pay as much attention to the starting line as we do to the finish line.”

What’s interesting about the report — which combines E.T.S. studies with research on families from myriad sources, including the Census Bureau and Child Trends research center — is how much we know, how often government policy and parental behavior does not reflect that knowledge, and how stacked the odds are against so many children. (The study is at

Being raised by a single parent in itself steepens the odds considerably. Keep in mind that findings are based on statistical averages, and we all know people raised by a single parent who have thrived; I count seven nieces, nephews and cousins in my own extended family. But on average, the child with a single parent is 2.5 times more likely to repeat a grade. That child on average scores a third of a standard deviation lower on tests — the difference between 500 and 463 on the SAT.

And the demographics are not promising. In 1980, 77 percent of American children lived with two parents compared with 68 percent today. For black children the numbers are more stark: 42 percent lived with both parents in 1980, versus 35 percent today. In contrast, in Japan, 92 percent of children live with both parents.

Single parents on average will have less income and less time for a child, given all the demands. While 11 percent of white children live in poverty, 36 percent of black children and 29 percent of Hispanic children are poor. Half of black children live in families where no parent has year-round full-time employment, according to the analysis.

By age 4 the average child in a professional family hears about 35 million more words than a child in a poor family. While 62 percent of kindergartners from the richest 20 percent are read to at home every day, 36 percent of kindergartners in the poorest 20 percent are read to daily.

The report also found that 24 percent of white eighth graders spend at least four hours in front of TV on a weekday compared with 59 percent of black eighth graders.

These issues are intertwined in complex ways. A child watching five hours of TV can be a case of neglect or it may mean a single parent is trying to make ends meet by working two jobs and is not around to supervise. Absence rates are higher for poor children, whose families are more transient than wealthier families.

But whether it is a parent’s fault or the societal pressures on the parent, the results are hard on the child: The average scores for black and Hispanic children on reading and math assessments at the start of kindergarten are 20 percent lower than for white children.

And when those children are ready to apply to college, one of the surest predictors of how they will perform on the SAT is their family’s income: for every $10,000 of additional family income, the SAT score climbs an average of about 10 points, according to statistics from the College Board.

The report describes how much we rely on child care from an early age — half of 2-year-olds are in some kind of nonparental care — and how much worse that care is for poor and minority children. According to the report, poor children are twice as likely to be in low quality care as middle and upper class children, black children more than twice as likely as white children.

And it is black families who rely on day care most: 63 percent, compared with 49 percent of whites and 44 percent of Asians. Says Mr. Coley, “Our day care system may be reinforcing the gap rather than closing it.”

Another way to support parents of young children is paid leave when a child is born, which is routine in most of the world, but not in the United States.

According to Dr. Jody Heymann, director of the Institute of Health and Social Policy at McGill University, 172 of the 176 countries she surveyed this year offer guaranteed paid leave to women who have just had babies. The four that do not? Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and the United States.

The United States guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, but many parents do not qualify for even that, since employers with fewer than 50 workers are exempt.

To better support young families, California in 2004 became the first state to pass a law providing paid leave for new parents. A few more states, including New Jersey and New York, are considering similar legislation.

Mr. Coley believes this kind of government support is necessary if we are serious about closing the gap. “We don’t seem to get it,” he said. “Or maybe we think we can’t afford it, I don’t know.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Parenting programmes: a systematic review and synthesis of qualitative research

Child Care Health Dev
Background Parenting programmes are at the heart of intervention strategies for parents of children with emotional and behaviour problems. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials have indicated that such programmes can improve many aspects of family life. However, there is currently a dearth of information concerning what it is that makes parenting programmes meaningful and helpful to parents. The aim of this paper was to examine parents' experience and perceptions of parenting programmes using the meta-ethnographic method, in order to sensitize policymakers and practitioners to the key factors that parents perceive to be of value.

A lines-of-argument synthesis was developed which suggests that the acquisition of knowledge, skills and understanding, together with feelings of acceptance and support from other parents in the parenting group, enabled parents to regain control and feel more able to cope. This led to a reduction in feelings of guilt and social isolation, increased empathy with their children and confidence in dealing with their behaviour.

This evaluation provides an indication of the components that parents perceive to be necessary in the provision of parenting programmes, independent of the particular type of programme being provided. It may therefore aid policymakers in decisions about which programmes to provide.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Scholastic Attainment Following Severe Early Institutional Deprivation: A Study of Children Adopted from Romania

JOurnal of Abnormal Child Development
The relationship between severe early institutional deprivation and scholastic attainment at age 11 in 127 children (68 girls and 59 boys) adopted from institutions in Romania was compared to the attainment of 49 children (17 girls and 32 boys) adopted within the UK from a non-institutional background. Overall, children adopted from Romania had significantly lower attainment scores than those adopted within the UK; the children within the Romanian sample who had spent 6 months or more in an institution had significantly lower attainment scores than those who had spent less than 6 months in an institution, but there was no additional risk of low attainment associated with longer institutional care after 6 months. The lower scholastic attainment in the children adopted from Romanian institutions, as compared with domestic adoptees, was mediated by IQ, and to a lesser degree, inattention/overactivity. When these factors were taken into account, only small between-group differences in attainment remained.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Next Generation of Antipoverty Policies

The Future of Children

Reduce Nonmarital Births and Increase Marriage.

Poverty in female-headed families is four or five times greater than poverty in married-couple families, and studies have shown that children fare better in married-couple families. Paul Amato and Rebecca Maynard argue for investments in more effective teen pregnancy reduction programs and premarital education to increase the share of children reared by their married parents.

Improve Preschool Education.

Greg Duncan and his colleagues note that high-quality preschool can boost children’s development and decrease the achievement gap between poor children and their more advantaged peers. They propose to fund a high-quality preschool initiative that targets resources towards the most disadvantaged children.

Improve Public Education.

Children living in poverty tend to be concentrated in low-performing schools staffed by ill-equipped teachers. These children are especially likely to drop out and to leave school without the skills necessary to earn a decent living in a rapidly changing economy. Richard Murnane proposes to build on the No Child Left Behind Act in ways that would improve the accountability, incentives, and capacity for schools to address these shortcomings.

Help the Most Disadvantaged Mothers.

Some mothers face multiple barriers to work, including low education, health problems, or a history of domestic violence or substance abuse. Rebecca Blank argues that these mothers and their children need greater assistance and support than that provided by current welfare-to-work programs. She proposes a new program that would focus exclusively on serving the most disadvantaged mothers.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Food Insecurity and Adjustment Problems in a National Sample of Adolescents

Journal of Children and Poverty
This study examined a structural equation model of the associations among food insecurity, parental emotional distress, quality of parenting, and adolescents' adjustment problems, controlling for socioeconomic status (SES), sex, and race/ethnicity. Additionally, we examined the relative effects of food insecurity, SES, parental emotional distress, and quality of parenting on adjustment problems. A sample of 11,139 12-17-year-olds selected from the 2002 National Survey of American Families data set were used. The results revealed the following: first, the model exhibited a reasonable fit to the data. Second, heightened food insecurity was associated with increased parental emotional distress, poor quality of parenting, and increased adjustment problems. Third, increased parental emotional distress was associated with poor quality of parenting and with higher levels of adjustment problems; and better quality of parenting was associated with lower levels of adjustment problems. Fourth, food insecurity had an indirect effect on adjustment problems through its effect on parental emotional distress and quality of parenting. Finally, parental emotional distress and quality of parenting had stronger total effects on adjustment problems than did food insecurity. The implications of these findings for policy are also discussed.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Response of Abortion Demand to Changes in Abortion Costs

Social Indicators Research
This study uses pooled cross-section time-series data, over the years 1982, 1992 and 2000, to estimate the impact of various restrictive abortion laws on the demand for abortion. This study complements and extends prior research by explicitly including the price of obtaining an abortion in the estimation. The empirical results show that the real price of an abortion has a statistically and numerically significant negative impact on abortion demand. Over the period 1982–2000 approximately 20% of the decline in the incidence of abortion was due solely to the increase in the real price of obtaining an abortion. A state Medicaid funding restriction of abortion and a parental involvement law reduce the abortion demand, but a state waiting period and a mandatory counseling law have no statistically significant impact on the abortion demand. The empirical results also provide support for the hypothesis that increases in abortion costs not only reduce the number of abortions, but also reduce the number of pregnancies by altering women’s sexual/contraceptive practices.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Maternal Predictors of Rejecting Parenting and Early Adolescent Antisocial Behavior

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology
The present study examined relations among maternal psychological resources, rejecting parenting, and early adolescent antisocial behavior in a sample of 231 low-income mothers and their sons with longitudinal assessments from age 18 months to 12 years. The maternal resources examined were age at first birth, aggressive personality, and empathy. Each of the maternal resources predicted rejecting parenting during early childhood in structural equation models that controlled for toddler difficult temperament, and rejecting parenting in early childhood predicted antisocial behavior in early adolescence. Rejecting parenting accounted for the indirect effect of each of the maternal resources on antisocial behavior, but a direct effect was also supported between maternal aggressive personality and youth antisocial behavior. Results highlight the importance of these relatively understudied maternal resources and have implications for prevention and intervention programs that focus on parenting during early childhood.

Underreporting of Induced and Spontaneous Abortion in the United States

Studies in Family Planning
Underreporting of induced abortions in surveys is widespread, both in countries where the procedure is illegal or highly restricted and in those where it is legal. In this study, we find that fewer than one half of induced abortions performed in the United States in 1997–2001 (47 percent) were reported by women during face-to-face interviews in the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). Hispanic and black women and those with low income were among the least likely to report their experience of abortion. Women were also less likely to report abortions that occurred when they were in their 20s. Second-trimester abortions were more likely to be reported than first-trimester terminations. The levels of recent spontaneous abortion reported in the 2002 NSFG were consistent with the accumulated body of clinical research, although substantially more lifetime pregnancy losses were reported on self-administered surveys than in face-to-face interviews. Subsequent research should explore strategies to improve information collected on abortion, and, in the interim, research involving pregnancy outcomes should be adjusted for unreported induced abortions.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Corporal punishment can lead to more bad behavior by children

Medical News net
"'Even minimal amounts of spanking can lead to an increased likelihood in antisocial behavior by children,' said Grogan-Kaylor, whose findings are published in the September issue of Social Work Research."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Family Connections: A Program for Preventing Child Neglect

Child Maltreatment
Family Connections was a demonstration program specifically designed to prevent child neglect. This article describes the development of prevention strategies and the assessment of outcomes for families who received two versions of the intervention. The sample included 154 families (473 children) in a poor, urban neighborhood who met risk criteria for child neglect and who were randomly assigned to receive either a 3- or 9-month intervention. Self-report and observational data were analyzed using analyses of variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures. Results for the entire sample indicated positive changes in protective factors (parenting attitudes, parenting competence, social support); diminished risk factors (parental depressive symptoms, parenting stress, life stress); and improved child safety (physical and psychological care of children) and behavior (decreased externalizing and internalizing behavior). Results further reflected no advantage of the 9-month intervention for improving parenting adequacy. Further testing of the intervention with other target populations is being conducted.

The Long-Term Sequelae of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Women: A Meta-Analytic Review

Child Maltreatment
The authors conducted a meta-analytic review of the relationship between a history of child sexual abuse (CSA) and psychological problems in adult women in 38 studies meeting rigorous research criteria. Across all symptoms, a significant association was found between history of CSA and adult symptomatology. Analysis of the role of moderating variables indicated the associations were stronger among subjects recruited from clinical populations. When individual symptom domains were examined, anxiety, anger, depression, revictimization, self-mutilation, sexual problems, substance abuse, suicidality, impairment of self-concept, interpersonal problems, obsessions and compulsions, dissociation, posttraumatic stress responses, and somatization all yielded significant associations with sexual abuse. These results are discussed in light of their relevance to research methodology and clinical intervention.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Corporal punishment can lead to more bad behavior by children

medical news net
A new University of Michigan study that used stronger statistical controls than previous research lends additional support against corporal punishment, saying the effects can be detrimental to children.

Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, an assistant professor in U-M's School of Social Work and the study's author, used data from three years (1994, 1996 and 1998) of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which examined the effects of corporal punishment. The analysis attempted to determine if corporal punishment, which typically involves spanking, affected children's antisocial behavior in later years.

"Even minimal amounts of spanking can lead to an increased likelihood in antisocial behavior by children," said Grogan-Kaylor, whose findings are published in the September issue of Social Work Research.

In addition, the study found no evidence for differences in the impact of physical punishment across racial and ethnic groups.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

International Comparisons Child Well Being

The Foundation for Child Development
This analysis compares the United States to the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. By comparing the United States to other industrialized, English-speaking countries, the report provides a more accurate baseline for comparison than other international assessments of child well-being. These Anglophone countries share a common language, similar cultural heritage, as well as comparable political and economic cultures. The report assembles 19 key international indicators of child well-being within seven domains of social life.

Released at a July 17, 2007 event at the New America Foundation, 2007 Child Well-Being Index (CWI) Special Focus Report on International Comparisons finds that American children are generally in the middle of the pack in terms of their overall well-being; but there are serious deficiencies in key areas.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Number of Physical Abuse Victims (by state)

Stop Hitting org

State Number of Physical Abuse Victims
Alabama 3,659
Alaska 392
Arizona 1,303
Arkansas 1,566
California 12,118
Colorado 1,623
Connecticut 809
Delaware 544
D. Columbia 457
Florida 15,661
Georgia 4,919
Hawaii 307
Idaho 344
Illinois 7,783
Indiana 2,630
Iowa 1,881
Kansas 603
Kentucky 2,407
Louisiana 3,427
Maine 751
Maryland 3,893
Massachusetts 5,055
Michigan 4,399
Minnesota 1,438
Mississippi 1,302
Missouri 2,460
Montana 225
Nebraska 931
Nevada 887
New Hampshire 192
New Jersey 3,273
New Mexico 1,055
New York 7,957
North Carolina 1,162
North Dakota 258
Ohio 8,889
Oklahoma 2,545
Oregon 1,064
Pennsylvania 1,411
Puerto Rico 3,802
Rhode Island 479
South Carolina 3,228
South Dakota 187
Tennessee 6,126
Texas 14,491
Utah 1,937
Vermont 523
Virginia 1,773
Washington 1,311
West Virginia 2,588
Wisconsin 1,234
Wyoming 60
Total 149,319
No. Reporting 52

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families. Child Maltreatment 2005 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007).

Saturday, July 28, 2007

State of the States’ ECCS Initiatives

The primary purpose of the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration’s (MCHB-HRSA) State Maternal and Child Health Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) grants is to assist states and territories in their efforts to build and implement comprehensive statewide systems of care that support family and community approaches to promote positive early development and early school success for young children. These grants originated with a MCHB-HRSA Strategic Plan for Early Childhood that called on State Title V MCH programs to use their leadership and convening powers to foster the development of cross-agency early childhood systems development planning.1

Building a more comprehensive early childhood system requires intentional efforts to bridge the gaps created by multiple, discrete funding streams for early childhood services to create a deliberate framework to foster integrated early childhood service systems at the federal, state, and community levels.2 This Project THRIVE Short Take summarizes the results of Project THRIVE’s review and analysis of state ECCS plans, reports, and other related documents related to early childhood systems.

Reducing Disparities Beginning in Early Childhood

Research shows that many disparities in health and well-being are rooted in early childhood. These disparities reflect gaps in access to services, unequal treatment, adverse congenital health conditions, and exposures in the early years linked to elevated community and family risks. 1 Early health risks and conditions can have long-range implications for physical, emotional, and intellectual development as well as health. Their contribution to disparities in health status, disabilities, and educational achievement is well documented. 2 But many risks can be addressed in the early years, starting with quality prenatal care and interventions in the earliest stages of life. Thus, literally, reducing disparities begins with babies.

Risks for disparate outcomes disproportionately affect young children, low-income children, and minority children. 3 Poverty brings risks for children of all races; however, racial/ethnic status is an independent risk factor. 4 Young children are more likely than older children to live in families without economic security. Of the 10.2 million U.S. children ages birth through 5 years, 42 percent lived in low-income families (with income below the federal poverty level—FPL) and 20 percent lived in poor families (income below 100 percent of FPL) in 2005. (See Figure 1.) Minority young children also are overrepresented among the 2.2 million U.S. children ages birth through 5 who live in extremely poor families (income below 50 percent of FPL). The younger the child, the more harmful poverty is to developmental outcomes. 5 Below we highlight patterns of disparities in both risks and outcomes, and access and treatment.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

2007 Child Well-Being Index (CWI) Special Focus Report on International

The Foundation for Child Development
* The percent of households without an employed adult is lower in the United States than in all comparison countries. However, poverty rates are higher in the United States than in all comparison countries.

* Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have better outcomes than the United States in the Health domain. Relatively high rates of infant mortality and children who are overweight and obese disadvantage the United States in this domain.

* Teen birth rates in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are lower than in the United States. This indicator is a key figure in the Safety/Behavioral Concerns domain.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Polarization-vilification, Frame Saving, and Frame Debunking

Sociological Quarterly
This article investigates how frame alignment processes are employed by a social movement organization in competitive response to a countermovement. Though the battles between feminist organizations such as NOW and conservative opposition are waged in many arenas, we focus exclusively on the ideological clash around abortion. After briefly describing the context of encounters, we examine the challenges launched against perceived threats to reproductive rights using New York State NOW chapter newsletters spanning 1970–1988. We identify three rhetorical strategies used by NOW to counterframe the debate for its members. polarization-vilification, frame debunking, and frame saving. Our findings suggest that in the face of opposition, framing strategies are modified with the goal of mobilization.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Much of Achievement Gap Traced to 'Summer Slide'

Education Week
It’s been a truism for decades that students’ learning slips during the summer, and that low-income children fall farther behind than their classmates, but no one had connected the longitudinal data dots to show just what the cumulative consequences of the summer slide might be. Until now.

A recent study by sociology professor Karl L. Alexander and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore concludes that two-thirds of the reading achievement gap between 9th graders of low and high socioeconomic standing in Baltimore public schools can be traced to what they learned—or failed to learn—over their childhood summers.

The study, which tracked data from about 325 Baltimore students from 1st grade to age 22, points out that various characteristics that depend heavily on reading ability—such as students’ curriculum track in high school, their risk of dropping out, and their probability of pursuing higher education and landing higher-paying jobs—all diverge widely according to socioeconomic levels.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Child Protection: Using Research to Improve Policy and Practice

The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) is the first nationally representative study of children who have been reported to authorities as suspected victims of abuse or neglect and the public programs that aim to protect them. Child Protection: Using Research to Improve Policy and Practice is the first book to report the results of NSCAW, interpret the findings, and place them in a broader policy context.

The authors, all experts in child welfare issues, explain the survey's implications. They also suggest new alternatives for designing and implementing future programs that not only protect at-risk children from further harm but also provide them with security and support. The book addresses a range of issues associated with the child protection system, including the types of problems experienced by children and families involved with the system, the range of services and interventions it provides, and an assessment of its programs. By offering specific ways that those working in the system can improve their practice, the authors hope to improve the odds that abused and neglected children will grow up to lead happy and productive lives.

The Effects of Investing in Early Education on Economic Growth

Many in Congress and the administration have called for new investments in education in order to make the United States more competitive, with President Bush stressing the importance of education in preparing young Americans to "fill the jobs of the 21st century." Yet advocates of early childhood education have only recently stressed the economic benefits of preschool programs, and it has been difficult to win support for these short-term investments given the long-term nature of the benefits to the economy.

This policy brief analyzes the impact of a high-quality universal preschool policy on economic growth, concluding that such a policy could add $2 trillion to annual U.S. GDP by 2080. By 2080, a national program would cost the federal government approximately $59 billion, but generate enough additional growth in federal revenue to cover the costs of the program several times over.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Interlocking Trajectories between Negative Parenting Practices and Adolescent Depressive Symptoms

Current Sociology
...This study traces the links between negative parenting practices and adolescents' depressive symptoms in a dynamic manner. In general, the findings of this study support the hypothesis that there is an interlocking relationship between mothers' negative parenting practices and adolescents' depressive symptoms.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Developmental trajectories of depressive symptoms from early childhood to late adolescence: gender differences and adult outcome

Journal Child Psychology & Psychiatry
""Conclusions: This study shows the value of estimating growth-mixture models separately for boys and girls. Girls with early childhood or adolescence-onset depressive problems and boys with depressive problems during childhood or starting in adolescence are especially at risk for poor outcome as young adults and should be considered candidates for intervention.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Class divide hits learning by age of three

The Guardian
""By the age of three, children from disadvantaged families are already lagging a full year behind their middle-class contemporaries in social and educational development, pioneering research by a London university reveals today.

Association Between Adolescent Pregnancy And a Family History of Teenage Births

Perspectives Sexual Reproductive Health
""Compared with young women with no family history of teenage births, young women whose sister had had a teenage birth and those whose sister and mother both had had teenage births were significantly more likely to experience a teenage pregnancy (odds ratios, 4.8 and 5.1, respectively). Young women who had only a sister who had had a teenage birth had greater odds of pregnancy than young women who had only a mother who had had a teenage birth (4.5). Having both a mother and a sister who had had teenage births was independently associated with an elevated risk of pregnancy (3.7), even after controlling for socioeconomic and mothers’ parenting characteristics. Frequent companionship with an older sister was associated with increased odds of teenage pregnancy (4.5); frequent conflict with an older sister who had had a teenage birth was marginally associated with decreased odds of the outcome (0.3).

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Parental Divorce and Children's Socio-economic Success: Conditional Effects of Parental Resources Prior to Divorce, and Gender of the Child

""Both the level and allocation of pre-divorce parental and family resources may be impor tant predictors for the effects of divorce on child outcomes. This study estimates specific divorce effects on socio-economic outcomes of children in families having a different amount and allocation of both cultural and economic resources. In addition, this study tests whether general divorce effects differ between boys and girls. Data are used from the Family Survey Dutch Population 1998 and the Family Survey Dutch Population 2000 . The first conclusion was that a high level of paternal resources increases divorce effects on children's educational level and their occupational status. Moreover, a high level of maternal resources decreases the divorce effect. These findings suppor t the loss of resources theory.

An Increase in the Sex Ratio of Births to India-born Mothers in England and Wales: Evidence for Sex-Selective Abortion

Population & Development Review
Male preference in many Asian cultures results in discriminatory practices against females, including neglect and infanticide. This preference, together with the availability of prenatal sex determination and sex-selective abortion, has led to an increase in sex ratios at birth in China, India, and South Korea. The resulting expected gender imbalances raise ethical, demographic, and social concerns. We analyzed birth statistics to see whether similar trends are apparent among births to foreign-born mothers in England and Wales. Before 1990, sex ratios at birth were consistently nearly one point lower (104) for the three major Asian groups in Britain compared with mothers born in Western countries. This is inconsistent with previous suggestions that Asian populations have a higher "natural" sex ratio at birth. In the birth statistics since 1990, we find a four-point increase in the sex ratio at birth for mothers born in India, attributable particularly to an increase at higher birth orders, mirroring findings reported for India. This suggests that sex-selective abortion is occurring among mothers born in India and living in Britain. By contrast, no significant increase was observed for Pakistan-born and Bangladesh-born mothers, among whom male preference also exists. It seems that male preference in different cultures does not necessarily lead to sex-selective abortion.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Abortion 'risk to mental health'

Channel 4 News [UK]
Abortion can be a serious risk to women's long-term mental health, a doctor has warned MPs.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Corporal Punishment and the Growth Trajectory of Children's Antisocial Behavior

Child Maltreatment
"Despite considerable research, the relationship between corporal punishment and antisocial behavior is unclear. This analysis examined (a) the functional form of this relationship, (b) the correlation of initial antisocial behavior and changes in antisocial behavior, (c) differences in the relationship of corporal punishment and antisocial behavior by race, and (d) whether this relationship could be accounted for by unmeasured characteristics of children and their families. Data from 6,912 children in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth were analyzed using hierarchical linear models. Findings suggested that corporal punishment has a relationship with children’s initial antisocial behavior and with changes in antisocial behavior. No evidence was found for differences in the effect of corporal punishment across racial groups. The relationship between corporal punishment and antisocial behavior persists even when accounting for unmeasured time invariant characteristics of children and families. The findings suggest that corporal punishment is not a preferable technique for disciplining children.

Understanding the Risks of Child Neglect: An Exploration of Poverty and Parenting Characteristics

Child Maltreatment
A strong association between poverty and child neglect has been established, but the mechanisms that explain this relationship have not been clearly articulated. This research takes advantage of survey and child maltreatment administrative data about families with young children and assesses the influence of poverty and parenting characteristics on subsequent child neglect. The authors find that indicators of poverty, such as perceived material hardship and infrequent employment, and parenting characteristics, such as low parental warmth, use of physical discipline, and allowing a child to engage in frequent television viewing, are predictive of child neglect. Parenting characteristics do not appear to mediate the link between perceived hardship and neglect, although they suppress the link between employment and neglect. Results from this study provide information that is highly relevant to the approach and design of child maltreatment prevention and intervention strategies.

Family Connections: A Program for Preventing Child Neglect

Child Maltreatment
"Family Connections was a demonstration program specifically designed to prevent child neglect. This article describes the development of prevention strategies and the assessment of outcomes for families who received two versions of the intervention. The sample included 154 families (473 children) in a poor, urban neighborhood who met risk criteria for child neglect and who were randomly assigned to receive either a 3- or 9-month intervention. Self-report and observational data were analyzed using analyses of variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures. Results for the entire sample indicated positive changes in protective factors (parenting attitudes, parenting competence, social support); diminished risk factors (parental depressive symptoms, parenting stress, life stress); and improved child safety (physical and psychological care of children) and behavior (decreased externalizing and internalizing behavior). Results further reflected no advantage of the 9-month intervention for improving parenting adequacy.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Child Well-Being Index 2007 Report

The Foundation for Child Development
Following an upward swing that peaked in the early part of this decade, the progress being made improving American children's quality of life has come to a standstill, according to the Foundation for Child Development's 2007 Child and Youth Well-Being Index (CWI), an annual comprehensive measure of how children are faring in the United States.

This stall can be found across the majority of the CWI's seven domains, with the exception of children's health, which continues its dramatic decline, and in the area of children's safety. The safety domain continues its encouraging upward trend, buoyed by a general decline in teen pregnancy, violent crime, and drug and alcohol use among youth. Viewed over the last six years, the Index CWI as a whole has dipped and risen by only fractional amounts with the exception of an upsurge in 2002, attributed to community and family response to the 9/11 tragedies.

State Early Childhood Policies


Saturday, May 05, 2007

History of Early Neglect and Middle Childhood Social Competence: An Adoption Study

Adoption Quarterly
"This comparative study examined whether history of neglect in infancy was associated with middle childhood competence in (1) participation and performance in Extracurricular Activities, (2) quality of Social Relations, and (3) Academic Achievement. The sample included 115 girls aged 6-8 years who were adopted from China before their second birthday by American families. Based on evidence of preadoption neglect, the sample was divided into a neglected group (n = 31) and a comparison group (n = 84). Data on the girls' competence were collected with the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL/6-18). Data analysis showed that the percentage of childrenwhoseOverall Competence fell below normal range was significantly higher for the neglect group (41.9%) than for the comparison group (14.3%). The neglected group had significantly lower scores on participation and performance in Extracurricular Activities, Academic Achievement, and Overall Competence. Multiple regression results similarly concluded that history of neglect, controlling for age at adoption, age at assessment, and reported rejecting behavior toward the adoptive mothers, significantly predicted lower scores on Extracurricular Activity, Academic Achievement, and Overall Competence.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Role of the Family Context in the Development of Emotion Regulation

Social Development
"This article reviews current literature examining associations between components of the family context and children and adolescents' emotion regulation (ER). The review is organized around a tripartite model of familial influence. Firstly, it is posited that children learn about ER through observational learning, modeling and social referencing. Secondly, parenting practices specifically related to emotion and emotion management affect ER. Thirdly, ER is affected by the emotional climate of the family via parenting style, the attachment relationship, family expressiveness and the marital relationship. The review ends with discussions regarding the ways in which child characteristics such as negative emotionality and gender affect ER, how socialization practices change as children develop into adolescents, and how parent characteristics such as mental health affect the socialization of ER.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

British Policy on Antisocial Behavior Can Take Cues from Studies Near and Far

RAND Review
By Jennifer Rubin and Lila Rabinovich
Jennifer Rubin and Lila Rabinovich are analysts at RAND Europe. Rubin is a social and political scientist. Rabinovich is a social anthropologist.

Antisocial behavior is a costly and growing concern in the United Kingdom, with Britain’s Home Office logging around 66,000 reports of antisocial behavior each day. Vandalism alone is estimated to cost victims and the criminal justice system around £1.3 billion ($2.5 billion) annually. Other commonly reported forms of antisocial behavior include intimidation, drunkenness, begging, drug dealing, prostitution, rowdiness, graffiti, littering, and dumping rubbish in public places.

The British government has responded by introducing new laws and policy initiatives. They range from Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (court orders that forbid offenders from continuing the behavior, spending time with particular people, or visiting certain areas, with each breach punishable by a fine or jail time) to cognitive behavioral programs and parent training programs. Research shows that punitive interventions, such as detention and imprisonment, tend to produce nil or even negative effects in reducing recidivism among young offenders. However, several studies from around the world have found that certain alternative interventions can significantly reduce the rate of recidivism.

Despite growing interest in nonpunitive measures, there is a paucity of data on their effectiveness and cost-effectiveness in Europe. For this reason, the United Kingdom’s National Audit Office commissioned RAND Europe to conduct an international review of the literature as part of a wider evaluation of policies designed to counteract antisocial behavior.

Based on the data available, the best value in reducing antisocial behavior appears to come from parent training and early childhood interventions, including prenatal support. Also showing positive results are many developmental or rehabilitative programs, such as cognitive behavioral programs, interpersonal skills training and counseling, and family-based interventions. Restorative justice programs, which bring offenders into direct contact with the consequences of their actions, merit further evaluation. Even keeping neighborhoods clean and free of litter or improving street lighting can reduce the incidence of crime and antisocial behavior.
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair unveiled plans in November 2006 for nearly 80 “supernannies” to help parents tame unruly children. In addition, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders have become the British government’s main weapon against loutish behavior, such as petty crime, vandalism, and hooliganism. The orders have been used to ban thousands of people, some as young as ten, from shouting, swearing, spray painting, playing loud music, associating with certain individuals, and walking down certain streets.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why do women have abortions?

Family Planning Perspect
"Most respondents to a survey of abortion patients in 1987 said that more than one factor had contributed to their decision to have an abortion; the mean number of reasons was nearly four. Three-quarters said that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities, about two-thirds said they could not afford to have a child and half said they did not want to be a single parent or had relationship problems. A multivariate analysis showed young teenagers to be 32 percent more likely than women 18 or over to say they were not mature enough to raise a child and 19 percent more likely to say their parents wanted them to have an abortion. Unmarried women were 17 percent more likely than currently married women to choose abortion to prevent others from knowing they had had sex or became pregnant."

Characteristics of women undergoing repeat induced abortion -- Fisher et al.

Canadian Medical Association Journal
Results: Of the 1221 women approached, 1145 (93.8%) consented to participate. Data regarding first versus repeat abortion were available for 1127 women. A total of 68.2%, 23.1% and 8.7% of the women were seeking a first, second, or third or subsequent abortion respectively. Adjusted odds ratios for undergoing repeat versus a first abortion increased significantly with increased age (second abortion: 1.08, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04–1.09; third or subsequent abortion: 1.11, 95% CI 1.07–1.15), oral contraceptive use at the time of conception (second abortion: 2.17, 95% CI 1.52–3.09; third or subsequent abortion: 2.60, 95% CI 1.51–4.46), history of physical abuse by a male partner (second abortion: 2.04, 95% CI 1.39–3.01; third or subsequent abortion: 2.78, 95% CI 1.62–4.79), history of sexual abuse or violence (second abortion: 1.58, 95% CI 1.11–2.25; third or subsequent abortion: 2.53, 95% CI 1.50–4.28), history of sexually transmitted disease (second abortion: 1.50, 95% CI 0.98–2.29; third or subsequent abortion: 2.26, 95% CI 1.28–4.02) and being born outside Canada (second abortion: 1.83, 95% CI 1.19–2.79; third or subsequent abortion: 1.75, 95% CI 0.90–3.41).

Interpretation: Among other factors, a history of physical or sexual abuse was associated with repeat induced abortion. Presentation for repeat abortion may be an important indication to screen for a current or past history of relationship violence and sexual abuse.

J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care

The prevalence rates of domestic abuse in women attending a family planning clinic
CONTEXT: Domestic abuse has a detrimental impact on the mental and physical health of a woman. The abusive partner may use physical and sexual violence and 'control' the choice of contraception. OBJECTIVE: To examine the prevalence rates of domestic abuse. DESIGN: Data collection using anonymous questionnaire. SETTING: A family planning clinic. PARTICIPANTS: Two hundred and ninety-two women. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The prevalence rate of past and present history of domestic abuse and the nature of the abuse. RESULTS: One in three women experienced domestic abuse at some time in their life. A significant relationship existed between the age of the woman and experiencing abuse within the last year. Women in full-time employment experienced the highest rates of abuse. DISCUSSION: The anonymity of the research and the method of implementation encouraged an excellent response rate. CONCLUSION: During a woman's childbearing years, one-third of women may experience domestic abuse from their partner.

Pregnancy counselling clinic: a questionnaire survey of intimate partner abuse.

J Family Planning Reproductive Health Care
CONTEXT: Intimate partner abuse has a significant and detrimental impact on the mental and physical health of a woman. Physical abuse is often associated with sexual abuse. OBJECTIVE: To examine the prevalence and nature of physical and sexual partner abuse experienced by women who request a termination of pregnancy (TOP). DESIGN: Quantitative data collection using an anonymous, self-completed questionnaire. SETTING: A pregnancy counselling clinic located within a large district general hospital in the north west of England. PARTICIPANTS: A sample of 312 women attending the clinic. RESULTS: Three hundred and twelve questionnaires were returned (96.7% response rate). The prevalence rate of intimate partner abuse at some stage in the woman's life was 35.1%; 19.5% had experienced actual physical abuse in the past year; and 3.7% had experienced forced sexual intercourse in the past year. Of the latter, in over half of the cases, this may have resulted in the current pregnancy. A total of 6.6% of women in this study are currently living in fear. DISCUSSION: The anonymity of the survey and the method of implementation encouraged an excellent response rate. The prevalence of physical abuse was higher than that reported in previous studies, however the prevalence of sexual abuse was lower. Up to 2% of requests for TOP could have been due to recent forced sexual intercourse. CONCLUSIONS: Many women requesting a TOP have been, or still are, in violent relationships. Some women may attend with an unwanted conception following sexual assault by their current or previous intimate partner.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The prevalence of domestic violence among women seeking abortion -- Glander et al.

Obstetrics & Gynecology
OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of self-reported abuse in a population of women aged 18 years or older seeking elective pregnancy termination, and to compare abused and nonabused women with respect to the primary reasons for pregnancy termination. METHODS: A self-administered questionnaire was returned by 486 women seeking outpatient abortion. The survey included demographic information, abuse screening, and items regarding partner involvement/awareness of the pregnancy, and abuse as a determinant of the abortion decision. One open-ended item asking the primary reason for pregnancy termination was included. RESULTS: The prevalence of self-reported abuse in this population was 39.5%. White women were significantly more likely to report any history of abuse than nonwhite women. Relationship issues were the only reason for pregnancy termination given more often by women with an abuse history than by nonabused women. Women with abuse histories were significantly less likely than nonabused women to inform the partner of the pregnancy or to have partner support for or involvement in the abortion decision. CONCLUSION: The prevalence of abuse reported by women in this population suggests that many women seeking abortion services may have abuse histories. Abused women may have different reasons for pregnancy termination than nonabused women and may be more likely to make the abortion decision without partner involvement. When routine screening for abuse is included in abortion counseling, health providers have the opportunity for developing a safety plan and initiating appropriate referral.

Characteristics of women undergoing repeat induced abortion -- Fisher et al.

Canadian Medical Association Journal
Methods: We surveyed a consecutive series of women presenting for initial or repeat pregnancy termination to a regional provider of abortion services for a wide geographic area in southwestern Ontario between August 1998 and May 1999. Self-reported demographic characteristics, attitudes and practices regarding contraception, history of relationship violence, history of sexual abuse or coercion, and related variables were assessed as potential correlates of repeat induced abortion. We used {chi}2 tests for linear trend to examine characteristics of women undergoing a first, second, or third or subsequent abortion. We analyzed significant correlates of repeat abortion using stepwise multivariate multinomial logistic regression to identify factors uniquely associated with repeat abortion.

Results: Of the 1221 women approached, 1145 (93.8%) consented to participate. Data regarding first versus repeat abortion were available for 1127 women. A total of 68.2%, 23.1% and 8.7% of the women were seeking a first, second, or third or subsequent abortion respectively. Adjusted odds ratios for undergoing repeat versus a first abortion increased significantly with increased age (second abortion: 1.08, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04–1.09; third or subsequent abortion: 1.11, 95% CI 1.07–1.15), oral contraceptive use at the time of conception (second abortion: 2.17, 95% CI 1.52–3.09; third or subsequent abortion: 2.60, 95% CI 1.51–4.46), history of physical abuse by a male partner (second abortion: 2.04, 95% CI 1.39–3.01; third or subsequent abortion: 2.78, 95% CI 1.62–4.79), history of sexual abuse or violence (second abortion: 1.58, 95% CI 1.11–2.25; third or subsequent abortion: 2.53, 95% CI 1.50–4.28), history of sexually transmitted disease (second abortion: 1.50, 95% CI 0.98–2.29; third or subsequent abortion: 2.26, 95% CI 1.28–4.02) and being born outside Canada (second abortion: 1.83, 95% CI 1.19–2.79; third or subsequent abortion: 1.75, 95% CI 0.90–3.41).

Abortion linked with partner violence

ScienceAlert - Australia & NZ
"Partner violence is the strongest predictive factor of whether young women with unwanted pregnancies will choose to terminate, a study by La Trobe University has found.

The study of 9,683 young Australian women aged 22 to 27 found that those reporting either teenage abortions or abortions later in their 20s, were more than three times as likely to have been abused by a partner as those who didn't terminate.

The study also found that young Australian women who terminated pregnancies were more likely to be disadvantaged - from low-income families, less-educated and not privately insured.

The secondary analysis of data from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women's Health, by Angela Taft and Lyndsey Watson, of Mother and Child Health Research, La Trobe University, was published today in the
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. It seeks to fill a national gap in abortion statistics, by describing the characteristics of young Australian women who terminate pregnancies.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Understanding Interventions and Outcomes in Mothers of Infants - Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing

Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing
The first two years after an infant's birth is a time of transition for mothers as changes in roles, responsibilities, expectations, and behaviors occur in response to the demands of caring for newborn infants and young children. Mothers play pivotal roles in overall child development and health and may benefit from nursing intervention that assists in the transition to motherhood. A review of the intervention literature related to the promotion of effective mothering was performed in order to examine the range of interventions and evidence of their usefulness for maternal-child and pediatric nursing practice. Five broad categories of interventions appropriate for nursing practice were identified through the literature review. Home visiting, skin-to-skin contact, individual, infant-focused education/counseling, and theory-based group intervention have a specific applicability for the promotion of mothering in particular populations of mothers. Based on the evidence, nurses can incorporate selected strategies into nursing care to promote effective mothering during the first years of a child's life.

Socioeconomic Status And Child Development

Annual Review of Psychology
Socioeconomic status (SES) is one of the most widely studied constructs in the social sciences. Several ways of measuring SES have been proposed, but most include some quantification of family income, parental education, and occupational status. Research shows that SES is associated with a wide array of health, cognitive, and socioemotional outcomes in children, with effects beginning prior to birth and continuing into adulthood. A variety of mechanisms linking SES to child well-being have been proposed, with most involving differences in access to material and social resources or reactions to stress-inducing conditions by both the children themselves and their parents. For children, SES impacts well-being at multiple levels, including both family and neighborhood. Its effects are moderated by children's own characteristics, family characteristics, and external support systems.

Pathways from family economic conditions to adolescents' distress: Supportive parenting, stressors outside the family, and deviant peers

Journal of Community Psychology
Economic hardship is a stressor that affects large numbers of children and their families. This study estimated a model that included pathways linking economic conditions to the internalizing and externalizing symptoms of a multiethnic sample of urban adolescents. Similar to other prominent models, this model included parental distress and parenting as key constructs, but the expanded ecological model also included stressors outside the family and adolescents' associations with deviant peers as possible explanatory factors. Data from 300 adolescents and their parents were consistent with a model that showed linkages between economic conditions, parental depressive symptoms, supportive parenting, and internalizing symptoms. Stressors outside the family were associated with deviant peer affiliations which, in turn, predicted internalizing and externalizing symptoms. The implications of these findings for understanding economic conditions' influence on adolescents' mental health are discussed.

The Family Context of Preadolescents' Orientations Toward Education: Effects of Maternal Orientations and Behavior

Journal of Educational Psychology
This study examines different pathways of maternal influence on the value that preadolescents attribute to mathematics and German language as domains of education. On the basis of data from 355 students and their mothers, the author tested effects of mothers' education, general parenting practices, leisure pursuits, joint activities with their children, school involvement, and their own evaluation of mathematics and German language. Results of structural equation modeling point to students' perceptions of maternal values as a central factor affecting students' values. Perceived maternal values vary depending on mothers' behavior rather than on values actually reported by mothers.

Family processes as pathways from income to young children's development

Developmental Psychology
A variety of family processes have been hypothesized to mediate associations between income and young children's development. Maternal emotional distress, parental authoritative and authoritarian behavior (videotaped mother-child interactions), and provision of cognitively stimulating activities (Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment [HOME] scales) were examined as possible mediators in a sample of 493 White and African American low-birth-weight premature infants who were followed from birth through age 5. Cognitive ability was assessed by standardized test, and child behavior problems by maternal report, when the children were 3 and 5 years of age. As expected, family income was associated with child outcomes. The provision of stimulating experiences in the home mediated the relation between family income and both children's outcomes; maternal emotional distress and parenting practices mediated the relation between income and children's behavior problems.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Depressive Symptoms as a Longitudinal Predictor of Sexual Risk Behaviors Among US Middle and High School Students

In adjusted models, boys and girls with high depressive symptom levels at baseline were significantly more likely than those with low symptom levels to report ≥1 of the examined sexual risk behaviors over the course of the 1-year follow-up period. For boys, high depressive symptom levels were specifically predictive of condom nonuse at last sex, birth control nonuse at last sex, and substance use at last sex; these results were similar to those of parallel analyses with a continuous depression measure. For girls, moderate depressive symptoms were associated with substance use at last sex, and no significant associations were found between high depressive symptom levels and individual sexual risk behaviors. Parallel analyses with the continuous depression measure found significant associations for condom nonuse at last sex, birth control nonuse at last sex, ≥3 sexual partners, and any sexual risk behavior.

CONCLUSION. In this study, depressive symptoms predicted sexual risk behavior in a national sample of male and female middle and high school students over a 1-year period."

Child Maltreatment in the United States: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Adolescent Health Consequences

"RESULTS. Having been left home alone as a child, indicating possible supervision neglect, was most prevalent (reported by 41.5% of respondents), followed by physical assault (28.4%), physical neglect (11.8%), and contact sexual abuse (4.5%). Each sociodemographic characteristic was associated with ≥1 type of maltreatment, and race/ethnicity was associated with all 4. Each type of maltreatment was associated with no fewer than 8 of the 10 adolescent health risks examined.

CONCLUSIONS. Self-reported childhood maltreatment was common. The likelihood of maltreatment varied across many sociodemographic characteristics. Each type of maltreatment was associated with multiple adolescent health risks."

Family Characteristics Have More Influence On Child Development Than Does Experience In Child Care

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
"Family Characteristics Have More Influence On Child Development Than Does Experience In Child Care

A compendium of findings from a study funded by the National Institutes of Health reveals that a child’s family life has more influence on a child’s development through age four and a half than does a child’s experience in child care.

“This study shows only a slight link between child care and child development,” said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the NIH component which funded the study. “Child care clearly matters to children’s development, but family characteristics — and children’s experiences within their families — appear to matter more.”"

Monday, March 12, 2007

UN bid to condemn sex-selection abortion

Catholic World News
"Despite a groundswell of support at the UN's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) this week, a US-sponsored resolution calling on states to eliminate prenatal sex selection and female infanticide has been withdrawn due to pressure from China, India, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and others, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam) reports.

China lobbied against the resolution at the highest levels of UN delegations, reports Samantha Singson in C-Fam's Friday Fax. The Indian delegation likewise lobbied forcefully against it. It is likely that India and China objected because, even though the resolution focused on the global nature of the problem, they believed it would draw attention to the fact that theirs are the worst cases of female infanticide and sex-selection abortion. Demographers estimate that about 100 million girls are already “missing.”

Other delegations also worked to derail the resolution by maneuver, thus avoiding discussion about the rising trend of killing baby girls and the substance of the resolution. Canada worked against the resolution by loading up the draft document with language that the US could not support. Costa Rica did the same, although it is unclear why the pro-life country worked so hard to oppose the initiative, or why Mexico chose to oppose it.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Review of the Relationship Among Parenting Practices, Parenting Styles, and Adolescent School Achievement

Educational Psychology Review
This article reviews the literature on the relationship among parenting practices, parenting styles, and adolescent school achievement. The review of the empirical research indicates that parental involvement and monitoring are robust predictors of adolescent achievement. Several studies, however, indicate that parental involvement declines in adolescence, prompting the call for future research on the reasons for and associated consequences of this decline. Furthermore, the review indicates that authoritative parenting styles are often associated with higher levels of student achievement, although these findings are not consistent across culture, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Darling and Steinbergrsquos contextual model of parenting provides a promising model to help resolve these discrepancies, however, further research is needed to examine the major linkages of the model. It is also argued that the contextual model should expand its notion of context towards the larger cultural and economic context in which families reside. ...

Neighborhood and Family Influences on Educational Attainment: Results from the Ontario Child Health Study Follow-Up 2001

Child Development
This study uses multilevel models to examine longitudinal associations between contextual influences (neighborhood and family) assessed in 1983 in a cohort of 2,355 children, 4–16 years of age, and educational attainment in 2001. Variation in educational attainment in 2001 attributable to between-neighborhood and between-family differences was 8.17% and 36.88%, respectively. The final model explained 33.64% of the variance in educational attainment, with unique variances of 14.53% for neighborhood and family-level variables combined versus 10.94% for child-level variables. Among the neighborhood and family-level variables, indicators of status (5.29%) versus parental capacity/family process (4.03%) made comparable predictions to attainment while children from economically disadvantaged families did not benefit educationally from living in more affluent areas.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Placing Emotional Self-Regulation in Sociocultural and Socioeconomic Contexts

Child Development
C. CybeleRaver
In their review, Cole, Martin, and Dennis (this issue) relied on a valuable set of empirical examples of emotion regulation in infancy, toddlerhood, and the preschool period to make their case. These examples can be extended to include an emergent body of published research examining normative emotional regulatory processes among low-income and ethnic minority children using similar experimental methods. The following article considers emotion regulation across differing income, risk, and sociocultural contexts. Review of this literature points to ways these broader contexts are likely to influence children's development of emotional self-regulation. This review also points to innovative analytic approaches that might be useful in inferring causal mechanisms in emotion regulation research.