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Jim Liebelt Christian Blog and Commentary

Jim Liebelt

Jim Liebelt's Blog

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on PsychCentral.

Children who are praised for being smart not only are quicker to give up in the face of obstacles, they also are more likely to be dishonest and cheat, according to a new study.

Researchers found that kids as young as three appear to behave differently when told “You are so smart” versus “You did very well this time.”

The study, published in Psychological Science, builds on work by Stanford’s Dr. Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset,” who has shown that praising a child’s innate ability instead of the child’s effort or a specific behavior has the unintended consequence of reducing their motivation to learn and their ability to deal with setbacks.

The new study shows there’s also a moral dimension to different kinds of praise. Additionally, it found that it affects children at younger ages than previously known. Even the kindergarten and preschool set seem to be sensitive to subtle differences in praise, according to the researchers.

“It’s common and natural to tell children how smart they are,” said co-author Dr. Gail Heyman, a development psychologist at the University of California San Diego. “Even when parents and educators know that it harms kids’ achievement motivation, it’s still easy to do. What our study shows is that the harm can go beyond motivation and extend to the moral domain. It makes a child more willing to cheat in order to do well.”

For their study the international team of researchers asked 300 children in Eastern China to play a guessing game using number cards. There were 150 three year-olds and 150 five year-olds.

The children were either praised for being smart or for their performance. A control group got no praise at all.

After praising the children and getting them to promise not to cheat, the researcher left the room for a minute in the middle of the game. The kids’ subsequent behavior was monitored by a hidden camera, which recorded who got out of their seat or leaned over to get a peek at the numbers.

Results suggest that both the three and five year-olds who’d been praised for being smart were more likely to act dishonestly than the ones praised for how well they did or those who got no praise at all. The results were the same for boys and girls.

The researchers believe that praising ability is tied to performance pressure in a way that praising behavior isn’t.

“When children are praised for being smart or are told that they have reputation for it, they feel pressure to perform well in order to live up to others’ expectations, even if they need to cheat to do so,” said co-author Li Zhao of Hangzhou Normal University.

Source: PsychCentral

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.

Kids who start playing tackle football before age 12 have a higher risk of mental and behavioral problems in adulthood than their counterparts who began playing at older ages, a new study suggests.

Researchers say playing tackle football at a younger age boosted the odds of later problems with behavioral control, apathy, thinking and decision-making by twofold compared to other players.

They also said the risk of clinical depression rose by threefold in these players compared to their counterparts who started playing at older ages.

"These findings were independent of the total number of seasons the participants played football or at what level they played, such as high school, college or professional," said study lead author Michael Alosco, a post-graduate fellow at Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center.

However, these findings don't confirm that early time on the field actually causes these issues to be more common, only that there's an association between these factors.

Previous research by center found that former NFL players who started playing football before age 12 "had worse memory and mental flexibility as well as structural brain changes on MRI scans compared to former players who began at age 12 or older," Alosco said.

He added that other research has suggested that playing just one season of youth football could change the brain in ways that are detectable via MRI scans.

The new study attempted to track the possible effects of youth football into later life. The cutoff of age 12 "was examined because the brain undergoes key periods of brain development during childhood, and several brain structures and functions reach peak development during the period leading up to age 12 in males," Alosco said.

The study authors asked questions of 214 men who formerly played high school, college or pro football and didn't play other organized sports.

The participants' average age was 51, and 90 percent were white. The men had played various positions except quarterback.

Researchers found that 55 percent of the participants who played football before age 12 showed signs of behavioral problems based on one test compared to 43 percent of those who started later.

In terms of depression, two-thirds of those who started before age 12 showed signs of depression compared to a much lower 44 percent of those who started later.

Researchers adjusted their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by high or low numbers of participants who shared certain ages, levels of education, or time spent playing football. They still found a twofold increase in the odds of behavioral and thinking issues and a threefold increase in the odds of depression.

The study has limitations. Almost all participants are white, and it's limited to those who agreed to take part. The researchers don't consider reasons players may have begun playing football early, and it doesn't compare the rates of the various mental problems to similar men who never played football.

The study appears in Translational Psychiatry.

Source: HealthDay

*The following is excerpted from an online article, "Are Today's Teens Putting the Brakes on Adulthood?" posted on HealthDay.

Parents may still marvel at how fast their kids grow up, but a new study finds that U.S. teenagers are maturing more slowly than past generations.

In some ways, the trend appears positive: High school kids today are less likely to be drinking or having sex, versus their counterparts in the 1980s and 1990s.

But they are also less likely to go on dates, have a part-time job or drive -- traditional milestones along the path to adulthood.

So is that slower development "good" or "bad"? It may depend on how you look at it, the researchers said.

According to "life history theory," neither fast nor slow development is inherently good or bad, said study author Jean Twenge.

Still, there are "trade-offs" to each path, explained Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University.

"The upside of slower development is that teens aren't growing up before they are ready," she said. "But the downside is, they go to college and into the workplace without as much experience with independence."

And that downside is clearly evident in the real world, according to one specialist in adolescent mental health.

"I think if you ask any college professor, they'll tell you students these days are woefully unprepared in basic life skills," said Yamalis Diaz.

Diaz, who was not involved in the study, is a clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.

Today's students may be sharp academically, Diaz said -- but they often have trouble with basics like planning, time management and problem-solving.

That's not to say teens should be rushing into adulthood, she stressed. The problem arises when kids have no experience with adult-like responsibilities, or spend little time navigating relationships with their peers.

"It's like going into the heavy lifting of adulthood without having exercised the necessary muscles," Diaz said.

The findings, published online Sept. 19 in the journal Child Development, are based on nationally representative surveys done between 1976 and 2016. Together, they involved over 8 million U.S. kids aged 13 to 19.

Over those years, the study found, teenagers gradually became less likely to try "adult" activities -- including drinking, having sex, working, driving, dating and simply going out (with or without their parents).

By the 2010s, only 55 percent of high school seniors had ever worked for pay -- versus roughly three-quarters of their counterparts in the late 1970s through the 1990s.

Similarly, only 63 percent had ever been on a date. That compared with 81 percent to 87 percent of high school seniors in the 1970s through 1990s.

In some findings that will make parents happy, today's kids are often putting off drinking. In the 1970s and 1980s, over 90 percent of high school seniors had ever tried alcohol. That dipped to 81 percent in the 1990s, and dropped further -- to 67 percent -- by the 2010s.

As for sex, 54 percent of high school students in 1991 said they'd ever had sex. By 2015, that figure stood at 41 percent.

The patterns were seen among kids of all races, family income levels and regions of the country, according to Twenge.

The researchers found no evidence that kids are now busier with homework and extracurricular activities -- and therefore have little time for jobs, dating or going out.

Source: HealthDay