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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 WTTW.

More than 5 million underage Americans report binge drinking at least once a month, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The NIAAA says it is a “serious health problem” for underage drinkers and poses a range of risks and negative consequences from injury to death.

While the dangers posed to teens themselves are well-known, a recent study reveals that teens’ risky behavior could affect the brain function of their future children, potentially putting them at risk of developing mood disorders such as anxiety or depression.

Previous research has shown that teenage binge drinking resulted in long-term changes in the brain, including dysfunction of an individual's stress response, said AnnaDorothea Asimes, lead author of the study and a Ph.D. student at Loyola University Chicago.

Researchers posited that these changes could be passed on to future offspring. They were particularly interested in the impact teen binge drinking could have on an offspring's hypothalamus, a region of the brain that helps regulate stress response, sleep-wake cycle and metabolism, among other things.

To test this, researchers exposed adolescent rats to a couple bouts of binge drinking prior to mating them in adulthood. Since offspring inherent genetic information from both parents, researchers mated several different pairs of rats – only mothers exposed to alcohol, only fathers exposed to alcohol and both parents exposed to alcohol – to see how parental exposure to binge drinking would affect inheritance. Rats that were not exposed to alcohol were used as a control group.

Researchers found that teen binge drinking altered the on-off switches of multiple genes in the offspring's hypothalamus.

When genes are turned on, they instruct cells to make proteins, which control physical and behavioral traits. “The genes are not mutated, but there are differences in how the expression of those genes is controlled,” Asimes said.

The study found that the changes in gene expression were unique to parental pairs. Researchers also found that when both parents engaged in teenage binge drinking there were twice as many genetic changes than when only one parent engaged in that behavior.

Though the study was conducted with rats, it does have implications for humans because “the hypothalamus functions similarly in humans and rats,” Asimes said. “Rats also tend to handle or metabolize alcohol in a similar way to humans, so we think that our model mimics human drinking behavior.”

Source: WTTW

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

Will retirement be the next staple of daily life to disappear?

The vast majority of millennials intend to work in retirement either for income, to keep busy, or to pursue a passion, according to a report from Merrill Edge. Millennials may perfectly turn the tables on the current crop of retirees, 83% of whom have never worked a day since calling it quits. Some 83% of today’s young adults say continued employment is baked into their plans.

Technology is not making retirement obsolete; low interest rates, lackluster savings and longer lives are the moving forces—and there is no easy answer. Nearly one in five millennials believe they must hit the lottery to retire in comfort, Merrill Edge found.

A difficult jobs market for young adults is part of the story too. Half of those ages 18 to 24 say they will need a side job to save enough, according to the report, based on interviews with “mass affluent” 18-to-34 year olds. Mass affluence is defined as having investable assets of at least $50,000, or at least $20,000 in investable assets with annual income of $50,000 or more.

Millennials have got the message on saving: They started younger than boomers or Gen X, and they are three times more likely to rank an employer’s retirement plan as the most important benefit, Merrill Edge found. They also have little faith in Social Security and would embrace mandatory savings plans.

However strong the savings message, though, there seems to be a disconnect between saving and saving enough. Three in four millennials believe they will need no more than $1 million to retire in 30 or 40 years. Yet even if inflation stays at a tame 2% the entire time, $1 million in 35 years will have the buying power of about $500,000 today. That’s probably not enough of a nest egg, given the soaring cost of health care and even longer lives in the future.

Planning to work past age 65 or even 75 is a key part of the solution. But not everyone can do that. Even if you can work that long, beefing up savings today will only help. A good target is saving 15% of pay each year. Consider starting by saving enough to capture the full company match in a 401(k) plan, and then opt to automatically increase savings by 1% or 2% of pay each year until you hit 15%. You may find that you won’t have or want to work forever.

Source: Time

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

New research suggests there is more to helping kids become successful than pushing them to be involved in a multitude of activities and to score at the top of their class. In short, being a Tiger mom may be a little short-sighted.

The Arizona State study finds obsession over grades and extracurricular activities for young schoolchildren could be counterproductive, especially if such ambitions come at the expense of social skills and kindness.

Researchers discovered a fixation on grades and involvement in excessive activities can work against helping kids become well-adjusted and successful later in life.

“When parents emphasize children’s achievement much more than their compassion and decency during the formative years, they are sowing the seeds of stress and poorer well-being, seen as early as sixth grade,” said Suniya Luthar, one of the co-authors of the study.

“In order to foster well-being and academic success during the critical years surrounding early adolescence, our findings suggest that parents should accentuate kindness and respect for others at least as much as (or more than) stellar academic performance and extracurricular accolades.”

The study, “When mothers and fathers are seen as disproportionately valuing achievements: Implications for adjustment among upper middle class youth,” appears in the early online edition of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Luthar co-authored the study with Lucia Ciciolla of Oklahoma State University, Alexandria Curlee, an Arizona State University doctoral student, and Jason Karageorge, a psychologist in private practice in San Francisco.

The authors tried to determine if there were differences in how children were doing psychologically and academically, depending on their parents’ values.

Specifically, Luthar said that the best outcomes were among children who perceived their mothers and fathers as each valuing kindness toward others as much as, or more than, achievements.

Much poorer outcomes were seen among children who perceived either mothers or fathers valuing their achievements more highly than they valued being kind to others. These youth experienced more internalizing symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, externalizing or acting out behaviors and lower self-esteem, as well as more parental criticism.

And paradoxically given their parents high emphases on achievements, these students also had lower GPAs, and were reported by teachers to have more learning problems and disruptive behavior at school.

The findings demonstrate the value of being socially oriented, Luthar said. “It is beneficial for kids to be strongly connected with their social networks, whereas focusing too much on external validations (such as grades, extra-curricular honors) for their sense of self-worth can lead to greater insecurity, anxiety, and overall distress.”

What was surprising in the study, Ciciolla said, was how strongly children’s psychological and academic performance, consistently across a number of different measures, were tied to what children believed their parents cared most about.

And it did not matter much whether both parents or either parent were thought to more highly value achievement than kindness to others — having disproportionate emphasis on achievement coming from either parent was generally harmful.

It was also surprising, she said, that children who viewed their parents as valuing kindness to others much more highly than achievement did not appear to be suffering academically.

“It seems that emphasizing kindness as a top priority may not take the spotlight off achievement, because we found that these children did very well over all, including in their academics,” Ciciolla explained.

Source: PsychCentral