- 2018Oct 16
*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on PsychCentral.
A new study of identical twins found that the child who experienced harsher behavior and less parental warmth was more aggressive and exhibited more callous-unemotional traits, such as a lack of empathy and a moral compass.
In a study of 227 identical twin pairs, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University analyzed small differences in the parenting that each twin experienced to determine whether these differences predicted the likelihood of antisocial behaviors. They found that the twin who experienced stricter or harsher treatment and less emotional warmth from parents had a greater chance of showing aggression and callous-unemotional (CU) traits.
“Some of the early work on callous-unemotional traits focused on their biological bases, like genetics and the brain, making the argument that these traits develop regardless of what is happening in a child’s environment, that parenting doesn’t matter,” said Dr. Rebecca Waller, an assistant professor in Penn’s Department of Psychology, who led the study.
“We felt there must be something we could change in the environment that might prevent a susceptible child from going down the pathway to more severe antisocial behavior.”
The work is the latest in a series of studies from Waller and her colleagues using observation to assess a variety of aspects of parenting. The initial research, which considered a biological parent and child, confirmed that parental warmth plays a significant role in whether CU traits materialize.
A subsequent adoption study of parents and children who were not biologically related turned up consistent results.
Knowing this led Waller and University of Michigan psychologist Dr. Luke Hyde to team with Dr. S. Alexandra Burt, co-director of the Michigan State University Twin Registry. Using 6- to 11-year-old participants from a large, ongoing study of twins that Burt directs, the team turned its attention to identical twins.
For 454 children — 227 sets of identical twins — parents completed a 50-item questionnaire about the home environment. They also established their harshness and warmth levels by rating 24 statements such as “I often lose my temper with my child” and “My child knows I love him/her.”
The researchers assessed child behavior by asking the mother to report on 35 traits related to aggression and CU traits.
“The study convincingly shows that parenting — and not just genes — contributes to the development of risky callous-unemotional traits,” said Hyde, an associate professor in Michigan’s Department of Psychology. “Because identical twins have the same DNA, we can be more sure that the differences in parenting the twins received affects the development of these traits.”
According to Waller, a potential next step is to turn these findings into interventions for families trying to prevent a child from developing these traits or to improve troubling behaviors that have already begun.
“This provides strong evidence that parenting is also important in the development of callous-unemotional traits,” Hyde said. “The good news is we know that treatments can help parents who may need extra support with children struggling with these dangerous behaviors.”
The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
- 2018Oct 15
*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
American teens are partaking of pot in any way they can, from smoking to vaping to eating marijuana edibles, new research shows.
The study, of Los Angeles-area high school students, found that about one-third had ever used marijuana. And most of them had used it in more than one way.
Smoking was most popular, but many kids also took the drug via "edibles" or "vaping" -- where cannabis aerosol is inhaled, smoke-free, with the help of electronic cigarettes.
There are a few reasons the findings are concerning, said senior researcher Adam Leventhal, a professor at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, in Los Angeles.
"Smoking has traditionally deterred some kids from trying marijuana," Leventhal said. "They don't like the way it tastes, or the way it burns their throat."
In contrast, he said, kids may be readily attracted to the "alternative" ways of using the drug -- like gummy bears spiked with cannabis extracts, or via vaping liquids that are flavored like bubblegum.
Leventhal pointed to another potential worry: If teens are using multiple forms of marijuana -- and having greater exposure to its active ingredient -- could that increase the odds of chronic, problem use?
Past studies have found that teenagers who use marijuana are at greater risk of marijuana use disorders in adulthood, Leventhal said. Some research has also suggested they may have somewhat lower IQ scores or poorer memory and attention.
It's not clear, though, whether using multiple types of marijuana might exacerbate any effects, according to Leventhal.
The findings were based on a survey of nearly 3,200 10th graders at 10 Los Angeles-area schools.
Overall, 34 percent said they'd ever used marijuana. Smoking was the most popular method, but almost 62 percent had taken the drug in at least two forms.
About 8 percent of all kids who'd used marijuana had tried all three methods the survey asked about: smoking, vaping and edibles.
The findings were published online in the journal JAMA Network Open.
- 2018Oct 12
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