Tag Archives: kids

parents urging kids to diet: refuse to dramatize the evil

there are strong labeling implications to a new longitudinal study in pediatrics by minnversity epidemiologist dianne neumark-sztainer and colleagues, summarized today in the strib. the punch line is that “parental encouragement to diet predicted poorer weight outcomes 5 years later, particularly for girls.”

the results parallel predictions by tannenbaum, lemert and becker with regard to delinquency: maybe the less said about it, the better. should we refuse to dramatize the “evil” of childhood obesity? here’s the abstract:

Accurate Parental Classification of Overweight Adolescents’ Weight Status: Does It Matter?
Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RDa, Melanie Wall, PhDb, Mary Story, PhD, RDa and Patricia van den Berg, PhDa

OBJECTIVE. Our goal was to explore whether parents of overweight adolescents who recognize that their children are overweight engage in behaviors that are likely to help their adolescents with long-term weight management.

METHODS. The study population included overweight adolescents (BMI 85th percentile) who participated in Project EAT (Eating Among Teens) I (1999) and II (2004) and their parents who were interviewed by telephone in Project EAT I. Cross-sectional analyses were conducted with 314 adolescent-parent dyads, and longitudinal analyses were completed with 170 dyads.

RESULTS. Parents who correctly classified their children as overweight were no more likely than parents who did not correctly classify their children as overweight to engage in the following potentially helpful behaviors: having more fruits/vegetables and fewer soft drinks, salty snacks, candy, and fast food available at home; having more family meals; watching less television during dinner; and encouraging children to make healthful food choices and be more physically active. However, parents who recognized that their children were overweight were more likely to encourage them to diet. Parental encouragement to diet predicted poorer adolescent weight outcomes 5 years later, particularly for girls. Parental classification of their children’s weight status did not predict child weight status 5 years later.

CONCLUSIONS. Accurate classification of child overweight status may not translate into helpful behaviors and may lead to unhealthy behaviors such as encouragement to diet. Instead of focusing on weight per se, it may be more helpful to direct efforts toward helping parents provide a home environment that supports healthful eating, physical activity, and well-being.

age-by-passenger interactions in driver death rates

wcco tv offered a terribly sad story on a young woman who died in a two-car collision yesterday. the piece followed-up with a brief discussion of graduated licensing, which places restrictions on the youngest and least experienced drivers.

one such restriction is the number of passengers that new drivers can transport. the wcco report showed a striking figure, similar to the department of transportation graphic shown below. for 16 and 17 year old drivers, death rates increase dramatically with the number of passengers in the car. for those aged 30 to 59, however, the number of passengers is unrelated to death rates.


distractibility is the hypothesized mechanism linking passengers to death rates for young drivers. i’d throw substance use into the mix as well, since the number of passengers is likely associated with alcohol and other substance use. in addition, i’d bet that peer passengers have a different effect than parent or sibling passengers — disaggregating by type of passenger might shed further light on the mechanism. as a 30-to-59 year old, my passengers today are often my kids. i still drive more recklessly with my buddies than i do with my kids, but i now spend much less time driving around with my buddies (what buddies?) than i did at age 16 or 17. if i’m correct, passenger type might be just as important as passenger numbers.

while i’m not sure whether a legal limitation on the number of passengers will reduce teen driving fatalities, the bivariate association is clear. when the figure flashed on the screen at my house, i couldn’t help overhearing the lad’s phone conversation. he was arranging to pick up a buddy or two before school. drive safe and keep the music down, dudes.

school suspension gap

speaking of school discipline, james walsh offers a nice analysis of the race gap in school suspensions:

Black students in Minnesota are being suspended at a rate about six times that of white students, according to a Star Tribune analysis of state Department of Education data. Some are sent home for serious misbehavior, like fighting or drugs. But most are suspended for lesser incidents, such as talking in class, goofing around or challenging teachers — offenses for which there is more disciplinary leeway…

no touching at armatage elementary

these are desperate times for school administrators. the strib reports that armatage elementary in minneapolis now maintains an official “no touch” policy:

Originally the rule, circulated to parents Thursday, banned even casual touching such as hand-holding and hugging. But Principal Joan Franks has now refined the policy to target aggressive and “unsafe” behavior such as play-fighting, pushing and shoving. And tag.

yeesh. wouldn’t banning hitting be sufficient? as an administrator, i certainly understand the motivations here. as a parent, however, i see how kids need much touch just to get through a long, alienating day in the classroom. for esperanza and her middle-school friends, this takes the form of hugging in the hallways and packing in close together in the lunchroom. for tor and his buddies, this sometimes takes the form of behaviors specifically outlawed: play-fighting, pushing, and shoving (not to mention football, rugby, and wrestling).

i can’t make a strong causal argument that touch improves mental health — perhaps there is a literature addressing this question — but i can see a clear correlation. when my kids do more touching they seem more socially connected and happier. when my large lad puts me in a headlock or punches my shoulder, we’re usually both laughing and i’m feeling pretty good about our relationship.

but those are just my views as a parent. as a sociologist who studies rules and their enforcement, i’ve got another observation. creating such a no-touch rule will likely create a new class of rule violators and a new cause of action for school discipline. given the gender distribution of behaviors such as play-fighting, pushing, and shoving, i would predict that boys will be disproportionately subject to such discipline. given the race and class distribution of those disciplined for other school misconduct, i would predict that children of color and those from working class families will be disproportionately subject to such discipline. when the minneapolis schools do the next round of hand-wringing about race and gender gaps in school achievement, they might consider the impact of disciplinary practices such as the no-touch rule.

day of silence

just before midnight, esperanza said g’night and handed me a slip of paper. it indicated that for the next 24 hours, she’s participating in the day of silence. from the website:

The National Day of Silence brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. This year’s event will be held in memory of Lawrence King, a California 8th-grader who was shot and killed Feb. 12 by a classmate because of his sexual orientation and gender expression. Hundreds of thousands of students will come together on April 25 to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior.

the other larry king offers a psa and helpful introduction. though she will not speak all day, esperanza won’t be completely silent. she’s negotiated a singing-only class with her music teacher.

urban institute live audio webcast on children with incarcerated mothers

via the urban institute’s Justice policy center:

Broken Bonds: Understanding and Addressing the Needs of Children with Incarcerated Mothers
Thursday, February 14
9 am ET / 8 am CT / 7 am MT / 6 am PT
Program length: 1.5 hours

Register Now
Description
As the population of incarcerated women grows, so does the number of children whose mothers are absent from their lives. Current estimates indicate that on any given day, more than 150,000 children have a mother in prison, yet far too little is known about these children and their needs and experiences. What are their home environments like before, during, and after incarceration? If they are in foster care, when did they enter the system, and what are their prospects for family stability? What are the barriers to healthy mother-child relationships? What emotional and behavioral challenges do these children face? What can charitable organizations, service providers, and policymakers do to address those challenges?

With these questions in mind, this panel seeks to cast a bright light on this often invisible population of children. The discussion will illustrate the scope of the problem; explore the challenges these children will likely encounter as they negotiate new living arrangements, family relationships, and financial circumstances; and highlight programs and policies that hold promise for better serving this vulnerable population.

Speakers:
Sandra Barnhill, executive director and CEO, Foreverfamily
Amy Dworsky, senior researcher, Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago
Thomasina Hiers, director of programs and services, Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
Nancy La Vigne, senior research associate, Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute
Moderator: Laura Sullivan, correspondent, National Public Radio

Register for the Webcast Today!
The audio recording of the webcast will be available online at http://www.urban.org/Pressroom/events/index.cfm by February 19.
The webcast is free. To join the webcast, you need a computer with a high-speed Internet connection. The audio for the webcast is available over the Internet only (no telephone connections).

Resources
Families Left Behind: The Hidden Costs of Incarceration and Reentry (pdf)
Prisoners Once Removed: The Impact of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families, and Communities
Audio recording – Racial Disparity in the Child Welfare System