Monday, November 21, 2011


CORVALLIS, Ore. (UPI) -- Studies have shown marriage changes men's negative behavior and U.S. researchers say fatherhood can also have an impact on crime, and tobacco and alcohol use.

Lead author David Kerr, assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University, and colleagues assessed more than 200 at-risk boys annually from the age of 12 to 31 in how their crime, tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use changed over time.

"These decreases were in addition to the general tendency of boys to engage less in these types of behaviors as they approach and enter adulthood," Kerr said in a statement. "Controlling for the aging process, fatherhood was an independent factor in predicting decreases in crime, alcohol and tobacco use."

However, the study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, also found men who were well into their 20s and early 30s when they became fathers showed greater decreases in crime and alcohol use, compared to those who had their first child in their teens or early 20s.

Men who had children at a more developmentally expected time could have been more able or willing to embrace fatherhood and shed negative lifestyle choices, Kerr said.

"This research suggests that fatherhood can be a transformative experience, even for men engaging in high risk behavior," Kerr said. "This presents a unique window of opportunity for intervention because new fathers might be especially willing and ready to hear a more positive message and make behavioral changes."
Copyright 2011 by United Press International

Sunday, November 20, 2011


BOULDER, Colo. (UPI) -- Independent reading doesn't improve children's achievement in reading, at least among children age 11 at the end of elementary school, U.S. researchers say.

Nicole Harlaar of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who led the study when she was with Ohio State University, and colleagues at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said educators have long emphasized the importance of independent reading for fun or leisure.

It was believed getting kids to read more on their own would lead to improved reading scores, Harlaar said

The researcher team looked at reading achievement and independent reading in 436 pairs of identical and same-sex nonidentical twins at age 10 and again a year later at 11.

Reading achievement was assessed using standard measures of word recognition and reading comprehension, while independent reading was assessed by asking each twin questions about his or her motivation to read. Parents estimated how often their children read for pleasure.

The study, published in the journal Child Development, found children's reading achievement at age 10 predicted their independent reading at 11, regardless of how much independent reading they were doing at 10, suggesting that reading achievement influenced later independent reading.

However, the reverse was not true -- after accounting for reading achievement at age 10 -- independent reading at 10 didn't predict reading achievement at 11.
Copyright 2011 by United Press International

Saturday, November 19, 2011


MONTREAL (UPI) -- A good relationship with a teacher mitigates against a child expressing aggression and being the target of aggression at school, researchers in Canada say.

Study leader Mara Brendgen of the University of Quebec at Montreal studied 217 Canadian identical and fraternal twin pairs at age 7.

The twin pairs had different teachers and different classmates. Classmates rated the twins' level of aggressive behavior and the extent to which they were victimized by peers, Brendgen said.

The twins' teachers rated the quality of their relationship with each twin. Genetic effects on aggression were estimated by comparing the similarity in behaviors of identical and fraternal twin pairs, Brendgen said.

The study, published in the journal Child Development, found children genetically vulnerable to being aggressive were more likely to be victimized by their classmates than others, but these children were protected from acting aggressively and being the target of other children's aggression if they had a very good relationship with their teacher.

"Aggressive behavior in middle childhood is at least partly explained by genetic factors, but genetic influences on behavior usually don't operate independently of environmental influences," Brendgen said in a statement.

"Our study found that a good relationship with the teacher -- a relationship that was warm and affectionate and involved open communication -- can protect genetically vulnerable children from being aggressive and, in consequence, from becoming the target of other children's aggressive behavior."
Copyright 2011 by United Press International

Friday, November 18, 2011


STIRLING, England (UPI) -- Joking and pretending with toddlers help them develop life skills such as "learning to think outside of the box," British researchers found.

Dr. Elena Hoicka of the University of Stirling and colleagues examined how the two very similar concepts of joking and pretending -- both involve intentionally doing or saying the wrong thing -- develop in children ages 15-24 months.

"Joking is about doing something wrong just for the sake of it. In contrast, pretending is about doing something wrong which is imagined to be right," Hoicka said in a statement. "For example, parents might use a sponge like a duck while pretending but use a cat as a duck when joking."

The study found parents rely on a range of language styles, sound and non-verbal cues such as when they talk slowly and loudly and repeat their actions.

Conversely, parents tend to cue their children to jokes by showing their disbelief through language, and using a more excited tone of voice.

"We found that most parents employ these different cues quite naturally to help their toddlers understand and differentiate these concepts," Hoicka said in a statement.

"While not all parents feel confident in their natural abilities, the research does show that making the effort to interact in this way with toddlers is important," Hoicka said in a statement. "Knowing how to joke is great for making friends, dealing with stress, thinking creatively and learning to think outside the box."
Copyright 2011 by United Press International

Thursday, November 17, 2011


BUFFALO, N.Y. (UPI) -- Mutilation, mutation, monstrosity, murder and mayhem offer a way for us to understand our own modern fears, a U.S. horror expert says.

David Castillo, an associate professor at the University at Buffalo, said the Spanish baroque period, roughly 1600-1720, provided the historical roots of horror in the modern age.

Castillo said that era's tales of supernatural visitations, terrifying visions, haunted houses and man-made horrors are not unlike those found online or in the tabloid press today.

David Schmid, a professor of English at the university, focuses on cultural monstrosities -- those among us whom we perceive as "monsters" and the role they play in our self-perception as individual and social beings.

Although his work focused on the serial killer as an American popular-culture figure, Schmid also studies how society safely represents and addresses the anxieties of our time through the use of other monsters, such as zombies and vampires.

"The monsters I'm most interested in are the ones that exist in plain sight -- the most distinctive and numerous monsters in any culture are the ones that we don't immediately recognize," Schmid, the author of "Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture" and "True Crime," said in a statement.

"I conduct research on killers and their place in our cultural imagination but I also want to extend that focus to other monstrous figures and institutions: the abusers at [the notorious Iraqi prison] Abu Ghraib, those whose apparent normality makes them no less destructive and murderous: the banks that are destroying lives while reaping record profits and the corporations who are poisoning the planet for their bottom line."
Copyright 2011 by United Press International

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


JERUSALEM (UPI) -- Motherhood is associated with a host of new behaviors that are driven, at least in part, by alterations in brain function, researchers in Israel say.

Study leader Dr. Adi Mizrahi of Hebrew University in Jerusalem and his postdoctoral colleague Dr. Lior Cohen exposed three groups of mice -- mice that had experienced interaction with their pups, lactating mother mice and mice that had not given birth -- to pup odors, and then monitored both spontaneous and sound-evoked activity of neurons in the auditory cortex.

The primary auditory cortex is known as a site that undergoes functional changes in response to sensory input from the environment, the researchers said.

The odors triggered dramatic changes in auditory processing only in the females that had interacted with pups, while the lactating mothers were the most sensitive to pup sounds.

The study, published in the journal Neuron, said olfactory, or the sense of smell and auditory integration, appeared in lactating mothers shortly after they had given birth and had a particularly strong effect on the detection of pup distress calls.

"We have shown that motherhood is associated with a rapid and robust appearance of olfactory-auditory integration in the primary auditory cortex occurring along with stimulus-specific adaptation to pup distress calls," Mizrahi said in a statement. "These processes help to explain how changes in neocortical networks facilitate efficient detection of pups by their caring mothers."
Copyright 2011 by United Press International