Are Anxious People Actually Smarter?

Maybe it’s not so bad to be a worrier after all.

Struggling with anxiety is not easy and can take over one’s life. As someone who has struggled with anxiety since I was a child, I have always wished that I was one of those people who went through my days without anything ever bothering me. You know the saying “ignorance is bliss”? This may be truer than we ever expected.
Several studies over the last few years have found that anxiety and intelligence are linked – that anxious people may actually be smarter. Maybe it’s not so bad to be a worrier after all, and maybe we do not need to fret so much when our children stress out because that trait goes hand in hand with some very positive attributes.
How could this be possible? The main reason for the connection between anxiety and intelligence is that an anxious mind is quite creative, searching for all possible scenarios – both good and bad. This thought process is also a sign of higher intelligence.
Smarter people are known to have the cognitive ability to examine multiple angles of a situation. They use these skills to avoid dangerous possibilities that place them at risk. Finally, they have a special sense of alertness that less anxious individuals do not have. This allows them to warn and protect others.

What the research shows

A study conducted by Israeli psychologists from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya found this theory to be true. The study entailed reviewing behaviors of 80 students as they responded to anxiety-provoking events. Students with both high and lower IQs were asked to evaluate artwork that was to be presented in a software program. However, as the students opened the software program, they activated a computer virus (as part of the experiment). Then the monitor in the room told each student to go find technical support. The researchers observed the students’ behaviors as they left the room to find help. As they rushed down the hall, students encountered four more hurdles, such as someone stopping them to take a survey and someone else dropping a stack of papers on the floor in front of them. These incidents were set up purposely to trigger additional stress.
The students who exhibited the greatest anxiety about getting to the tech support office as fast as possible and whose anxiety appeared to increase with each hurdle turned out to have higher IQs than others in the test group. In addition, they were more adamant about getting past the hurdles and to fix the computer problem than the students with lower IQs.
A recent study conducted in 2015 by psychologist Alexander Penney and his colleagues at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada also found this connection. They surveyed about 125 college students about their levels of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, rumination, and mood. The questions were also used to evaluate their verbal and nonverbal intelligence.
Their answers helped the researchers determine whether they became anxious only in the moment or if it was an ingrained trait they have lived with for a long time.
The data showed that those who said they felt anxious often had higher verbal IQs than those who did not. Verbal intelligence involves problem-solving, critical thinking, and abstract reasoning. These tools give a person the ability to communicate effectively through both speech and writing, with the intent of achieving a certain goal. This intelligence comes from thinking about past situations in different scenarios. The researchers believe that verbally intelligent people are probably more successful at evaluating past and future events in greater detail, leading to more intense rumination and worry.
Researchers have even been able to see differences in the brain to show the link between anxious thoughts and intelligence. In 2012, neuropsychologists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) evaluated MRI scans to see if there is a correlation between intelligence and anxiety. They found that individuals with high IQs and anxiety had a similar characteristic in their brains – the depletion of the nutrient choline in the white matter in a part of the brain. The scientists think that this happens because anxiety and intelligence were probably developed together as we evolved.
Finally, another study showed how social anxiety is linked to being more empathetic to others, which is also a characteristic of high intelligence. Those in the study who suffered with social anxiety were more socially aware and sensitive to other people’s feelings and points of view.

How it impacts our lives

The researchers suggest that worrying seems to have developed into a beneficial trait. It evolved along with intelligence to make us more skilled at avoiding danger, regardless of how unlikely that danger is to actually happen. Worry helps us avoid taking dangerous risks so we can survive. Thus, like intelligence, worry may be a benefit to us overall. For example, it can help our children be more successful in school because they are more attentive or diligent to avoid negative consequences. The thought of going to detention, getting left back a year, or being punished at home probably motivate them to get their homework done and study for tests.
We still should consider the downside of anxiety and watch that our children do not struggle with it too much. When strong critical thinking skills are combined with anxiety, it can be challenging and even be paralyzing at times. Because the intelligent mind allows worriers to create all the possible negative scenarios, the worry can take over and even lead to inaction.
Intelligent people with anxiety also tend to ruminate, obsessing about events of the past and thinking about “what if” scenarios. The anxiety can prevent someone from accomplishing daily tasks and cause health problems and insomnia.
Like most things in life, it comes down to a healthy balance. Managing stress and anxiety is still critical, even if it means an individual is more intelligent. In order to utilize our brain to its full potential, we need to keep our anxiety in check. It may be more challenging for intelligent people to shift their thought process to more productive projects instead of ones that review the past repeatedly or predict multiple future scenarios, but it will be worth it in the long run.  

What We Can Do For Our Anxious Children

Here are a few ways we can encourage our kids to channel their anxiety into more constructive ways:

  • Work on puzzles and challenging problem-solving games.
  • Develop fiction stories based on the many scenarios they think about.
  • Focus on creative arts like painting, drawing, sculpture, and music to make their imagination come alive.
  • For every negative idea they think about, ask them to find a positive one.
  • Get them involved in science and technology experiments in which they first predict what will happen and then observe what really happens.

Bullied Kids May Be at Risk for Disease Later in Life

Without resilience, stress can have a snowballing effect on our lives.

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about regarding our kids being bullied at school or online, now there is evidence that being bullied during childhood can lead to an increased risk of chronic disease in adulthood. A new study published in Harvard Review of Psychiatry conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic suggests that adults who were bullied as children have an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.

The researchers reviewed existing literature and data regarding bullying, impacts of stress, and physical and psychological symptoms from these experiences. For years, researchers have known that bullied children and adolescents have a significantly higher risk for both psychological and physical symptoms than their non-bullied peers. Commonly reported physical health problems associated with bullying include poor appetite, sleep disturbances, headaches, abdominal pain, breathing problems, and fatigue. These symptoms linking bullying and victimization have been observed in children as young as four years old.

The more that experts study the negative health effects of chronic stress, the more likely they will be able to draw conclusions about the specific actions or experiences that cause them. The scientists leading this study looked to recent advances in understanding the negative health effects of chronic stress to explore the long-term health implications of childhood bullying. They consider bullying to be a form of chronic social stress and wanted to evaluate if it has significant health consequences.

Studies of other types of chronic stress show that continued physical or mental stress can put a strain on the body. This process, called allostatic load, reflects the cumulative impact of biological responses from lingering stress. When we are exposed to brief periods of stress, our body can cope and recover pretty quickly. But when we experience chronic stress, the recovery process can take much longer. Then our body suffers, potentially leading to changes in inflammatory, hormonal, and metabolic responses. Over time, these changes can contribute to the development of diseases – including depression, diabetes, and heart disease – as well as the creation or worsening of psychiatric disorders.

Stresses that we experience when we are young, like bullying, can also affect the way these physiological systems respond to future stressors. This may happen because of epigenetic changes – alterations in gene function related to environmental exposures – that alter the stress response itself. Chronic stress may also weaken a child’s ability to develop psychological skills that help them build resilience, which is the ability to adapt to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or stress. When children are resilient, they are braver, more curious, more adaptable, and more able to obtain happiness and success. Resilience cushions us from mental health conditions like anxiety and depression and helps us cope with new stresses in the future. Without resilience, stress can have a snowballing effect on our lives.

The study’s authors believe that the scientific literature suggests that chronic bullying could have significant physiological and mental health consequences and that changes in the physiological stress response, including chronically elevated levels of inflammation, could play an important role. However, they are unable to draw a definite cause-and-effect relationship between bullying and the increased health risks. They are calling for additional research to make their findings more conclusive.

The most important takeaway from this study is that the current data shows how bullying as a form of chronic social stress may have significant health consequences if not addressed early on. Pediatricians and mental health professionals should ask questions about bullying when evaluating their patients. This is the first step towards being able to intervene appropriately to prevent traumatic exposure and, therefore, increased risk for health problems down the road.

Additionally, it is imperative that we pay close attention to our children and look for signs of them being bullied. Take precautions like using electronic device monitoring systems, teaching them tools to deal with bullying, and building a strong, open relationship with them so they feel comfortable talking to you about anything.

Being a Parent Makes You More Likely to Live Longer

Just look away when the kid jumps off high stuff. Otherwise, the effects may be neutralized.

Do kids take years off you, or does having children keep you young? Scientists have found that it’s more likely to be the latter. A wide-ranging study carried out in Sweden shows that parents are more likely to live longer than people with no children.

Researchers say that the study, which examined the effects of parenthood on people between the ages of 60 and 100, is the first to look at whether the links between parenthood and longevity grow stronger with age. The findings confirm that the benefits of parenthood do become more pronounced in older people, with the effect being greater for men than for women. It was found that the difference in life expectancy between parents and childless people at 60 years old was two years for men and 1.5 years for women.

By the time women with children reach the age of 80, they can expect to live a further 9.5 years, while those without children can expect 8.9 years. For 80-year-old men with children, life expectancy is a further 7.7 years, while those without can expect seven years.

Because parent-child bonds grow stronger with age, researchers suggest that support from adult children may be a big factor in the results. Having social support in old age makes a big difference, as does financial and practical help.

The sex of the children did not affect the results, which would seem to contradict previous research that found daughters are more likely to help parents than sons. It was also found that unmarried people, especially men, showed a stronger benefit, which researchers suggested may be because unmarried people rely more on their children for support than married couples do.

Other suggested explanations for the findings are that some people who don’t have children may have health factors that make them more prone to an earlier death.

Having a child is far from being one of the greatest factors that influences lifespan. The study could only say that there is a correlation between parenthood and longer life, which doesn’t prove that having children is a cause of longer life. The difference in life expectancy isn’t a huge amount either, but it’s significant enough, and on a personal level I’m convinced that having a child has made me healthier.

Becoming a parent has definitely made me pay more attention to my own health. Like most parents, I want to be around for my child, I want to see her grow up. I also want her to be healthy and so I try to show her that healthy food and exercise is a normal part of life. Of course, this doesn’t mean I would be an unhealthy slob if I wasn’t a parent (although I might be) but I do think becoming a parent has made me choose a healthier lifestyle than I would have chosen otherwise. I also think parenthood has a tendency to make people behave more responsibly in general, which could also play a part.

Discovering that parents live longer than non-parents doesn’t surprise me. If anything, given the changes in my own lifestyle, I’m only surprised that the lifespan difference isn’t bigger.

Science Says Your Preschooler Isn't (Totally) Willfully Ignoring You

No, that comes later.

Preschoolers are a perplexing lot to many parents. Unlike toddlers, they have usually developed enough maturity and language skills that they can seem fairly sophisticated. They ask really thought-provoking questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” or  “Why is water wet?”
They are still little kids, however, and they have a tendency to act in ways that do not make sense to adults. They refuse to wear a coat, even if they are cold. They will eat a granola bar off the floor, but they won’t eat one that has been broken in half (especially if a parent is the one who broke it).
I’ve been around enough of them to know that they often do not follow the directions or precautions you give them, no matter how many times you repeat yourself. So why is that? Are they just choosing to ignore you? Or is there something different about the functioning of their brain that makes it difficult for them to plan ahead? New research shows that it probably has a lot more to do with the latter.
In the past, many researchers thought that the functioning of young children’s brains was much like that of adults. They could reason and plan ahead but just not as effectively. New research is showing that this may not be the case. Instead, young children’s brains actually function quite differently, especially in regards to skills like planning ahead.
University of Colorado researchers conducted a creative study to understand how young children (3-year-olds) follow directions compared to older children (8-year-olds). They set up a simple computer game involving a set of rules.

  • When a picture of the character Blue (from Blue’s Clues) was followed by a picture of a watermelon, the child was told to press the happy face button.
  • When any other character appeared (e.g., SpongeBob Squarepants) they were told to press the sad face button.
  • The researchers then used a device to measure the children’s eye activity to determine how much mental effort they were using to complete the task.

What they found was that the older children had to exert very little mental effort to do this task because they could anticipate which picture was coming up next. Preschoolers, however, had to use more effort to think about which button to push in response to the game. They had to consciously think back to the character they had just seen, instead of being able to anticipate the future.
So what does this mean for parents of preschoolers? As the researchers point out, this study seems to indicate that parents shouldn’t expect their preschooler to think ahead – for example: to bring their coat when going outside – even if you told them in advance. Just repeating this type of information over and over probably won’t help. While your preschooler is probably listening to you, their brain doesn’t really retrieve this information until it becomes immediately needed, like when they step outside and realize it’s cold. The researchers put it this way,

“The good news is what we’re saying to our kids doesn’t go in one ear and out the other, like people might have thought,” said CU-Boulder psychology Professor Yuko Munakata. “It also doesn’t go in and then get put into action like it does with adults. But rather it goes in and gets stored away for later.”

The good news is that children can improve in following instructions. Remember, their little brains are immature but very flexible. Like exercising muscles, you can help your child “exercise” their brain to do new tasks.
When you ask your child to do something requires them to look beyond their own immediate desires, their brain has to switch gears. As psychologist Laura Markham points out, the more practice they get doing this willingly, the more exercise their brain gets in working towards an outward goal. They key here is: willingly. It’s important to work with your child for compliance so those brain connections take hold. If you force them to do something, it’s much less effective.
It may sound simplistic, but those old-fashioned games we played as kids really can help our own kids learn these self-discipline skills. Remember games like freeze dance and Simon Says? These simple games help kids exercise those brain connections that require them to wait and not act on their immediate impulse. There’s a reason these games are still played (or should be played) in preschools.
Psychologists also suggest that you can help create a “bridge” from the activity your child is engaged in (e.g., playing) to the task you want them to do (e.g., get shoes on). This involves more than just the “two-minute warning” that we all use on a regular basis. It goes a step further and encourages the child to bridge the gap between the fun activity and the required task. So maybe you suggest your child drive his toy train over to the shoe rack to begin putting on shoes. You could suggest a race to see who can put their jacket on the fastest. All these “bridges” help connect their play to the task at hand. This helps ease the transition and can even make it seem like fun.
Of course, children’s brains do eventually mature to the point that they can plan ahead and anticipate future events. Even the 8-year-olds in the study already had a much easier time completing the task than the preschoolers. In the meantime, this study is a good reminder that young children are not just like adults in smaller bodies. They are probably not actively trying to ignore you – yet.

New Peanut Allergy Patch Could Be Available Soon

Parents of kids with severe peanut allergies- here’s some good news.

If your child is one of the roughly 1.5 million children in the United States allergic to peanuts, you probably wish there was a quick fix solution available so that you no longer need to stress about your child getting anywhere close to a peanut. Fortunately, scientists are one step closer to such a solution—a skin patch that could stop severe peanut allergies.

DBV Technologies has developed a wearable patch that delivers small amounts of peanut protein through the skin. This type of innovative treatment is called epicutaneous immunotherapy or EPIT. Inside each patch is a sprayed-on sample of peanut protein. Once the child puts it on, the protein makes its way into the immune system through the skin. Because of the way it is delivered, the allergen never makes it to the bloodstream. This approach prevents any allergic reaction from occurring.

The patch is different from how allergies are typically treated. Usually, the only way to reduce the impact of an allergic reaction is to desensitize the individual by gradually introducing small amounts of the allergen into the body. In the case of peanut allergies, that means eating peanuts, which can be scary for parents. The patch takes away the need to train the immune system to tolerate peanuts.

The patch is currently being tested by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and conducted by the NIAID-funded Consortium of Food Allergy Research(CoFAR). It just passed phase II of the clinical trial.

Throughout the testing, the patch was found to be safe and well-tolerated. It shows promise for treating children and young adults with a peanut allergy, with greater benefits for younger children. The company showed that 83 percent of children ages 6 to 11 who took part in the trial could eat 1,000 milligrams of peanuts without having an allergic reaction after wearing a patch for three years. That is 10 times the amount of peanut they could tolerate at the beginning of the study.

The overall goal of the multi-phase study is for the children to be exposed to a small amount of peanut protein for a total of three years. Results of the year-long first part of the study were released in 2014. This latest set of data is from the extension of that first trial, in which all patients were given the opportunity to go on the higher dose patch (250 micrograms of peanut protein) for two years.

The company is now focusing the phase III clinical trials on the six to 11-year-old age group. They are also in the process of launching the first trial for children ages one to three. Finally, they intend to evaluate how to best study adolescents and adults. Results from these studies should be available by late 2017, and then the company plans to apply for FDA approval.

While you wait for the patch to be approved, please follow the latest peanut allergy recommendations recently announced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Also, stay tuned for news on more patches to treat other food allergies such as milk and eggs and for non-food allergies connected to asthma.

How Time Outside Can Keep Your Kid Out of Glasses

FYI: carrots aren’t going to help at all.

Last year, during frequent travels to Singapore, I saw public health billboards proclaiming, “Keep myopia away, go outdoors and play!” I saw them so often my interest was piqued to discover how playing outdoors was beneficial for children’s eyesight. What I found in scientific and medical journals was both fascinating and compelling – and a definite call to action to get our whole family outdoors as much as possible.
Dr. Donald O. Mutti at the College of Optometry and the College of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology and Biometrics at Ohio State University, and his colleagues have done numerous studies on how parental history of myopia (or nearsightedness, caused by elongation of the eyeball) affects the prevalence of the condition in their children and how playing sports and doing other outdoor activities affect prevalence. They have also studied how, and if, indoor activities, like reading and screen usage contribute to onset of nearsightedness.
In a study Mutti and colleagues published in “Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science”, they write that an estimated 25 percent of adult Americans are nearsighted. Examination and treatment costs exceed $4.6 billion yearly, so “being able to slow or stop myopia progression and ultimately prevent the occurrence is important.”
Mutti and colleagues analyzed 514 children, looking at the prevalence of myopia in their parents, how many hours the children spent reading, and how many hours the children spent outdoors. Their results, “Lower amounts of sports and outdoor activity increased the odds of becoming myopic… “
In e-mail correspondence, Dr. Mutti explained, “The current theory is that the benefit of being outside comes from the brighter light outdoors compared to indoors. Even the cloudiest day is 10 times brighter than being indoors.” Dr. Mutti said that this light stimulates dopamine in the retina, which then slows the growth of the eye. The benefit could be caused by UVB creating more vitamin D, but that theory is not yet widely accepted. But the idea that sunlight leads to better eye health is.
Dr. Ian Morgan, who works at Australian National University and at Sun Yat-sen University in China, said, “Recent controlled trials have shown that introducing time outdoors into schools, with about two hours a day halving the rate of new cases of myopia.” In medical terms, those two to three hours translates to 10,000 Lux per day (the unit of light measurement or intensity), which is the amount needed for what Dr. Morgan calls “the protective effect.” (In contrast, bright office or school light has about 500 Lux.)
These results are similar to what Dr. Mike Yang found. Yang, from the Canada’s Centre for Contact Lens Research, worked with researchers from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and studied students in grades one through eight during the 2014-2015 academic year. They found that “the risk a child will develop myopia decreases by approximately 14 percent with just one additional hour of outdoor time per week.”
With similar results around the globe, the importance of outdoor sunlight to eye health is obvious, but as Dr. Mutti conceded in his e-mail, “There are lots of good reasons to be outside, but more time outdoors does not help the child who is already myopic.” So far no study has shown that myopia progress rates are slowed by sunlight. But Dr. Mutti said he and his colleagues are working now to try and figure out why.
In the meantime, the kids and I will be outside for a few hours each day, clouds or shine, walking the dog, kicking a ball, gardening, or doing whatever we can to soak up the sun.

The Troubling Way Our Brains Are Wired for Prejudice

But it’s obviously not inevitable.

It’s hard to imagine where some of these people come from. When you see graffiti on a wall calling to “Make America White Again” or an Alt-Right assembly throw up the Nazi salute, it’s hard to wrap your mind around how someone could become that filled with hate.
What happened? How is it possible that people who started off life as nothing more than children grow into hate-filled, prejudiced human beings?
We like to say that nobody is born racist, but it’s not entirely true. The dark reality is that the seed that grows into racism exists in everyone. Human beings are born predisposed to prejudice. Even if we don’t let that seed grow into hatred, many of us still feel a sense of “otherness” about other races. Whether we want it to or not, it affects the way we interact.
It’s just how our brains are wired. We instinctively sort people into groups, and that sparks a natural psychological process that, if left unchecked, can push us into racism and fear.
And it starts nearly as soon as we are born.

6 months old: racial grouping begins

By the time babies are about six months old, they start grouping people by skin color. Throughout the short lives they’ve lived so far, they’ve been looking at the faces around them. They’ve seen the faces of their parents, their friends, and the people who give them affection. They’ve started putting those faces into a group that, for the rest of their lives, will be a part of their concept of who they are.
At six months, kids start noticing that people’s skin colors are different and reacting to it. Psychologists have found that, when a six-month-old child who has mainly seen white people sees a black person, their brain registers the difference. They have a jolt of attention, thinking, essentially, this is different.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s the start of something bigger. The baby is starting to recognize that people have different races. More to the point, they’re starting to realize what race their parents are, and they’re developing the concept that this is their group. This is their normal – and every other race is something else.

9 months old: racial fear can begin

Not everybody goes through this, but it happens to some people. If a child has a bad experience with a specific race, it can condition them. Just like Pavlov’s dog salivating at the ring of a bell, a child can learn to feel fear when they see a certain race – and that can start at least as young as 9 months, if not earlier.
It took an absolutely horrible experiment to prove this. A psychologist got a 9-month-old boy to fear furry animals by terrifying the boy every time he saw one. He gave him a pet rat and made loud noises when he saw him. As the child grew up, he became conditioned to feel uncontrollably afraid every time he saw anything furry.
The same thing can happen with races. A traumatizing experience with a race can condition a person to feel anxious whenever they see them. A minority child who gets picked on by his classmates, for example, might learn to fear their entire race – and that fear will be ingrained in them for the rest of their lives.

15 months old: awareness of inequality grows

We start to be affected by the way society treats people by the time we’re 15 months old. We start to notice that the world isn’t fair, and it affects the way we think.
In an experiment, researchers passed out toys, sometimes fairly and sometimes unfairly. Their goal was to find out how babies react to unfairness. As they expected, the babies wanted to play with the fair researchers more than the unfair ones. Or, at least they usually did.
When the researchers split the toys down racial lines, something different happened. Now the babies understood the prejudice. They could understand that they got more toys because the researcher had the same skin color as they did, and they accepted it. They were on the same racial team as the researcher, and they wanted to spend more time with them.
The babies, in short, were noticing social inequality. If their race was on top, they didn’t question it. They accepted it and stuck with their own race – because they wanted to reap the benefits.

3 years old: racial preferences begin

Babies start feeling more comfortable with their own racial group by the time they are nine months old. It comes out in the way they see faces. When newborns, babies distinguish every race’s face equally, but at the age of three that starts to change.
Psychologists showed pictures of faces to babies and found that they had more positive reactions to their own race. When they misread an emotion, it was usually to think their own race as “happy” when it wasn’t and to think of other races as “angry” when they weren’t.
This is probably because they connect their own race with their parents. Once they can group races, they start connecting their parent’s race with the positive emotions they feel for them. They draw on their limited experience and conclude that their own race can be counted on to love and care for them – but they still don’t know what to make of people who are different.

5 years old: stereotyping begins

By the time children are five, all these little prejudices have started to grow into full-fledged opinions. They’ve started to accept that they are grouped into races, and now it’s not just an awareness – it’s a worldview.
At five, kids’ experiences and what they’ve heard from their parents have shaped a lot of how they see the world. They can divide people into racial groups and form opinions about what each racial group is like.  
Kids in Israel, for example, think Arabs are completely different from them. In a poll, most Israeli five-year-olds expressed the belief that Jewish boys and Jewish girls have more similar interests than Jewish boys and Arab boys. In other words, they saw racial lines more prominently than they saw gender lines.
That doesn’t happen in every culture. It did in Israel because, there, racial divides can affect everyday life. If kids have been encouraged to stereotype, they will. And they won’t just copy their parents’ views – they’ll take them even further. Because they have limited experiences and are still predisposed to think in simple groups, they see the world through even more of an “us vs. them” lens than adults do.

More than 5 years old: racial anxiety grows

All these fears and prejudices build up, and they start to affect the way people think. Once children have these emotional reactions to other races ingrained in them, they become a part of them. At this point, it’s not just a choice to be racist. It’s a biological reaction.
When people see a race they’re prejudiced against, their bodies naturally release stress hormones. This race is dangerous, they’ve been conditioned to believe, and so their bodies start getting them ready to either fight or run away.
This can have a major impact on the quality of someone’s life. It doesn’t just stop with inequality; it affects every part of life. It’s believed that African Americans are more prone to heart disease because they spend more time feeling racial fear.

The cure

So what are we supposed to do? If our minds naturally build up discomfort and intolerance around other races, how are we supposed to ensure that our kids don’t grow up that way?
The answer is exposure. The more time children – or anyone, really – spends with people from other races, the less they view them as an outsider group. They stop feeling fear or difference and start to accept them.
It changes a lot. People who spend more time with other races have better views of them, have more interracial friendships, and are more likely to fall in love with someone from another race. They’re more open-minded about everything because they start to understand other cultures.
Which means, if we want our kids to have a more peaceful future, we have to integrate. We have to live and raise our children side-by-side. If we do that, when our brains sort us into groups, they’ll put us together with the whole human race.

Is Burping a Baby More Habit Than Help?

What do parenting manuals have to say about the practice? And whom does burping benefit more: the baby, or its caregivers?

Although I never had one of my own, I watched the commercial enough times to know exactly how to care for a Baby Burpee. Twenty-five years later, I still know that patting her on the back “really makes her feel so much better,” even though she has long ago been supplanted by more realistic crying and wetting dolls.
Burping is such a reflexive action that we might not even think about why we do it. You feed the baby. You burp the baby. But why do we burp babies? What do parenting manuals have to say about the practice? And whom does burping benefit more: the baby, or its caregivers?

Contradictory advice on burping

When I’m looking for a deep dive into parenting advice, I turn to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ mammoth “Caring for Your Baby and Young Child”. Weighing in at just under 1,000 pages, this book covers all the developmental milestones from birth to age five and describes treatment for most common and many uncommon conditions children may have. Its entry for “burping, hiccups, and spitting up” offers the following advice:

Young babies naturally fuss and get cranky when they swallow air during feedings. Although this occurs in both breastfed and bottle-fed infants, it’s seen more often with the bottle. When it happens, it may be helpful to stop the feeding rather than letting your infant fuss and nurse at the same time. This continued fussing will cause her to swallow even more air, which will only increase her discomfort and may make her spit up.

A much better strategy is to burp her frequently, even if she shows no discomfort. The pause and change of position alone will slow her gulping and reduce the amount of air she takes in.

This advice, or some version of it, is the advice most of us would probably give if asked about burping. But it’s not the only advice out there.
Michael Cohen’s “The New Baby Basics” is much lighter than the AAP’s manual and takes a decidedly lassiez-faire approach to parenting. Cohen’s simple, alphabetized format makes it a wonderful guide for middle-of-the-night reassurance about a host of common issues. The book is, in essence, a comprehensive list of things not to worry about.
Cohen’s entry for burping, for example, begins with the assertion that burping is “not all that important.” Cohen explains:

Burping happens when the stomach releases air that was swallowed while feeding or crying. Newborns don’t often burp, since they eat slowly and sleep most of the day, allowing little chance for air to enter the stomach. Bottle-fed babies tend to ingest more air, because artificial nipples aren’t as easy to seal a little mouth around. Therefore, as a good rule of thumb, if there’s no air, there’s no burp. So don’t go pounding on Lucy’s back for hours in search of audible results. And if she drifts off after a meal, you might as well let her sleep; even if you don’t tap, the air will still make its way up, if less dramatically.

While the AAP advises parents to burp their babies even if their babies seem comfortable, Cohen advises parents to leave them alone.

The medical case for burping

Cohen suggests that former feeding practices are in part responsible for the pervasiveness of the “burping myth.” When parents were instructed to feed their infants set amounts of formula, babies often ended up vomiting. Out of that vomiting arose concerns that babies would choke on vomit. Instead of changing the amount babies were being fed, parents burped the babies. Now that the general practice is to feed babies on demand, Cohen argues, there’s generally no need to burp them.
There is some evidence to suggest that babies with underdeveloped lower esophageal sphincters may need to be burped, because in those babies burping is thought to help keep food in the stomach. But babies with perfectly well developed esophageal sphincters (that is, babies who are not doing “Exorcist” style projectile vomiting after feedings) do not need help keeping food in their stomachs.
The two main medical reasons offered for burping otherwise healthy babies are that 1) colic is improved with regular burping and that 2) burping reduces the risk of SIDS. Neither of these conditions has been effectively linked to the presence or absence of burping.
A recent study comparing babies who were burped and babies who were not burped found no differences in colic between the two groups. Mother-child pairs were randomized to a burping or no burping group. The study was small, enrolling only 71 mother-child pairs, but its findings are intriguing. In addition to finding that burping did not appear to affect rates of colic, the study also found that babies who were burped actually experienced higher rates of regurgitation than babies who were not burped.
Burping has also been connected to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) because of a 2007 article in the journal “Medical Hypotheses”. The problem with this connection is that it was, as the journal’s title suggests, a hypothesis. “Medical Hypotheses” has been a significant source of controversy, because, up until 2010, the articles in it were not peer-reviewed.
It’s important to note that, despite this article’s priority in internet search results, no peer-reviewed study has proven that either the presence or absence of burping is a contributing risk factor to SIDS deaths.

Why burping persists

Cohen’s advice against burping runs counter to every family member and stranger who interacted with my child. I didn’t regularly burp him, but he was often burped, reflexively, by everyone else who held him. So why are we still burping babies in the absence of strong medical evidence?
Burping may not have a medical function, but it may serve an important psychological function for caregivers. In his commentary on the above study of burping and colic rates, physician Ahmed Rashid writes: “There can be few more frustrating consultations than those with first-time parents trying to manage infantile colic. The desperation in their sleep-deprived voices can make it extremely difficult not to offer some intervention.”
This focus on exhausted parents puts advice about burping into a new perspective. What if burping is not for the baby, but for that baby’s caregivers?
Observe the following two sentences: “The baby was burped” and “The baby burped.” In the first sentence, the baby had something done to it: A caregiver burped it. In the second sentence, the baby’s in control: He or she burped.
What if we imagined these two sentences as parenting philosophies? The first sentence, reflected in the advice from the AAP, suggests that babies need parents to do everything on their behalf. It also indirectly offers the powerful encouragement that parents can do something in the wake of colic or other similar situations.
The second sentence, reflected in Cohen’s advice, suggests that letting a child burp on its own (or not) offers the tiniest bit of agency to the tiniest of humans. Choosing to not burp the baby, then, can be one step in a long process of helping a child gain incremental independence. But Cohen’s advice is cold comfort for parents up at all hours with a screaming infant. It asks them to accept that, sometimes, there’s nothing a parent can do to calm a screaming baby.
Just like Baby Burpees – some of whom are still out there being burped – today’s babies are probably going to be burped. Perhaps that’s because burping is a ritual for parents, making us feel that we have some measure of control over our otherwise chaotic first years with our babies.

Why Harsh Parenting Can Put Kids On The Wrong Track

A new study shows overly aggressive, harsh parenting can make kids more susceptible to peer pressure, and ultimately more likely to drop out of school.

Figuring out the most effective way to discipline our children can be quite a challenge. If you are too loose and try to be their best friend, they will walk all over you, but if you are too hard on your kids, it can backfire and impact their education and future success.
A new study Published in Child Development on February 8, 2017, shows that overly aggressive, harsh parenting can make kids more susceptible to peer pressure, and ultimately more likely to drop out of school. A large body of research over the years has made it clear that using corporal punishment can harm our children, including causing mental health issues like anxiety and depression, reducing cognitive ability, and tainting the parent-child relationship.
This new study, according to the head researcher, is the first to use children’s life experiences with their parents as a framework to explore how parenting can affect children’s educational success with regard to relationships with peers, sexual behavior, and delinquency.
What is considered harsh parenting? For the purposes of this research, harsh parenting was defined as yelling, hitting, and engaging in intimidating behaviors like verbal or physical threats as a means of punishment by a parent to their child.

The Study

Researchers evaluated 1,482 students living in the Washington, D.C. area attending seventh grade – most were 12 years old. They tracked them for a total of nine years until three years after their expected graduation from college at around 21 years old. The participants were from a broad range of racial, socioeconomic, and geographic backgrounds.
The students were asked to regularly report on their parents’ use of physical and verbal aggression, as well as their own interactions with peers, delinquency, and sexual behavior. For example, they indicated behavior such as relying on peers instead of doing homework. When participants were 21, they shared their highest level of education obtained.
The researchers wanted to explore whether children growing up in environments with this type of inflexible parenting would be less likely to complete high school or go to college. Evolutionary theories have suggested that harsh environments can make survival uncertain. Therefore, individuals growing up in these environments tend to seek out immediate rewards rather than focus on long-term goals or outcomes.
Many of the messages that children hear about the importance of education address long-term goals, like getting into a good college or finding a better-paying job. This outlook does not appeal to children raised by aggressive, rigid parents.  

What researchers found

The data showed a chain of events that caused kids with parents who regularly yelled at them or threatened them with aggressive punishments to be more likely to drop out of high school or college than their peers. This occurred regardless of the grades they were getting or their socioeconomic status.
This is how it works: Students who were parented harshly in seventh grade were more likely in ninth grade to say that their peer group was more important than other responsibilities, including following their parents’ rules, doing chores, and getting their homework done.
This, in turn, led them to engage in more risky behaviors in eleventh grade, including early sexual behavior in females and greater delinquency, like stealing and getting in fights, for males. These behaviors, in turn, led to low educational achievement three years after high school. It was clear that those who were parented harshly were more likely to drop out of high school or college.
Why was this the case? These kids did not have an issue with school itself, but were more likely to put their friends first and get involved in negative behaviors to make them feel good in the short term instead of being focused on the long term.
When humans are placed in a situation where there is a lot of harshness, unpredictability, and/or danger, we are more likely to look for immediate short-term rewards to feel better about ourselves and our situation. It is very hard to focus on the future when you are just trying to get through each day. These kids had no interest in focusing on the big picture like getting good grades. Instead, they avoided homework and broke their parents’ rules to hang out with a friend.
In other words, kids whose needs, like affectionare not met by their parents will look for it elsewhere. However, this may lead to unhealthy behaviors to fit in and get attention from peers. The children in the study explained that they were more influenced by the opinion of their friends than their parents who treated them in a nasty way. The problem with this is, then, these kids are more susceptible to peer pressure, which can lead them down a bad path like teen pregnancy, drug use, or crime.

The takeaway for parents

This research reiterates how important it is for parents to avoid verbal and physical aggression towards their children. This type of parenting will only impede your child’s success for the rest of their lives.
It is okay to be strict to a point, but there is a clear line in which tough parenting becomes unpleasant for the child. This can lead the child to seek out a connection to others in a way that will probably only make you angrier.
If you are frustrated with your kids not listening to you, try some alternative disciplinary approaches like mindfulness, positive reinforcement, taking away privileges, and encouraging them to express their emotions through creativity like writing and art. Finally, do not hesitate to seek out professional help by visiting a doctor or therapist.
It is also important not to put too much pressure on your kids, especially as they enter the teen years. Be careful about overwhelming them with questions and concerns regarding their future. Instead, try engaging them in enjoyable short-term goals that are realistically attainable so they can reap the immediate rewards.