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Entries in Adolescence (5)

Thursday
Mar282013

Teens' Peer Struggles Can Forecast Long-Term Problems

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- According to a new study, teenagers who struggle to connect with their peers often struggle to make friends and avoid problems later in life, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Virginia published the results of the study in the journal Child Development.

Joseph P. Allen, Hugh P. Kelly Distinguished Professor at the University of Virginia, led the study. "Overall, we found that teens face a high-wire act with their peers," said Allen. "They need to establish strong, positive connections with them while at the same time establishing independence in resisting deviant peer influences. Those who don’t manage this have significant problems as much as a decade later."

The study followed approximately 150 teens for 10 years in order to determine whether there were long-term impacts to peer struggles during the adolescent years. The study found that there were long-terms effects, including difficulty managing disagreements in romantic relationships.

Additionally, the study showed that teens who were involved in minor forms of deviance were at higher risk of alcohol and substance use and illegal behavior later in life.

According to the study, teens who managed to connect with others while still standing up for themselves and "becoming their own persons" were rated as the most competent overall by age 23.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct252012

Porn Before Puberty? Film Explores Childhood, Parenting in Sex-Saturated Culture

Sexy Baby(NEW YORK) -- "Is this slutty?" Danielle, having just put on a skirt, asked her friend Winnifred. Lady Gaga's "Monster" played in the background. "Just dance but he took me home instead/Oh oh there was a monster in my bed," the girls sang along.

"That's a good length," Winnifred answered. "It's short, but in a cool way, not, like, a slutty way."

Winnifred and Danielle are modern-day 12-year-olds. But they're not playing dress-up -- they're getting ready for a Lady Gaga concert.

Winnifred carefully curates her online profile, pushing her budding sexuality to jack up her Facebook "likes."

The documentary Sexy Baby, which was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival, follows Winnifred's adolescence from age 12 to age 15, and delves into the world of porn before puberty. Winnifred's journey in the documentary reflects that of many pre-teens today, and through her eyes parents worldwide get a glimpse into the hyper-sexualized culture their children are facing today.

"I know I look like I'm down to f---," Winnifred says in the film.

The film explores how much social media adds fuel to the hormonal fire. Winnifred posted a revealing picture of herself with her bra showing. Why?

"It's awkward, and we're getting messages from everywhere that are saying, 'If you dress this way, you are going to be either treated well or you're gonna feel powerful,'" Winnifred told ABC News' Juju Chang.

Sex is power, and that's how a lot of girls and boys seem to feel these days.

Winnifred's mother, Jenny Bonjean, is a feminist who says she's trying to raise an uninhibited, empowered girl.

"My message to my daughter is, sexuality is a wonderful, beautiful thing. You should embrace it. ... It's not the only type of power you're gonna have. Unfortunately, it is in the culture the first power that they feel ... where 13-year-old girls can have influences on grown men," Bonjean-Alpart said.

"You don't think they realize that?" she continued. "It feels good to have power. ... You don't want to abuse it. Don't take it for granted. You need to find a balance."

Winnifred's father, Ken Alpart, described the two reactions he and his wife have to balance.

"We don't necessarily want her to dress certain ways," he said. "At the same time, we are raising our child to be an independent thinker."

Jenny Bonjean argued that early freedom could help prevent extreme acting out later on.

"We all know those women that went to college that had really, really strict parents who didn't let them experiment with anything, and they went wild in college. ... Girls gone wild, you know, is a phenomenon, and so many of those girls come from households, in my opinion, where they were tamped down on."

The risk is that allowing a child too much freedom to express her sexuality can lead her to act on it.

"I can put a very sexualized photo of me on Facebook and make it so my parents don't know, but every guy at my school does," Winnifred said. "So that does become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because when you make yourself look a certain way, people are going to expect you to be that way."

"I can make your bed rock," Winnifred, then 12, sings in the film. The song is rapper Li'l Wayne's "Bedrock."

Did she and her friends know what the song was about?

"We did realize how obscene it was [when we sang it in the film]," Winnifred told Chang. "I think because it was so mainstream, it wasn't shocking to us. ... If you hear that song f---ing three times a day for two weeks, they're easy to understand -- even when you are 12 or 13."

Music is just the beginning. Pornography itself has become mainstream and ubiquitous -- accessible even to kids.

"When I can reach into my back pocket [for my smartphone] and basically pull out some porn ... you can't really blame a bunch of children for not understanding how to deal with that," Winnifred said.

Winnifred said that when she was in eighth grade, boys watched porn on their phones at school.

According to the award-winning filmmakers of Sexy Baby, Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, one in every five kids between ages 9 and 11 has watched porn. They hope their film will start a conversation between parents and their kids about how to maneuver the sexualized social media world.

The film includes a former porn star named Nicole who is an unlikely voice of reason about what porn sex is and isn't.

"It's definitely not making love," Nicole says. "Making love is the kind of sex that you wanna cry afterwards, just because it's so beautiful, and so emotional, and so powerful."

According to Sexy Baby, 30 years ago, 40 percent of adults said they watched porn, and now it's 80 percent.

Nicole, the former porn star and stripper, told the filmmakers she used to have to drive far and wide to find an adult store at the mall to buy her strip-club outfits. Now, she said, she can walk into any mall, look in the windows and stripper clothes and shoes are everywhere.

Perhaps ironically, given the "pornification" of America culture, the filmmakers are editing a tamer version of Sexy Baby for educational use -- to spark the healthy dialogue they see as vital.

Winnifred agrees. "I think if parents are able to talk to their children, and their children are able to feel comfortable talking about what real love and real sex later on is, I and most of the kids I know would trust our parents over two porn stars that we've never met."

Watch the full story on Nightline Thursday night at 11:35 p.m. ET


'Sexy Baby' is playing in theaters in New York and Los Angeles and will be available on iTunes and Movies on Demand Nov. 6. A 60- minute educational version for children 14 years old and up is available too. For more on the documentary, go to sexybabymovie.com.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug272012

Teenage Marijuana Use May Hurt Future IQ

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Teenagers lighting joints may end up less bright, according to new research released Monday.

In a study of more than 1,000 adolescents in New Zealand, those who began habitually smoking marijuana before age 18 showed an eight-point drop in IQ between the ages of 13 and 38, a considerable decline. The average IQ is 100 points. A drop of eight points represents a fall from the 50th percentile to the 29th percentile in terms of intelligence.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, charted the IQ changes in participants over two decades.

Researchers tested the IQs of all of the study subjects at age 13 before any habitual marijuana use. They then split the study into five “waves” during which time they assessed cannabis use -- ages 18, 21, 26, 32, and 38. They again tested IQ at age 38. The authors also controlled for alcohol use, other drug use and education level.

The eight-point drop in IQ was found in subjects who started smoking in adolescence and persisted in “habitual smoking” -- that is, using cannabis at least four days per week -- in three or more of the five study waves.

People who started smoking in adolescence but used marijuana less persistently still had a hit to their IQ’s, but it was less pronounced than the group that used it early and persistently.

In contrast, those who never used marijuana at all gained nearly one IQ point on average.

Madeline Meier, lead researcher and a post-doctoral associate at Duke University, said that persistent use of marijuana in adolescence appeared to blunt intelligence, attention and memory. More persistent marijuana use was associated with greater cognitive decline.

“Collectively, these findings are consistent with speculation that cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain is undergoing critical development, may have neurotoxic effects,” Meier writes in the study.

Of particular worry is the permanence of these effects among people who began smoking marijuana in adolescence. Even after these subjects stopped using marijuana for a year, its adverse effects persisted and some neurological deficits remained. People who did not engage in marijuana smoking until after adolescence showed no adverse effects on intelligence.

Experts in child development said the reasons adolescents may be more susceptible to the harmful effects of marijuana may have to do with a substance called myelin. Myelin can be thought of as a kind of insulation for nerve cells in the brain that also helps speed brain signals along -- and in adolescent brains, the protective coating it forms is not yet complete.

The study appears to lend credence to “stoner” stereotypes in popular media. However, no previous studies can provide data for this phenomenon, since establishing whether a drop in IQ has actually occurred requires that a baseline IQ be obtained before a person ever started using marijuana.  This study did just that.

“[The findings] provide evidence for the actual -- rather than ideological and legal -- basis for concerns regarding cannabis use,” said Dessa Bergen-Cico, a assistant professor of public health, food studies and nutrition at Syracuse University.  “These findings reinforce recommendations on the importance of primary prevention, evidence based drug education and policy efforts targeting not only adolescents, but elementary age children before they start.”

Though the study was conducted among New Zealand young people, the findings could be extended to adolescents in the United States as well. According to statistics released in June by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American teenagers today are more likely to be using marijuana than tobacco products. Of particular worry is the attitude that marijuana is one of the more harmless drugs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug302011

Is It Mom's Fault When Sons Turn Delinquent?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Are teenage boys delinquent because they don't have a close relationship with their mothers, or does a child's character determine how easy it is for a parent to foster warmth and closeness? Is it anyone's fault?

A new longitudinal study published this week in the journal Child Development suggests that mother-son bonds are critical in determining a boy's behavior as a teenager.

Both the study and a new film -- We Need to Talk About Kevin -- raise questions about which comes first: the inability of a mother to show warmth toward the child or the child's inability to bond with the parent.

Reseachers say it's not anyone's fault, but the relationship is critical to the child's healthy development.

The study was conducted at Wayne State University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Montreal and the University of Oregon. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The study concluded that the biggest influence on future delinquency was extended conflict -- "arguing and fighting and it feels like you are struggling" -- after the child starts school and then grows into adolescence.

"Continued conflict, long after the child is 5, is the highest predictor of delinquency," according to lead author Christopher Trentacosta, an assistant professor of psychology at Wayne State University. "Continuing to have conflict -- that matters."

The study evokes the theme of the new film, We Need to Talk About Kevin, which drew stellar reviews at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Tilda Swinton plays a mother whose unusually difficult son tests the limits of her love and eventually grows into a psychotic teenager.

In the study, researchers looked at the development of the quality of the mother-son relationship between the ages of 5 and 15, paying particular attention to parental warmth and conflict. They followed 265 families as part of the Pitt Mother and Child Project in Pittsburgh, which examined vulnerability and resilience in low-income boys.

In each pair of mother and son, scientists evaluated where the family lived, the mother's relationship with her husband or partner, the quality of her parenting and the child's temperament. Other variables were the boys' behavior, their relationship with friends and their "sense of morality" during the teen years.

Boys who were difficult as toddlers had lower levels of closeness with their mothers over time. And when mothers had positive relationships with their romantic partners, the boys stayed closer and fared better.

How a teen related to his mother also reflected better relationships with best friends in adolescence.

The study concluded that "rather than remaining static, parent-child relationships during middle childhood and adolescence are characterized by transformations and realignment."

Scientists say the warmth of the parent-child relationship may stabilize during middle childhood, then turn sour during the early teen years before improving in the late teens. Often, children, as they grow older, experience conflict with their mothers, which subsides before typical rebellion sets in during the teen years. That, too, wanes in late teens.

As teens approach their 20s, they tend to have fewer confrontations with their mothers, according to Trentacosta. "Speculation is that kids are better able to manage themselves and their behavior and don't have as many temper tantrums," he said. "There is a myth out there that conflict increases in adolescence. The overall frequency of conflict and how often you feel like you are struggling is more often when the child is 5 than at 12."

How the relationship between mother and son changes can affect boys' behavior when they become teens, according to researchers.

In a subset of the group of study participants -- fewer than 10 percent -- boys and their mothers reported consistently high levels of conflict that didn't dissipate after they grew older. For them, those conflicts spelled trouble.

But Dr. Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, said these study results have to be "parsed very carefully."

"Mothers may bond and attach better with a child who is less deviant, more cooperative, more affectionate and more like them," he said. "It's the other way around -- having a wonderful child leads to better outcomes."

Kazdin said that although this study confirms the importance of warmth and closeness, if the findings are misinterpreted, "it's just another way to put pressure on mom."

Many factors go into raising a healthy child, according to Kazdin, including parenting practices, genetics and environmental influences.

"People should not be alarmed if they have a bad relationship with a child," he said. "Of course, a good relationship is always better. But talk to them, listen to them and be comforting. If you don't have a good relationship, it's not that you blew it. Maybe it's the character of your child that made it difficult."

Conversely, establishing a good relationship with the child is "no guarantee to prevent delinquency," he said.

Kazdin noted that Yale has been working on changing parent-child interactions to prevent violent behavior, including improving communication.

"Parents get discouraged when they see their teens don't want anything to do with them, but that's totally false," he said. "Kids want to talk with their parents about drugs and sex, not with their peers, but the parents aren't approachable."

Trentacosta said his study took into consideration a child's temperament in measurements taken when the boys were 18 months and 24 months old.

"We found among the boys different temperaments predicted elevated levels of conflict and also predicted less warmth," he said. "There was a lot of arguing and fighting. Moms felt less closeness and warmth."

Trentacosta agrees that the findings are "more nuanced" than just whether or not the mother and son have a "good or bad relationship."

"It wasn't so much the parenting behavior, but more about how the parents perceived that aspect of their relationship," he said.

He said the study may have positive implications for prevention and intervention, addressing conflict in the parent-child relationship in family-focused programs with the ultimate goal of reducing delinquent behavior.

"Like all things, you shouldn't put it on the kid or on the parent, what matters most is the relationship," said Trentacosta. "If you want to prevent the kid from delinquency, [the parent and the child] need to do something different. The two could work on their relationship, especially at an early age."

The study findings encourage parents to pay attention to conflict early and to get help.

"Maybe you seek out more interaction therapy focused on the relationship," he said. "There are a lot of great treatment approaches working with the child and the parent together in a room to learn how to manage their conflict and to interact in a healthier and happier way.

"It's nobody's fault," he said. "You need to pay attention to the relationship."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr072011

Study: BMI In Adolescence Tied to Later Heart Disease  

Comstock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Obesity in adulthood is known to be associated with diabetes and heart disease.  But does a longer history of being somewhat overweight pose an added risk of coronary disease?  That's what a new study sought to find out.

Teenagers with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above -- which is considered obese -- are at a greater risk for diabetes and heart disease later in life. 

But a study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that an elevated BMI in what would be a normal range during adolescence also increases the risk for coronary heart disease.

Researchers in Israel followed more than 37,000 healthy men in the Israeli army for an average of 17 and a half years.  The participants were 17 years old when the study began.

They found that an elevated BMI in the adolescent men who were not overweight posed a substantial risk for coronary heart disease in midlife.  The adolescents were four times more likely to develop heart problems compared to the teens with the lowest BMI.

The study concluded that the BMI at 17 is a predictor of heart disease later in life. 

Because the participants were limited to men in the Israeli army, the results may not fully apply to others elsewhere.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio