Entries in Parents (32)


Study: Parents Who Pick Favorites Among Kids Hurt Entire Family YORK) -- Parents may not admit it, but picking favorites among their children is a fairly common practice.  Now, new research reveals that this pattern -- known as differential parenting -- is not only detrimental to the child who receives the negative feedback, but also the entire family.

Additionally, this new study shows that the more drastic the parenting styles between children, the worse the outcome of the mental health of all the children.

"This was really surprising," said Jenny Jenkins, professor in the department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study.  "We expected differential parenting to operate stronger within the parent-child dynamic.  However, differential parenting had a stronger effect on the entire family."

Differential parenting -- giving mostly positive feedback to one child while mostly negative feedback to another -- has long been linked to negative effects for the targeted child.  Until this study published Tuesday in the journal Child Development, however, its broader effects on the family as a whole had not been studied in detail. 

In her four-year longitudinal study, Jenkins observed the behavior of 400 Canadian families through direct in-home observation and self reports.  She and her colleagues found that children in families affected by differential parenting showed higher incidence of problems with attention and social relationships.

"Sibling divisiveness is a known result of differential parenting, with lasting effects into adolescence and adulthood," she said.

In addition, researchers found that differential parenting was linked to other factors -- some of which were present in the home environment, and others that the parents had experienced in the past.

Dr. Rahil Briggs, assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y., said these factors stacked the deck against some parents.

"While all parents know that it's best to avoid comparing siblings to each other, and to strive for equity in terms of attention, optimal parenting of this sort is incredibly difficult when faced with multiple risk factors, such as poverty, mental illness, and a history of adverse childhood experiences," said Briggs, who was not involved with the study.

In short, mothers who were under emotional and financial stress had a harder time being fair to all of their children when parenting.

"While none of this surprises me, it further supports the claim that we must support families, especially those families with young children, to help ameliorate some of these impacts of risk," said Briggs, who is also the director of Montefiore Medical Center's Healthy Steps, a program aimed at getting parents and children off to a healthy start with the help of specialists in child development and behavior.  "The experiences of young children create a foundation upon which future development and behavior is built, and it's really imperative that this foundation be strong."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Survey: Parents and Kids Attached at the Hip and Pocketbook

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Baby boomers are much more communicative with their 20-something-year-old children than they were with their own parents at that age, according to a new survey published in the latest issue of AARP The Magazine.

The online survey, "Parents and Kids: Then and Now," finds that 31 percent of today's young adults communicate with their parents more than once a day; only 13 percent of their parents said they were in touch with their own parents daily.

The survey of 1,034 young adults (aged 21 to 26) and 1,229 parents (aged 47 to 66) is accompanied by an article, "Are You Too Close to Your Kids?"  In it, AARP The Magazine asks if today's parents are too attached to their adult children, hindering their independence.

The survey showed that 60 percent of today's young adults got together with their parents at least once a week; 79 percent said they were comfortable discussing emotional life events; and 81 percent felt comfortable sharing information about their finances.

Both boomer parents (53 percent agreeing) and their children (63 percent) were divided on the statement: "It's better for young adults to live with their parents then to struggle on their own."

"For the last couple of years, we have been bombarded with media reports and all kinds of musings on kids coming back home, and what that means for boomers and the difficulties of young kids getting jobs," said deputy editor Marilyn Milloy about AARP's decision to conduct the survey.  "We tried to figure out a new way to look at this."

AARP The Magazine concludes that millennials are experiencing a new stage of development from their parents' generation -- "emerging adulthood," a term coined by Clark University psychology professor Jeffrey Arnett.

"When I was 18 and went off to college there was absolutely no expectation that I would be coming back home -- you were on your own," said Milloy.  "You had some contact with your parents, but you pretty much survived on your own."

"I couldn't get out of the house fast enough," said Milloy.  She is now the mother of two college-aged children, who still live at home.

"Jeffrey Arnett suggests we really have given short shrift to what is really happening to kids in that period from 18 to 29 -- it's a period of searching and self-discovery, particularly now in a time so complex, where the job market is dicey," she said.  "There are so many options for our kids on a number of fronts, sexual choices and work choices, that they need more guidance than ever."

December's Millennial Jobs Report reveals that youth unemployment rate is at 11.5 percent, according to Generation Opportunity, an organization that advocates for young adults.

Though the survey never specifically addresses the issue of whether parents are too close to their adult children, Milloy said experts interviewed conclude this new connection is positive.

"It's actually nice to be in contact with our kids and have a real adult relationship," she said.  "There is some give and take and a level of respect for advice you have.  Frankly, one of our experts said that historically, [the rebellious boomers'] separation from [their] parents is a cultural blip."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Parents’ Top Resolution for Kids in 2013: Clean Your Room

Jen Siska/Lifesize/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Parents want their children to accomplish many things, but when asked which New Year’s resolutions, if any, they would pick on their behalf, 47 percent of moms and dads said they want their kids to clean their room more often.

The finding comes from a new Harris Interactive survey, which also reveals that 87 percent of parents of kids ages 6-17 want to choose a New Year's resolution for their child or children.

The top resolutions for kids, chosen by parents:

1. Clean up their room more often – 47 percent
2. Be more engaged in school – 33 percent
3. Have healthier eating habits – 33 percent
4. Get more physical activity – 33 percent
5. Play fewer video games – 29 percent
6. Minding their manners – 24 percent
7. Better hygiene – 22 percent
8. Texting less and reading more – 21 percent
9. Being a better friend – 11 percent
10. Other – 4 percent

The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive from Dec. 17-19 on behalf of K12, a provider of online education products and services for students.  The survey involved 2,309 adults, among which 421 are parents of children age 6-17.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


When Is It OK for a Parent to Leave a Newborn?

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Parents with young children always face the dilemma of when they can leave them with others to have a little “me time.”

For Rebecca Eckler, a Canadian journalist, it was after 10 weeks when she took a vacation and left her newborn son with her fiancé’s mother and the nanny.  Eckler never thought taking a vacation would generate the backlash from readers of her recently published article.

“My fiancé runs a charity golf tournament every summer in Mexico,” she wrote in an article for  “I will be tagging along, not to golf, but to lie around, read, visit the spa, and eat a lot of guacamole.”

Eckler told ABC News, “I think a happy mom makes a happy child and you know your child better than anyone else.  Everybody’s going to have an opinion about something including this.”

Eckler admitted that her six-day trip was “… a vacation for me … since I can’t read the mind of a 2-month-old baby, I’m not sure he’s really going to miss me.”

She added: “Yes, I’m ditching my baby… I think that, even from his early age, I’m teaching him a sense of independence.”

Fellow blogger Lindsay Cross had a different opinion.

“When my daughter was young, spending a night away would have been more stressful than relaxing,” she said.

One reader said Eckler is “self-indulgent,” adding that “if you need a weekend away after only 10 weeks, you weren’t ready to become parents.”

This is Eckler's second child and she admits in her story that she didn’t leave her daughter for a night until she was 3 months old.

“I spent my night looking at photographs of her, calling my parents every 30 minutes to see if she was all right,” she wrote.  “But I was a first-time mother then."

“Nine months of pregnancy is a very long time and is very hard on a woman’s body,” Eckler said.  “Pretty much by two weeks in I think most women actually do need a vacation.”

Eckler has authored three books on parenting and her work has been published in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, according to her website.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Kids' Coughs a Casualty of Parental Smoking

Hemera/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Parents who smoke could be killing their child’s cough reflex -- a natural defense against potentially unhealthy particles that enter the airway -- new research suggests.

While the natural inclination may be to assume that kids in smoky households cough more, the new study, published Monday in Oxford Journal’s Nicotine & Tobacco Research, showed exactly the opposite.

A cough serves to help an individual clear his or her airway and protect the lungs from irritating chemicals, food, bacteria or smoke.  These irritants normally trigger a cough reflex when they enter the airway.

Smoking adults are known to have an impaired cough reflex and, hence, a higher “cough threshold.”  In other words, these individuals cannot cough until higher levels of irritating substances are in their airways.  The question the researchers sought to address was whether the same principle applies to children.

Paul Wise, a psychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, and his colleagues studied 38 healthy children between the ages of 10 and 17, roughly half of whom came from households with smoking parents and half who had never been exposed to smoke in their household.

These children were asked to inhale a chemical irritant known as capsaicin -- the burning ingredient found in chili peppers.  Researchers made the children breathe in higher and higher levels of this pepper spray until they coughed twice; this was determined to be their “cough threshold.”

Because capsaicin normally causes irritation of the airway in even very small doses, inhaling a small quantity of the substance directly triggers the cough reflex in normal individuals.

The researchers found that the children who came from homes in which parents smoked at least 10 cigarettes a day required twice the amount of capsaicin as the other children before they reached their cough threshold.

Doctors not involved with the study said the findings are important.

“This study is the first to show that secondhand smoke exposure actually blunts a child’s cough response,” said Dr. Fernando Urrego, head of pediatric pulmonology at Ochsner Children’s Health Center in New Orleans.

“The child’s innate defense mechanism to clear the airway of irritants does not function,” Urrego said.  “These findings may explain why children exposed to secondhand smoke exposure are more likely to have colds … and may also explain why some exposed children have more pneumonias, as they cannot clear secretions from their lower airways.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Deeply Religious Parents Often Reluctant to Cease Medical Care

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When a child is seriously ill or injured, parents understandably move heaven and earth to save them.  However, a new study has found that sometimes deeply religious families test the limits of medical science by asking doctors to go to extremes to prolong life.

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, the investigators reviewed 203 cases over a three-year period that involved end of life decisions.  In the majority of instances, parents ultimately agreed to end treatment after meeting with caregivers and discussing the options.  But in a small number of cases -- just 11 -- the parents insisted on continuing intensive care while they prayed for divine intervention and a complete cure, even after being told there was no hope for recovery.

Such scenarios bring up all sorts of ethical and legal dilemmas for medical caregivers who must try to balance a parent's wishes with what they think is best for their patient.  Arthur Caplan, the head of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, says in most cases, they ultimately advocate for the patient.

"You have to take beliefs into account but you can't let any parent for any reason hijack what you as a doctor believe is in the child's best interest," he says.  "If you think what they want will cause pain and suffering and further treatment is pointless, a doctor should not do it even if the parents say Jesus spoke to them."

In situations where parents refuse lifesaving medical care on religious grounds the law is clear: Doctors can go to court and legally compel them to accept treatment if it is deemed life saving.  But when the tables are turned and parents insist on sustaining life by any means, few doctors are willing to make it a legal matter.  The authors of the study say it's time for this to change.

"Spending a lifetime attached to a mechanical ventilator, having every bodily function supervised and sanitized by a carer or relative, leaving no dignity or privacy to the child and then adult, has been argued as inhumane," they say in an accompanying editorial.  "We suggest it is time to reconsider current ethical and legal structures and facilitate rapid default access to courts in such situations when the best interests of the child are compromised in expectation of the miraculous."

Not all religious leaders agree.  J.R. Brown, a spokesman for the New York chapter of Jehovah's Witnesses, says that parents should be allowed to do everything they can so long as it doesn't violate scripture.

"How many times have we heard stories where physicians say the situation is hopeless and the patient goes onto make a miraculous recovery?" he asks.

The majority of physicians are not unsympathetic to parents of faith.  Dr. Ian Holzman, chairman of the medical ethics committee at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, stresses that the main thing caregivers must do is respect parental faith and try to honor their beliefs as long as there is no undue harm to the patient.  And he points out, sometimes it's just a matter of demonstrating a little empathy.

"Some parents will never make a decision to discontinue life support.  They will never say don't do everything even when they understand that 'everything' may mean torture for their child," he says.  "But often they are OK when the physician says enough is enough."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Kids with Coaches for Parents: Troubled or Unfairly Scrutinized?

Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Philadelphia Eagles' coach Andy Reid released a statement Monday evening addressing the role that drugs might have played in his son's death.

"Garrett's road through life was not always an easy one.  He faced tremendous personal challenges with bravery and spirit.  As a family we stood by him and were inspired as he worked to overcome those challenges.  Even though he lost the battle that has been ongoing for the last eight years, we will always remember him as a fighter who had a huge, loving heart," Reid said.

From University of Alabama coach Nick Saban's daughter's pending assault lawsuit to the suicide of the son of then Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy to the arrest of Jacksonville Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey's son for cocaine possession, children of coaches have come under increasing public scrutiny for problematic behavior.

Now, the death of Garrett Reid, 29, who was found unresponsive in a Leigh University dorm room on Sunday, may highlight a growing problem among the children of coaches who devote long hours to their careers, perhaps at the expense of their families' well-being.

Former University of Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino's son, Dominic, was arrested in Indiana for drunken driving, marijuana possession, illegal possession of prescription drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia in June 2011.  James Ferentz, son of University of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, was arrested for public intoxication -- his second alcohol-related offense -- in April 2009.

The son of Green Bay Packers' offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, drowned in a frozen river in Oshkosh, Wis., in January.  While 21-year-old Michael Philbin's death was ruled an accident, the autopsy report revealed that his blood alcohol level was .176 -- well over legal limits.

While Garrett Reid's cause of death is still unknown, both he and his younger brother, Britt, struggled with drug abuse in the past.  Reid has admitted to using heroin, and was caught attempting to smuggle prescription pills into jail during his incarceration.

But is it fair to attribute the problems that the progeny of public figures face, including drug possession, public drunkenness, or driving while intoxicated, to the pressures they feel as a result of their parents' professions?

"From a psychological standpoint, I think any child of a celebrity, maybe even more so in sports ... grows up with a sense that they are special, that they come from a special family," said Stanley Teitelbaum, a clinical psychologist and author of Athletes Who Indulge Their Dark Side.

"I think that sometimes it may translate into feeling a pressure into being kind of a model kid or to perform in a very special way," he said.

Teitelbaum said that it's "a tough act to follow" in the footsteps of a famous father who dedicates the majority of time to his job.  As a result, many may try to cross the line to call attention to themselves, which may include abusing drugs or alcohol.

"When you grow up in a family where the dad is not all that available, it becomes that much more powerful of a plea," he said.

"We know that the children of affluent parents have higher rates of depression, anxiety disorder and substance abuse," said Madeline Levine, author of Teach Your Children Well.  "The research says that these kids feel particularly pressured to perform."

Levine said that children of well-known or well-off parents struggle with their own identities, because "they are sort of identified as an appendage to a famous parent."

"I think that it can be incredibly lonely and difficult for those kids because nobody is particularly sympathetic," she said.  "Instead people say, 'Cry me a river, your father's famous.'"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Five-Ring Fever: When Olympic Parents Push Their Kids Too Hard

Polka Dot Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Judi Brown Clarke, a silver medalist in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics who went on to coach at Michigan State University, witnessed young athletes who fell apart as their controlling parents pushed them to the limit.

"I have seen athletes who wanted to please their parents so much -- this extra pressure to perform made them anorexic or bulimic," said Clarke, now 51.

Behind many Olympic athletes is a parent (or two) who have encouraged and pushed their child through tens of thousands of hours of grueling training to keep them on track.

Jim and Cecille Adrian watched their 23-year-old son Nathan qualify for the 100 meters freestyle with the fastest time in the preliminary rounds.

"Driving about 100,000 miles in four years, taking vacations in about 15 different cities in the US, probably 100,000 air miles -- and that's just the start," Jim Adrian told ABC News. "It wasn't cheap, but it was worth it. It's a good investment. You always invest in your kids."

For Les and Cathy Volmer, parents to 100 meter butterfly gold medalist Dana, their daughter's success as a junior swimmer convinced them to keep supporting her -- despite the missed vacations and long hours.

"The cost of it all -- you had to look ahead and say, I don't want to say is she worth spending the money on -- [but] are we pointing in the right direction, are we putting our money in the right direction?" Les Volmer told ABC News. "As long as she kept giving us information with her smiles, her talent, her coaches talking to us about yeah, she can make the next level -- then it was always worth it. And it got expensive but there was always a success in sight. So we kept going on."

Sports psychologists and even the athletes themselves recognize that parents need to balance their control so their children can be winners, but not losers in life.

Clarke feels so strongly about the issue that she contacted Rita Wieber to guide her before 17-year-old Jordyn Wieber's disappointing gymnastic performance in London.

"I wanted to give her insight into what it looks like from the athlete's perspective to be a parent -- where is the line of control," said Clarke, who is now director of diversity at the National Science Foundation Center for Science and Technology at Michigan State University.

"I sometimes find that it's not the parents who have had success, but the parent who had a frustrating career and vicariously see their child as their second chance," said Clarke. "They see it as a personal accomplishment instead of the child's accomplishment."

Most athletes' parents never step over healthy boundaries, according to Dan Gould, director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University.

But according to a study on coach perceptions, three out of 10 parents may cross that fine line "unknowingly," and one in 10 will actually be "high maintenance."

"They are critical with the child or lose emotional control," said Gould. "Sometimes they try to coach when they are not trained as a coach or walk off the court with a lot of drama."

He and his colleagues studied the long-term outcomes of Olympic champions in a paper published by the Association of Applied Sports Psychology.

"We know parents in general influence kids in a lot of ways," he said. "If the parent places more importance on winning that tends to create more stress."

Their research has shown that parental pressure can also backfire, hurting an athlete's development. Some "burn out" or leave the sport altogether.

The average athlete gives 10,000 hours of "deliberate practice" to develop the expertise to go all the way to the Olympics, according to Gould. "They do it with some yelling and pushing, but in the end, you push yourself."

"Even well-meaning parents can get really caught up in five-ring fever," he said. "You can't use guilt to motivate a kid or love withdrawal."

Gould says it's a "delicate balance." The best parent will ask their children to, "follow through on your commitments and the responsibility of good practice."

No parent-child relationship is ever going to be completely "normal" at this level of competition, according to Gould.

Larry Lauer, who is director of coaching education and development at the institute, did a study on the influence of parents on nine professional tennis players.

Athletes with controlling parents thought about quitting at some point in their junior careers. "Those who carried forward decided to play tennis for themselves and not for their parents," he said.

One top-ranked female player told researchers, "My mom would rather have me win a tournament than come home to see her."

When he looked at athletes and their parents over time, the most demanding parents had, "strained relationships" with their children.

Both pro football player Todd Marinovich and tennis grand slam star Andre Agassi wrote about the impact of obsessive parent coaches, suffering depression and drug addiction.

"When people are constantly under stress it causes them to make other choices to relieve that stress, like drinking and taking drugs or even promiscuity," said Lauer.

As for former Olympic medalist Clarke, she tries to strike a balance with her three children, including 15-year-old Antonio, who is a rising high school basketball and track star.

"I try not to get over-involved," she said. "I used to coach professionally and that kicks in -- and it's a fine line between being a coach and a parent. Intrinsically, they have to see the sport as their core value in their life, otherwise there is resistance when a parent is always pushing them."

"I had to not use my personal drive and how I see sports and impose that on my kids," said Clarke. "They had to figure it out for themselves."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Same-Sex Families at Risk with Patchwork of State Parenting Laws

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Current state laws put many children living in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families at risk and undermine family stability, according to a new report out Tuesday.

In more than 30 states, children in LGBT families are legal strangers to at least one of their parents.

In Louisiana, for example, one would have to be the biological parent or legally married to his or her partner to secure parenting rights.  Same-sex marriage is illegal in that state and two men's or women's names cannot appear on the birth certificate.

Between 2 million and 2.8 million children are being raised by LGBT parents, and because of a patchwork of state laws and no federal protections, many of these children are at risk, according to the report by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and the Equality Foundation.

The findings are based on a 2011 report, "Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequities Hurt LGBT Families."  This third companion report recommends policies and laws that the groups say address the changing American family and protect children.

In the United States, 69 percent of children live with married, heterosexual parents, down from 83 percent in 1970, according to the report.  Today, an estimated 24 percent of female same-sex couples, 11 percent of male couples and 38 percent of transgender Americans are raising children.

The states with the highest number of children being raised by LGBT families -- many of them in the conservative South -- are those with the most restrictive laws.

While states like California and New York have high numbers of same-sex couples, those most likely to be raising children live in Mississippi, Wyoming, Alaska, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, Montana, South Dakota and South Carolina, in that order.

A second legal parent may be unable to pick up a child from day care without authorization or advocate for a child in school.  In these states, nonbiological same-sex parents cannot include a child on their health insurance and can be denied access to a hospital in an emergency or be left out of health care decisions.

Inconsistent laws make it difficult even for families from states where same-sex marriage and second-parent adoption is legal when they cross state lines, according to the report.

"If a couple in Washington, a state with full parental recognition, goes on vacation jet skiing in Idaho and the kid gets hurt, one parent might not be recognized," said Calla Rongerude, spokesman for the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBT think tank, and one of the co-authors of the report.

"If you are a New York family visiting Philadelphia, you better take everything you have and hope there is a sympathetic nurse when you have to go to the hospital," she said.

Children are also unable to access death or disability benefits or government safety net programs from a non-legal parent.  They can lose inheritance and other protections designed to keep them safe during times of crisis, according to the report.

"When we talk about ballot measures on marriage, we don't talk about the kids," said Rongerude.  "And frankly, they are the most vulnerable."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Kids of Parents in Same-Sex Relationships Fare Worse as Adults

BananaStock/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) -- A new study finds that adult children of parents in same-sex relationships fare worse socially, psychologically and physically than people raised in other family arrangements.

Critics call the study deeply flawed, saying the results don't accurately describe -- or even measure -- any children raised in stable households with two same-sex parents.

The study surveyed nearly 3,000 U.S. adults, ages 18 to 39, about their upbringing and their lives today, asking questions about factors such as income, relationship stability, mental health and history of sexual abuse.  Of the 3,000 respondents, 73 reported that their father had engaged in a same-sex relationship and 163 reported that their mother had done so.

People who reported that their mother or father had a same-sex relationship at some point were different than children raised by their biological, still-married parents in 25 of the study's 40 measures.  And most of the time, they fared worse.  The children of parents who at some point had a same-sex partner were more likely to be on welfare, have a history of depression, have less education and report a history of sexual abuse, the study found.

The study was published Sunday in the journal Social Science Research.  It was funded by the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation, groups that are "commonly known for their support of conservative causes," though the organizations played no role in the design and analysis of the report, the study said.

Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of the report, said the study was not intended as a political statement, but simply tried to answer the question of whether children of parents with same-sex relationships are different.  He said the study also isn't designed to prove that family structure causes poor health.

"I'm not claiming that gay and lesbian adults are bad parents.  This is not a parenting study," Regnerus said.  "What this shows is that there's lots of diversity."

Regardless, the study touches a raw nerve at a time of heated political battles over gay marriage and same-sex parenting.  Both supporters and critics of the study claim to have science on their side.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio