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Analysis and Comment (57)

Let’s ignore the policymakers, kid. Let’s ignore the policymakers, kid. Wilson X

Focus on attachment in parenting policy is misplaced

A recent report from the Sutton Trust is the latest in a line of recommendations for family policy to focus on promoting secure attachment between parents and their children. What puzzles me is why the…
Is that you, dad? SBS documentary questions oft-quoted figures on dads who are not the real father of their children. Is that you, dad? SBS documentary questions oft-quoted figures on dads who are not the real father of their children. Shutterstock

What are the chances that your dad isn’t your father?

How confident are you that the man you call dad is really your biological father? If you believe some of the most commonly-quoted figures, you could be forgiven for not being very confident at all. But…
Bless ‘em. (That’s an order.) Bless ‘em. (That’s an order.) The Yorck Project

Modern day ‘Cinderella law’ has roots in Georgian Britain

A newly proposed “Cinderella law” seeks to make parents’ “emotional abuse” of their children a criminal offence in England and Wales. Under it, parents who deliberately ignore children, subject them to…
The benefits children gain from Authoritative parenting benefit their own children in turn. The benefits children gain from Authoritative parenting benefit their own children in turn. Angerboy

Talking to kids about emotions matters more than you think

Pop culture parenting styles like “Helicopter” and “Snowplow” have received a lot of recent media attention. Such coverage tends to overlook the findings of decades of parenting research. Much of this…
New mothers make a lot of decisions to improve their babies' welfare. New mothers make a lot of decisions to improve their babies' welfare. Megan Myers

Does becoming a mother make women ‘greener’?

Stop press! Actress Julia Roberts has been spotted in a Prius and is reportedly into reusable coffee cups and solar panels. According to media reports, it was the birth of her twins, rather than her Oscar-winning…
We think checkouts influence obesity but does it? We think checkouts influence obesity but does it? Jurijus Azanovas

Hard Evidence: do supermarket checkouts make kids obese?

Your eye gets caught by the dried apples slices and pistachios but your child, sitting in the trolley, sees the Percy pig sweets. The queue is moving slowly, how well do you resist? A commentary by Deborah…
People in countries with greater gender equality don’t report lower levels of work-family conflict – instead, it transfers to men. People in countries with greater gender equality don’t report lower levels of work-family conflict – instead, it transfers to men. Image from shutterstock.com

Having it all: in pursuit of gender equality and work-life balance

I recently asked my University of Melbourne undergraduates to answer the following hypothetical: your child is sick at school. Who would usually pick him or her up? Their response was as expected – a third…
Children’s freedom to travel around their neighbourhood without adults has dramatically declined over the past 30 years. Children’s freedom to travel around their neighbourhood without adults has dramatically declined over the past 30 years. Image from shutterstock.com

Ditch the cotton wool and let kids travel independently

If you grew up in the 1970s or before, you probably have fond memories of traipsing around the neighbourhood with your friends and siblings, going to the shops or the park, and walking to and from school…
We need to support and educate parents to change their outdated attitudes about smacking. We need to support and educate parents to change their outdated attitudes about smacking. Image from shutterstock.com

A wake-up call for parents who smack their children

Most parents want what’s best for their children. But when it comes to discipline, some misguidedly use physical force to punish or intimidate. Let’s be clear: hitting and unnecessarily hurting children…
When parents focus intently on their child’s success, sometimes they can miss out on important life lessons. When parents focus intently on their child’s success, sometimes they can miss out on important life lessons. Gladskikh Tatiana/Shutterstock

Helicopter, snowplow or free range – what’s your parenting style?

It used to be said that the difficulty with parenting is that no-one gives you a manual, but you could argue that adage is no longer true. From “tiger mums” to “attachment parents”, countless manifestos…
Social workers are quick to be blamed when things go wrong. Social workers are quick to be blamed when things go wrong. PA/John Stillwell

I don’t like the idea of a nasty social worker - do you?

Social workers have one of the most difficult jobs to do. Imagine juggling several cases involving children at risk in their own home at the same time - and making decisions that could affect those children…
When it comes to food we follow our parents. When it comes to food we follow our parents. PA/Anthony Devlin

Time to face hard truths when it comes to obese children

We’re grappling with a rapidly increasing number of children who are obese. In the US, where a third of Americans are considered obese, a leading group of doctors have officially designated obesity as…
Early identification and behavioural intervention is the best way to minimise the effects of autism. Early identification and behavioural intervention is the best way to minimise the effects of autism. Image from shutterstock.com

Mums and dads, don’t ignore the early signs of autism

When a newborn joins a family we become beguiled by the perfection of this wondrous new being. Any hint of difference is easily overlooked during the early years. We now understand that the onset of symptoms…
Sharing a bed with your baby is not inherently dangerous if the known risk factors for SIDS are eliminated. Sharing a bed with your baby is not inherently dangerous if the known risk factors for SIDS are eliminated. Image from shutterstock.com

Safety first: reducing the risks of sleeping with your baby

With so much contradictory information about whether it’s safe for mothers to share a bed with their baby, it’s easy to see why parents are confused. The release yesterday of a paper in BMJ Open added…
Timing sex around ovulation doesn’t change the odds of having a boy or girl. Timing sex around ovulation doesn’t change the odds of having a boy or girl. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: you can control the sex of your baby

Despite most parents ultimately just wishing for a healthy baby, there are many cultural and social factors that can drive the desire for a baby of a particular sex. The medical technology for sex selection…
Overprotective policies constrain kids and teach them to value risk assessment over opportunity. Overprotective policies constrain kids and teach them to value risk assessment over opportunity. Sim Dawdler/Flickr

Kids need to take risks: Mum and Dad will just have to deal with it

We take an “efficiency” approach to childhood and child-rearing in Australia. We want kids to grow up and become productive economic citizens without them deviating from identified pathways, and society…
Controlled crying is when parents respond to their infant’s cries and gently comfort them, then return at increasing time intervals. Controlled crying is when parents respond to their infant’s cries and gently comfort them, then return at increasing time intervals. Flickr/tea...

Monday’s medical myth: controlled crying damages babies' brains

In my clinical work with pregnant and postnatal mums experiencing anxiety and mood disorders, few issues are reported as consistently as sleep deprivation. Parents who spend the first year of their child’s…
We need to teach girls to value more than just looks. We need to teach girls to value more than just looks. Steven Depolo

Teaching girls to prioritise function over form for better body image

The body is a gateway to experiencing and exploring the world. It’s the first thing people see when they look at us and it’s the canvas on which we express who we are. But the relationship we have with…
Doctors have become victims of their own success, giving more parents hope for their premature or extremely sick babies. Doctors have become victims of their own success, giving more parents hope for their premature or extremely sick babies. Chiceaux

Withdrawing treatment from premature babies – when doctors and parents disagree

Parents of babies born severely premature or with serious abnormalities are turning to the courts in a bid to override medical opinion to commence or continue life-sustaining treatment for their infants…
Bed-sharing seems like a workable option to settle infants and to gain much-needed sleep. But is it worth the risks? Bed-sharing seems like a workable option to settle infants and to gain much-needed sleep. But is it worth the risks? DanielJames

Sharing a bed with your baby – realities vs recommendations

Most parents will tell you that as soon as they announced their pregnancy, the advice started rolling in. Much of it might have been sensible and evidence-based, but it’s difficult to sort the myths from…
Too much urging can backfire and entrench some parents' opposition to vaccination. Too much urging can backfire and entrench some parents' opposition to vaccination. Flickr/skippytpe

Parents' decisions about vaccination and the art of gentle persuasion

Dr Seuss’ book Green Eggs and Ham is built around the urgings of a weird creature, Sam I Am, who insists the narrator eat the food of its title. When the narrator refuses, Sam issues an ever-widening range…
We may have to apologise for intercountry adoptions in future, just as Victoria has apologised to the children of forced adoption mothers here. We may have to apologise for intercountry adoptions in future, just as Victoria has apologised to the children of forced adoption mothers here. AAP/Paul Jeffers

The politics of ‘orphans’ and the dirty tactics of the adoption lobby

You might not have realised it, but it is Adoption Awareness Week. Every year at this time lobbyists pull out the big gun – the celebrity card - and Deborra-Lee Furness hits the airwaves. The messages…
Telstra listened to customer complaints about data privacy, but they could have done more. Telstra listened to customer complaints about data privacy, but they could have done more. gailjadehamilton

Telstra’s revised cyber-safety service could (and should) be better

Telstra’s first attempt to introduce a cyber-safety service for mobile customers in June was a flop of significant proportions. Customers and concerned members of the public reacted strongly to the collection…
Approximately 1% of adults and 4% of children stutter. Approximately 1% of adults and 4% of children stutter. khrawlings/Flickr.

Explainer: what is stuttering?

For the 1% of adults worldwide who stutter, the everyday task of picking up a phone, asking for directions, or ordering food in a restaurant can be incredibly difficult. Stuttering is even more common…
Women can move more easily in water, enabling them to change position with ease. Women can move more easily in water, enabling them to change position with ease. Flickr/kTLindSAy

Monday’s medical myth: water births are risky

“Women aren’t dolphins” is a phrase often bandied about by those who question why women want to immerse themselves in pools or warm baths during labour and birth. They forget that we’re not mountain goats…
Parents' drinking patterns impact on how young people think about and consume alcohol. Parents' drinking patterns impact on how young people think about and consume alcohol. Kuorui

Mirror ball, mirror ball, in the school hall: are parents allowed any booze at all?

The question of whether adults should be allowed to drink alcohol at school discos, fetes and sports games was thrust into the spotlight this week after the Australian Drug Foundation urged education departments…
Early exposure to siblings and dogs may help to train the developing immune system. Early exposure to siblings and dogs may help to train the developing immune system. Flickr/henry...

Infants with siblings and pets less likely to develop allergies

Having older siblings and a dog that lives in the home could reduce the likelihood of infants developing egg allergies, according to a new study published in the latest edition of the journal Allergy…
Young athletes are not small adults. Young athletes are not small adults. JosephB

Monday’s medical myth: young athletes can train like adults

Public health experts, educators and the media constantly remind us that children should put down the video games and get active. But how much activity is really necessary to maintain health? And how much…
We often preface words like slap and smack with “just a little” to make it sound more socially acceptable. We often preface words like slap and smack with “just a little” to make it sound more socially acceptable. paulscott

Time for an end to parental tough love

Picture this: you’re standing in a long, slow-moving queue. People around you are disgruntled and complaining. You turn to talk with the person behind you and someone else jumps the queue in front of you…
Hitting and other forms of harsh physical punishment is associated with mental health problems later in life. Hitting and other forms of harsh physical punishment is associated with mental health problems later in life. Spamily

Parents, it’s never okay to hit your kids

Research published this month in the journal Pediatrics confirms what child advocates have long known: it’s never okay to hit children. Study author Tracie Afifi and her colleagues investigated the link…
Between 10% and 45% of children have one or more sleep problems. Between 10% and 45% of children have one or more sleep problems. Jack French

Explainer: childhood sleep disorders

Any parent will tell you the meaning of the saying “slept like a baby” is completely opposite to reality. Thankfully, many parents succeed in establishing a routine to their baby’s initial erratic sleep…
Questions of cuckoldry and fidelity have always existed – and comfort has come from religious customs. Questions of cuckoldry and fidelity have always existed – and comfort has come from religious customs. More Good Foundation

In the name of the father: the links between religion and paternity

Religious leaders and holy texts share deep preoccupations with sex and reproduction. From Islamic purdah to Jewish menstrual purity laws, to Vatican neuroses about everything from contraception to masturbating…
Sydney protesters rally for marriage equality (March 2012). Sydney protesters rally for marriage equality (March 2012).

Marriage equality and same-sex parenting in Australia

A group of 150 doctors, called Doctors for the Family, have made a submission to the Senate inquiry into gay marriage which argues that children of same-sex parents suffer poorer health and well-being…
Doctors for the Family’s claims aren’t based on scientific evidence. Doctors for the Family’s claims aren’t based on scientific evidence. flickr/Poes In Boots

Don’t believe the hype: kids with same-sex parents are well adjusted

“[T]he evidence is clear that children who grow up in a family with a mother and a father do better in all parameters than children without.” That’s according to the Doctors for the Family’s submission…
Intellectually disabled children who undergo the “Ashley procedure” are stunted to prevent the onset of puberty. Intellectually disabled children who undergo the “Ashley procedure” are stunted to prevent the onset of puberty. flickr/visions by vicky

Ashley’s treatment: the arrested development of a disabled child

A growing number of parents are seeking the “Ashley Treatment,” a highly experimental medical intervention designed to arrest the physical and sexual development of severely disabled children. This invasive…
We can reduce rates of childhood obesity but it requires a coordinated, consistent approach. We can reduce rates of childhood obesity but it requires a coordinated, consistent approach. Sean Dreilinger

Healthier kids requires more than getting them off the couch

Seventeen years of our research into childhood obesity is starting to deliver dividends. We now know what kinds of interventions are effective for reducing the number of overweight and obese children in…
Children’s brains are plastic and sensitive to their environments. Children’s brains are plastic and sensitive to their environments. annagarcia

Nature and nurture: why do boys and girls behave differently?

New evidence is emerging that confirms what parents and children have reported for generations: boys and girls behave differently, and parenting practices vary depending on the gender of the child. Boys…
The victims of forced adoption want an apology from the Commonwealth government. The victims of forced adoption want an apology from the Commonwealth government. Nikkirk

Re-writing Australia’s history of forced adoption

A long-awaited Senate Committee report will tomorrow reveal whether the Commonwealth’s policies and practices played a role in coercing young, unwed Australian women to give up their newborn babies for…
It’s the quality, not quantity, of the time spent with children that counts most. It’s the quality, not quantity, of the time spent with children that counts most. Sean drillinger

Work keeps mums happy and children well-adjusted

Conservative commentary often attempts to reinstate the primacy of stay-at-home motherhood, prompting feelings of guilt among working mothers. But a recent study might help to finally lay this issue to…
Parents under the most pressure are those who have to work but would prefer to be looking after their kids. Parents under the most pressure are those who have to work but would prefer to be looking after their kids. Big Grey Mare Back But Barely

Stay-at-home or working mum? It’s the choice that matters most

The question of whether a parent – in most cases, mothers – can or should return to paid employment and in what capacity, is once again in the spotlight thanks to a recent study in the American Journal…
Infants should sleep alone without bedding or toys that could cover their face. Infants should sleep alone without bedding or toys that could cover their face. Flickr/dontshoot me

Don’t believe the hype: sleeping with your baby is not okay

In a recent visit to Australia, US Anthropologist Professor James McKenna claimed that under the right circumstances, breastfed babies could safely sleep in the same bed as their mothers. This was a perfectly…
Home births for high-risk pregnancies and where a registered midwife isn’t present are risky. Home births for high-risk pregnancies and where a registered midwife isn’t present are risky. Deannster

For some women, unassisted home births are worth the risks

We live in a world with many different perspectives on risk. Entire professions now exist to advise us on how to recognise, avoid and manage risk. And the maternity and obstetric professions are no different…
Children should be taught to play music themselves rather than just listening to it. Children should be taught to play music themselves rather than just listening to it. Naruco

Monday’s medical myth: play Mozart to boost your baby’s IQ

What parent can pass up the chance to boost their child’s intelligence by putting on some nice classical music? The popular idea that IQ scores can be raised by listening to Mozart is a case study in how…
Many extremely premature babies will have lifelong physical and intellectual deficiencies. Many extremely premature babies will have lifelong physical and intellectual deficiencies. kqedquest

Balancing hope and fear for babies born at 24 weeks gestation

Imagine how frightening it must be for a woman to go into labour when she is just over halfway through her pregnancy and her baby has only had 23 or 24 weeks to grow. She and her family are overcome with…
The frequently cited Netherlands study doesn’t show it’s safe to give birth at home in Australia. The frequently cited Netherlands study doesn’t show it’s safe to give birth at home in Australia. Assy

Thinking about giving birth at home? Look at the evidence on safety

We’re fortunate to live in a society where robust evidence forms the basis of the information health-care professionals provide to patients – and home birth should be no exception. But the evidence about…
Parenting programs need to actively include fathers. Parenting programs need to actively include fathers. Jason Coleman

Do parenting programs work for dads?

It comes as no surprise to see that parenting programs attract mothers. Drop into a “toddler taming” discussion, a workshop on parents and literacy or a seminar about communicating with your teenager and…
Fruit juice contains as much sugar as soft drink. Fruit juice contains as much sugar as soft drink. Gail M Tang

Monday’s medical myth: fruit juice is healthier than soft drink

We often hear, from health experts and well-meaning parents, that soft drink is terribly unhealthy and we should opt for fruit juice instead. But apart from a few additional vitamins and minerals, there…
Social realities have a bigger impact on when women have babies than “medical facts”. Social realities have a bigger impact on when women have babies than “medical facts”. ECohen

Are older women selfish for having babies?

It seems we have a new “barbecue stopper” about women and families, after comments last week by Perth obstetrician Barry Walters that it is selfish for older women to have babies. Defending himself from…
NRL player Craig Wing has a sister with Down Syndrome. NRL player Craig Wing has a sister with Down Syndrome. AAP

How come you don’t want one? Living with Down Syndrome

“Fuck you, Wing, your sister has Down syndrome!” These words were once hurled at NSW rugby league star Craig Wing while he was playing for the Sydney Roosters against the Canterbury Bulldogs at the Sydney…
The benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks by 100 to one. The benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks by 100 to one. Jeff Dickerson

Male infant circumcision: ‘safe, convenient, cheap and fast’

Medical circumcision of baby boys has plummeted in Australia, with only 20% of male infants now undergoing the procedure, down from 90% in the 1970s. Meanwhile, HIV infections continue to rise in the broader…
Guidelines say no TV for under 2s, then no more than two hours a day. Guidelines say no TV for under 2s, then no more than two hours a day. Keenen Brown

Square eyes: how much TV is too much for kids?

If you’ve ever sat your toddler down in front of the television to give yourself a few minutes of much-needed rest, you’re certainly not alone. But for many parents, those few minutes of bliss that come…

Research and News (1)

Research Briefs (6)

Blogging may help new mums connect

New mums who read or write blogs are more likely to feel less alone compared with mothers who do not blog. The research found…

Child hunger level underreported

A new study has shown that addressing child hunger at an individual and family level may not be enough, with only 70% of…