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Analysis and Comment (37)

Rural or metropolitan? Communities make a big difference when deciding how independent your kids should be. Rural or metropolitan? Communities make a big difference when deciding how independent your kids should be. Peter Gordebeke/Flickr

What do parents fear? Unwrapping the bubble-wrap generation

We hear so much these days about fearful parents who “bubble-wrap” their children. So-called “helicopter parents” try to protect their children from life’s dangers and, in the process, prevent them taking…
Your gut bacteria won’t change much. Your gut bacteria won’t change much. ponchicaBG

Babies' gut bacteria are mostly fixed by time spent in the womb

From eyes to the gap between the toes, we are covered in bacterial colonies. Between 500 and 1000 unique species live in our gut alone. We provide an ideal environment for bacteria: warmth, moisture, nutrients…
Useful uses for a smartphone #5: take picture of Pope. Useful uses for a smartphone #5: take picture of Pope. EPA/Giuseppe Lami

If the Pope thinks kids are wasting time online, he should think about why

Pope Francis has taken aim at today’s youth by urging them not to waste their time on “futile things” such as “chatting on the internet or with smartphones, watching TV soap operas”. He argued that the…
Talk to me, Dad. Talk to me, Dad. Father and son via sashahaltam/Shutterstock

Talking to your babies could help them do better at school

The rate at which children learn language varies substantially from child to child. Some children show rapid vocabulary growth before they go to school, while others learn so slowly that they can end up…
Not more RAM, working memory is what you need. Not more RAM, working memory is what you need. Mother and Daughter, Kyle Lee/Shutterstock

Children’s cognitive abilities linked to parental education

Cognitive difficulties are very common in children from impoverished backgrounds, putting them at risk of educational failure. However, it is not clear what influences the development of cognitive abilities…
Sluggish cognitive tempo is used to describe kids whose attentional deficits are due to low levels of mental energy. Sluggish cognitive tempo is used to describe kids whose attentional deficits are due to low levels of mental energy. Alec Couros/Flickr

Is ‘sluggish cognitive tempo’ a valid new childhood disorder?

Sociology influences medicine more than we like to admit. One only needs to look at the history of psychiatric disorders – a term used broadly here to incorporate developmental disorders – to see how “normal…
Want some help with that? Want some help with that? Aswin Anand

What Indian parents teach us about helping with homework

Homework is the perfect platform for parents to help children unravel the mystery to learning. Parents are in a unique position to hang the academic concepts that children learn at school onto their real-life…
Sometimes vegetables end up everywhere except where they’d do most good. Sometimes vegetables end up everywhere except where they’d do most good. Evan Long/Flickr

Health Check: why kids don’t like vegies and how to change it

So little Harry won’t eat his vegetables? Well, he’s not alone. Poor Harry is just protecting himself from the danger of alkaloid toxins – although he doesn’t actually know this. At the tender age of four…
Too many two-year-olds. Too many two-year-olds. Edmond Terakopian/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Very few schools are ready to take two-year-olds into class

Proposals to allow schools to start looking after two-year-olds go to the heart of a long-standing tension in education policy: is early childhood provision about childcare for working parents or is it…
Hands up who wants to breastfeed at work? Hands up who wants to breastfeed at work? Christian Lutz/AP

Women at work should be able to breastfeed and succeed

Days after Pope Francis told mothers to “not think twice” about breastfeeding at church and in public, Sally Davies, the UK’s chief medical officer, called for women to be allowed to breastfeed at work…
Orphan bonobos at a Congo sanctuary don’t understand how to comfort others or themselves as well as those reared by their mums. Orphan bonobos at a Congo sanctuary don’t understand how to comfort others or themselves as well as those reared by their mums. Flickr/Princess Stand in the Rain

For primates, having a mother helps them learn social skills

Wild bonobos, like all Great Apes, spend long childhoods with their mothers, learning the skills they need to function as socially and emotionally stable members of their community. But orphaned bonobos…
Children are the most vulnerable and dependent members of our society but it’s still legal to hit them in Australia. Children are the most vulnerable and dependent members of our society but it’s still legal to hit them in Australia. bixentro/Flickr

Let’s talk about making smacking children illegal

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is today launching a call for law reform regarding the use of physical punishment to discipline children. Noting the harms of smacking children, it’s…
Pregnant and breast-feeding women have iodine needs that are 50% higher than the general population. Pregnant and breast-feeding women have iodine needs that are 50% higher than the general population. Teza Harinaivo Ramiandrisoa

Lack of dietary iodine threatens brain development in children

Iodine is naturally present in a range of food, especially seaweed and fish. So it may seem odd that the people of an island nation (most of whom live along its vast coastline) are not getting enough of…
Research has shown benefits to mothers and babies when fathers are involved. Research has shown benefits to mothers and babies when fathers are involved. Pixabay

Some pregnant women missing benefits from involved dads

We all have different expectations about how involved dads should be during pregnancy and childbirth. In the UK, it’s generally seen as a good thing and research is now beginning to show that it matters…
When humans are challenged, even as very young babies, we really can rise above and excel. When humans are challenged, even as very young babies, we really can rise above and excel. Drew Bennett

Deprivation, autism and disability shine a light on development

What do newborn babies, children who have been severely deprived of human contact, people with autism, and blind mothers have in common? On the surface, not much. But they provide a common theme for understanding…
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…
Do you remember your first Olympics? Do you remember your first Olympics? Jerine Lay

Looking through the rings: a life lived through the Olympics

I admit it, I love the Olympic Games. The sport, the over-hyped commentary, the fancy-dress national costumes - it’s two weeks of every four years that I anticipate with excitement. In many ways, the Games…
Whether children imitate a bear or a pirate, their imagination could contribute to human advancement. Whether children imitate a bear or a pirate, their imagination could contribute to human advancement. Juhansonin

Imitation and imagination: child’s play is central to human success

We all know the scene: a child, wrapped in his or her own imaginary world, fights off aliens while flying through space on a rocket fashioned from an empty box. But could such flights of fancy be critical…
Praising kids all the time might lead to inflated self-esteem and low regard for others. Praising kids all the time might lead to inflated self-esteem and low regard for others. Flickr/ymc_photos

Can excessive parental praise turn good kids into bullies?

When most people picture the typical school bully, they think of a kid who is likely to have been bullied themselves. A child with low self-esteem who is trying to make themselves feel better by picking…
Limiting children’s access to now widespread “pornified” media will require serious political will. Limiting children’s access to now widespread “pornified” media will require serious political will. lamont_cranston/Flickr

Girls on film: could new regulations stop the sexualisation of children?

Soft porn music videos on television. Girls mini-mags featuring fashion and celebrity gossip at the supermarket checkout. Porn at eye-level in the petrol station. Billboards on the trips in between. As…
Cover of the latest US edition of Time magazine. Cover of the latest US edition of Time magazine.

Time #1: what’s wrong with this picture?

Breastfeeding generally falls under the jurisdiction of mothers, so I decided to ask a group of mothers I see regularly on Saturday morning what they thought of the recent Time magazine cover portraying…
Children with Specific Language Impairment have difficulties learning language for no discernible reason. Children with Specific Language Impairment have difficulties learning language for no discernible reason. runintherain/ Flickr

Autism’s hidden older brother – Specific Language Impairment

Language development is a truly remarkable phenomenon. But for a small number of kids, the words don’t come so easily. Most children acquire their first words around 12 months of age, start to string words…
Children aren’t suited to adult-style fitness programs using exercise bikes, treadmills and rowers. Children aren’t suited to adult-style fitness programs using exercise bikes, treadmills and rowers. Axel Bu hrmann

Kids should get active but adult-style gyms aren’t the answer

With one in five Australian preschool-age children now overweight or obese, it’s no wonder kids' weight is so often in the media spotlight. While the causes of obesity are complex and multifactorial, it’s…
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…
Struggling to read? You may not be using your brain effectively. Struggling to read? You may not be using your brain effectively. Flickr/Lab2112

Use your brain and teach children to read properly

Almost half of all Australians aged 15-74 years had literacy skills below the level required to participate effectively in our society, according to a 2008 study from the Australian Bureau of Statistics…
Quality relationships and time spent together is what’s important when it comes to children’s wellbeing. Quality relationships and time spent together is what’s important when it comes to children’s wellbeing. Flickr/disgustipado

Shared parenting: what’s really important when dads move out

The media often blame a lot of society’s problems on the break down of traditional family structures and the increase in single parent homes. When fathers no longer live at home, policy makers focus on…
ABC’s The Slap investigates the complex and very personal views of those at the heart of a smacking case. ABC’s The Slap investigates the complex and very personal views of those at the heart of a smacking case. ABC

The legality of ‘The Slap’

In last night’s ABC program, The Slap, an impulsive slap changed everything. A man struck someone else’s child at a barbecue provoking a legal challenge. In real life, that would be an assault, though…
Antidepressants double the chance of a young person making a suicide attempt. Antidepressants double the chance of a young person making a suicide attempt. Flickr/kamera kz

The hidden side of antidepressants: are they putting young lives at risk?

In early 2009, two 16-year-old Queensland girls tragically hanged themselves within weeks of each other. The girls' lives were plagued with abuse, self-harm and illicit drug use, and their deaths raised…
Despite ideas to the contrary, the evidence shows that texting does not make us bad spellers. Despite ideas to the contrary, the evidence shows that texting does not make us bad spellers. Flickr/lanier67

Texting dsn’t make U a bad spellr

Children and teenagers today do all the things that children and teenagers have more or less always done – they talk to their friends, have dinner with the family, and watch TV. However, as even the casual…
The study claims an association between infant reactions and adult anxiety is due to temperament rather than shaped by the environment. The study claims an association between infant reactions and adult anxiety is due to temperament rather than shaped by the environment. MRS.HART/Flickr

Could infant behaviour predict future anxiety disorders?

A paper published earlier this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry claims reactions to unfamiliar sounds, smells and objects at four-months could predict the development of anxiety disorders later…
Problems come when bodies change and brain development doesn’t keep up. Problems come when bodies change and brain development doesn’t keep up. Flickr/zebra404

Twelve going on 20: are girls reaching puberty earlier?

You just have to turn on the television or catch a glimpse of a magazine newsstand to see how girls are being thrust into adulthood earlier and earlier. But does biology match societal change? Are girls…
A “Pull the Pin” protest against the child beauty pageant in Melbourne on May 24, 2011. A “Pull the Pin” protest against the child beauty pageant in Melbourne on May 24, 2011. melbourneprotests.wordpress.com

Little miss innocent? Anxious adults await Australia’s first child beauty pageant

The Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant, who brought us the television show Toddlers and Tiaras, is just days away from its inaugural Australian meeting in Melbourne, and there’s been a build-up of public…
Trauma and adversity during early development can embed neuro-vulnerability in children. Trauma and adversity during early development can embed neuro-vulnerability in children. apdk/Flickr

Getting ‘em young: how early does mental health intervention need to be?

The last Federal Government budget announcement revealed funds dedicated to “early intervention” mental health services for youth. But whether this intervention takes place in a timely manner for optimal…
Statutory guidelines only limit junk food advertising to children for about an hour a day. Statutory guidelines only limit junk food advertising to children for about an hour a day. a fc o/Flickr

Side-stepping the censors: the failure of self-regulation for junk food advertising

Industry self-regulation has failed to change the amount of fast food advertising targeting Australian children, according to new research from the Prevention Research Collaboration and NSW Cancer Council…
Helping children recognise the sounds in words can improve their reading ability. Helping children recognise the sounds in words can improve their reading ability. Pratham Books/Flickr

Sounding off about teaching children to read

There are two main approaches to teaching children to read. Phonics, involves teaching children to recognise combinations of characters and establish the meanings of words based on combining them. The…

Research and News (11)

Research Briefs (12)

Moving tougher on poor children

Children who move frequently while young are more likely to have behavioural problems - but only if they’re from low income…

Increase in adolescent knee injuries

Rates of knee injuries in children have significantly increased over the past 12 years, according to research from the Children’s…

Hyper TV makes for hyper kids

Young children who watch fast-paced television shows may find it difficult to pay attention, solve problems and moderate…