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Researchers Identify Gene Linked to PTSD

The Compassionate Mind

Violence: An American Archetype

Alone: The Mental Health Effects of Solitary Confinement

People See Sexy Pictures of Women as Objects, Not People

Children in U.S. and U.K. Share Risk Factors for Behavior Problems

Kudzu May Curb Binge Drinking, New Study Suggests

The Pain of Social Rejection: As far as the brain is concerned, a broken heart may not be so different from a broken arm.

Foul-Mouthed Characters in Teen Books Have It All


timeless parenting-book review



Tapping into Timeless Parenting

September 15, 2016—For thousands of years parents have been raising children with varying levels of success—whether leaning on punishment as their most trusted tool, trying out their own balance of “carrots and sticks,” hovering incessantly in a vain attempt to spare their children the pain of life’s inevitable trials and tribulations, or forgoing any kind of parental guidance whatsoever.

As we consider the many options and approaches, it can be tempting to believe that the parenting style that produced us is clearly the way to go; after all, look at how well we turned out. Yet we probably also realize that we have flaws and inconsistencies in our thinking and character, opening the possibility that maybe, just maybe, our parents didn’t have all the answers. Is it time to update our parenting style? The four books reviewed here offer varying perspectives on applying timeless parenting principles in an age of rapidly advancing media technologies.
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PTSD in the Family: Dressing Invisible Wounds

March 16, 2015—What image comes to mind when you hear the term posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD? If you conjure up the face of a soldier, you’re certainly not alone. This is the common theme in media reports on the subject; and certainly, high percentages of military veterans do experience posttraumatic symptoms.

However, the diverse faces of PTSD sufferers tell another story. While many victims are soldiers, many more are civilians who have never seen a battlefield. That said, in 1980 when PTSD first entered the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—the canon on which mental health assessment is based in the United States and many other countries—it did so based on the observed symptoms of returning Vietnam veterans. At the time, researchers were examining earlier combat situations, when the trauma responses of soldiers had been referred to as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue.” In those days, the brain’s response to trauma was so little understood that military officials often equated it with cowardice or moral weakness.
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A Parent's Guide to Eating Disorders

March 6, 2015—One of the toughest things a parent may ever have to face is being told their child has an eating disorder. Feelings of guilt can make us wonder whether we could have done things differently in the past, while the health and wellbeing of our child becomes our biggest fear for the future.
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Bye-Bye Boot Camp: Positive Parenting for Challenging Kids

April 1, 2014—Having children is not a prerequisite for having strong opinions about childrearing, so it’s not remarkable that when we do have children, we can be a bit defensive about our parenting style. This is true even when it seems to be working well; but what if our child’s behavior seems particularly challenging? Because we take our responsibility seriously, we may focus on who or what is to blame, rather than on what we can do to improve the situation. We may even wonder whether it can be improved. Is a noncompliant toddler doomed to become a challenging adolescent? Worse, if we have a defiant teenager—one who refuses to comply with requests or follow rules of conduct—do we have any real chance of producing the result we want for him or her?
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Bullying Prevention Begins at Home


If your child is on either side of the bullying dynamic (or both sides, as is sometimes the case) it isn't necessarily because you're doing something wrong as a parent. But you may be the person who is best situated to help your child work toward change.

October 3, 2013—October is Bullying Prevention Month, so once again it’s time for schools and community organizations to raise awareness of the effects of bullying and plan prevention efforts.
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Emotions Are Us


Science is beginning to focus on what it really takes to outthink Mr. Spock

July 14, 2013—For most of modern history, scientists have turned a cold shoulder toward the study of emotion. At best it has been viewed as a mechanism to alert us to modify behavior. Fear might prompt us to escape from the presence of a threat; anger might galvanize us to mount a defense against enemies; empathy might be handy for motivating us to help others and ensure the continuity of the human race. But otherwise, like our vulcan friend from Star Trek, many have felt emotion to be a primitive obstruction to the real work of the brain—the archenemy of logical thinking. A serious cognitive scientist wouldn’t study it; a serious article wouldn’t address it. To be concerned with the question of emotion was considered a fluffy, touchy-feely, trivial pursuit.

Then came the1960s and ’70s, when a number of fledgling scientists arose who wondered whether it was possible to understand cognition without also considering emotion.
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Learning Styles? Or Learning Skills?

by Jack Taulbee, Ed.M., M.A.

April 29, 2013—For many years, educators have taught that children have specific learning styles that affect how they relate to presented information. It’s true that the brain can acquire bits of information through different modalities, and it’s also true that we may each start with some personal ideas about which we prefer. But as neuroscience learns more and more about how the brain works and how it changes, it is becoming clear that some of education’s favored concepts need updating. Fortunately, there is a great deal of research available about how children learn best, and also of how the brain overcomes limitations. Knowing these concepts can help you work with your child through the interference of learning disorders.
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Take an Empathy Pill and Call Me in the Morning

April 17, 2013—The Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another,” although an important dimension seems to be missing in this simple statement. I prefer the definition given by science writer Maia Szalavitz and child psychiatrist Bruce Perry in their 2010 book, Born for Love. “The essence of empathy,” they write, “is the ability to stand in another’s shoes, to feel what it’s like there and to care about making it better if it hurts.”

This is an ability that we can’t exercise if we lack emotional literacy, which social entrepreneur Mary Gordon explains as “the language of the heart.” The founder of an evidence-based and internationally-acclaimed program called “Roots of Empathy,” Gordon points out that children need help putting their emotions into words and learning to understand them and cope with them while also expressing them in appropriate ways. Together with empathy, she says, emotional literacy forms the foundation of morally responsible behavior.
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Core Competencies for Kids: Building Moral Intelligence

April 15, 2013—If you had to compose a list of skills children need in order to develop into healthy, well-adjusted adults, what would it include? You might think of any number of important attributes, but most would probably fit within the five broad categories identified by researchers Nancy G. Guerra and Catherine P. Bradshaw in their 2008 study. In this series we have covered all but the last of these “core competencies for positive youth development,” which include a positive sense of self, self-control, good decision-making skills, and prosocial connectedness. The final competency, according to Guerra and Bradshaw, is a moral system of belief—or what some have referred to as "moral intelligence."
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You Don't Have to Be a Perfect Parent to Be a Good Parent

April 12, 2013—Working with so many parents over the years, and as a parent and now grandparent of special needs children myself, I have learned that one of the biggest emotional hurdles for parents to overcome when dealing with a special needs child is that we will all too often feel like failures because we cannot make our child, and their world, perfect.

As parents we will feel responsible for making the disorder go away, and since we can’t make that happen, we feel compelled to immediately resolve every single problem that arises due to our child’s disorder. We feel that we personally have to fix it all; and we're driven to persist until everything feels restored to normal.  But, of course, that is not humanly possible. Unfortunately, this way of perfectionist thinking becomes self-defeating and eventually leads to a letdown, because given those parameters, failure is inevitable.
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Betrayed: Why All Trauma Is Not Equal

March 18, 2013—When the topic of trauma comes up, we often wonder why some people are more resilient than others. In other words, some have a greater capacity to work through trauma effects on their own, while others fall victim to a variety of persistent psychological symptoms—and even posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  We know that the quality of early attachment is related to resilience, but it’s also clear that there are other factors that come into play.

Some of these relate to differences in the type and frequency of exposure. Someone who experiences a single traumatic incident would naturally be subject to different outcomes compared to someone who has experienced multiple episodes of a particular trauma—or the cumulative effect of different types of trauma over time. But even taking these factors into consideration, researchers have noticed significant differences in the severity of trauma symptoms between several specific categories of traumatic experience. 

One new study just out from the APA's Division 56 (Trauma Psychology) sheds more light on why some people end up with PTSD and others don't.
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Solving Common Family Problems

February 24, 2013—In every family, there will be problems. No matter how positive and empathic we have been, kids will still argue and misbehave, and ask for more than they can have. The demands of our daily lives—and of theirs—will inevitably create conflict and misunderstanding.

Kenneth Barish, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology at Cornell University's Weill Medical College, offers five concrete steps that will help parents solve most of the common problems they will encounter,
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Is It Really Bad Behavior? 
Finding the Positives through Reframing

February 18, 2013—Sure, all kids will need their behavior corrected at times. But special needs children sometimes receive far more than their fair share of criticism. According to special needs educator Jack Taulbee, "the obstruction for most special needs children is that they, and the people around them, are so focused on the weaknesses caused by the disorder that the child’s good qualities are overlooked. The challenge for adults is to avoid the predictable path of looking at the disorder’s symptoms pessimistically and to begin instead down a new road—that of focusing on the positive aspects of a child’s actions. This is called reframing."

Taulbee offers tips to help parents and teachers see the positive potential in challenging behaviors, and advocates for helping special needs children see, and become motivated to enhance, their strengths.
(Full story . . . )

Will Things Ever Be Normal Again? 
Dealing With the Emotions of Change

February 10, 2013—Family dynamics can alter dramatically when the onset of a serious neurological disorder manifests itself in a child.  This is because to one degree or another, the changes that occur from the child’s disorder also affect every other member of the family. This is why after diagnosis parents often ask me, “Will things ever be normal again?”  Perhaps what they really mean is, will things ever be easy again?
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Attachment Issues: 
Debunking the Parenting Wars

January 1, 2013—Attachment parenting, usually associated with co-sleeping, baby-“wearing” and prolonged breast-feeding, is heard increasingly often these days. Yet it isn’t always well understood, even by those who support it. What is “attachment,” what does it have to do with parenting, and how does it relate to mental health and well-being?
(Full story . . . )

Core Competencies for Kids: Decision-Making Skills

December 21, 2012—Just about every aspect of our children’s well-being depends on how adept they become at making wise decisions. By the time we are parents, we understand that the consequences of a single bad choice can reverberate for years, so we want to help our children become competent decision makers. But what skills are required, and how do parents instill them? (Full story . . . )

The Praise Wars: Are Children Overpraised?

December 11, 2012—It is far too easy for parents to come to either-or conclusions on the topic of children and praise. For many, the question is a Shakespearean one: "To praise, or not to praise?" 

According to Kenneth Barish, Ph.D., however, we may be asking the wrong question. Barish, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University, has been working with children and teens in a clinical setting for more than 30 years. In his own review of the research on praise, another story seems to emerge: one that is well supported by his long clinical experience. 
(Full story . . . )

The Motivation Equation: Understanding a Child's Lack of Effort

November 20, 2012—Parents often wonder, “Why doesn’t my child put more effort into his schoolwork? Why doesn’t he care?” Many parents believe that their child is “lazy.” This is far from the case, says Kenneth Barish, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University. Rather, he says, children want to do well, to feel good about themselves—and about others, and to please those they admire and respect. So if it isn't laziness, what is at the root of motivation problems? How can parents and teachers help? It can be helpful, says Barish, to think of children’s motivation in the form of equations:
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Why Empathy Is Not Indulgence

October 30, 2012—In recent years, many parent advisors have expressed concern about contemporary parenting—and about the character of our children. These advisors believe, especially, that our children are indulged. And in discussions over this important issue, empathy and understanding, which remain the essence of good parenting, have gotten a bad name—and a bum rap.
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Empathy Breeds Empathy: An Interview with Kenneth Barish, Ph.D.

October 28, 2012—Kenneth Barish, Ph.D. is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University. He is also on the faculty of the Westchester Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy and the William Alanson White Institute Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Training Program. In this 2012 interview, Dr. Barish discusses his latest book and explains why it is so crucial for parents to understand children's emotions.
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Core Competencies for Kids: Prosocial Skills

June 21, 2012—What makes the difference between kids who are at risk for lifelong mental-health and behavioral problems and those who seem able to deal with whatever life throws at them as they mature? Experts tell us it’s a matter of gaining certain skills or “competencies” in childhood that serve our well-being for the rest of our lives: decision-making skills, self-control, a healthy self-view, a moral system of belief—and something called “prosocial connectedness.”
(Full story . . . )

Grief and Loss through a Child’s Eyes

June 19, 2012—When my brother died, my middle daughter was only eight. As we stood in the cemetery watching them lower his ashes into the earth, she held tightly to my hand and, dry-eyed, asked “how did they fit Uncle Tony into that little box?” I explained that when Uncle Tony realized he was probably going to die, he told everyone that he wanted to be cremated afterward. I also explained that being cremated means your body is heated until it turns into ash so it can be carried more easily and will fit into smaller spaces like that box.

At the time, she didn’t ask anything more about the uncle who had been so present in her life but even through my own grief it was easy to see signs that she, too, was grieving—in the unique and sporadic way that children do.
(Full story . . . )

Facebook Gets a Psychological Review

June 12, 2012—Anyone as used and abused as Facebook has been since its 2004 creation would certainly qualify as a candidate for therapy; so it’s no surprise to find three psychologists checking out the online social network (hereafter to be referred to as an OSN) in the May 2012 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science.

These psychologists combed the research literature for every study they could find that examined any aspect of Facebook, hoping to nail down everything we know about the OSN that might be relevant to the social sciences. Ending up with more than 400 peer-reviewed studies examining Facebook from all kinds of angles, written by all kinds of researchers representing all kinds of disciplines, the review came to one important conclusion: We’ve already learned quite a bit about human behavior from Facebook, but there’s no doubt it can probably tell us a whole lot more.
(Full story . . . )

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

May 20, 2012—When we say our heart is broken, we usually intend it as a metaphor for the pain we feel at the loss of an important relationship. But in recent years we’ve been told that the heart can quite literally be damaged by negative interactions. Does this mean we should simply avoid conflict? Shut out those with whom we have relationship problems? Is that where this finding leads? Other research suggests that there may be more fulfilling alternatives to avoidance, at least in the absence of the threat of violence. (Full story . . . )

Autism: The Facts About Truth

May 14, 2012—I was reading an article online the other day when I was suddenly reminded of the rather strange relationship that has existed between truth and fact since autism transitioned from being an obscure neurological condition into an epidemic. The article mentioned the widely known and often-repeated truth that 80% of married couples who have an autistic child end up divorced. Eight out of ten. It is truly one of the saddest parts of the whole autism experience. And it’s not true. (Full story . . . )

Core Competencies for Kids: The Crucial Role of Self Control

September 21, 2010—Children who reach adolescence with deficits in self regulation are more likely to fail academically, exhibit aggressive behavior, abuse substances, engage in high-risk sexual behavior and—as a result of any or all of these—generally experience negative life events. Unfortunately, many parents who struggle in this area themselves are ill-equipped to pass these skills down. Yet some researchers will go so far as to suggest that most if not all major problems that plague individuals of all ages in our society, including a number of health problems and mental issues, can be traced in some way to an inability to appropriately control aspects of the self. (Full story . . . )

Got Resilience?

August 15, 2010—Depression and anxiety disorders often occur after the brain’s stress centers have been forced to remain at high alert for extended periods of time. But why is it that some people seem to bounce back very quickly from stress while others succumb to depression, anxiety or even Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Are some people just better at pulling themselves up by their bootstraps? (Full story . . . )

Autism: Finding Out

July 30, 2010—Gary Evans, parent of a child with autism, writes: Not long ago, I was speaking with my son’s teacher from third grade, Melissa Spence, about the special diets some parents feed their autistic children and she remarked that it was a lot more common in the earlier grades than in hers. We agreed that it was one of the things parents tended to do soon after their child was assessed and less so later on. That got me thinking about my own experience learning Christopher was autistic and what that first year was like. Looking back, one thing became abundantly clear: ‘finding out’ was much more a process than an event.. (Full story . . . )

Core Competencies for Kids: What Self-Esteem Really Means

June 21, 2010—One thing most researchers agree on is that children need to be taught a healthy view of their place in the world: their sense of self. But what does that mean?

“Armies of American teachers, along with American parents, are straining to bolster children’s self-esteem,” says psychologist Martin Seligman. “That sounds innocuous enough, but the way they do it often erodes children’s sense of worth. By emphasizing how a child feels, at the expense of what the child does—mastery, persistence, overcoming frustration and boredom, and meeting challenge—parents and teachers are making this generation of children more vulnerable to depression.” 
(Full story . . . )



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