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Your Teen

Mental Health Clues Found in Teen Brain Scans

1:30

If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many ups and downs in your teenager’s moods- there’s a very good reason; their brain is still developing. Brain scans from a research team at the University of Cambridge identified the areas of the brain that change the most during the teen years. It’s no surprise that areas associated with complex thought and decision-making are the ones going through a growth spurt during this time.

The scientists also discovered a link between teenage brain development and mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

The team from Cambridge's department of psychiatry scanned the brains of 300 people between the ages of 14 and 24.

They found that basic functions such as vision, hearing and movement were fully developed by adolescence. However, complex thinking processes and decision-making were still in a growth stage.

These areas are nerve centers with lots of connections to and from other key areas.

You can think of the brain as a global airline network that's made up of small infrequently used airports and huge hubs like Heathrow where there is very high traffic.

The brain uses a similar set up to co-ordinate our thoughts and actions.

During adolescence, this network of big hubs is consolidated and strengthened. It's a bit like how Heathrow or JFK have become gradually busier over the years.

Researchers found that genes involved in the “hub” were similar to those associated with mental illnesses, including schizophrenia.

The discovery is in line with the observation that many mental disorders develop during adolescence, according to researcher Dr Kirstie Whitaker.

"We have shown a pathway from the biology of cells in the area through to how people who are in their late teenage years might then have their first episode of psychosis," she told the BBC.

Genetics are not the only reason for mental illnesses. Older studies have also linked stress during childhood and the teenage years as a possible contributor. Recent findings have shown an association between maltreatment, abuse and neglect and brain development during childhood and adolescence. In addition, these types of stressors may also contribute to the emergence of mental illness.

Lead researcher, Professor Ed Bullmore, whose work was funded by the Wellcome Trust, believes the discovery of a biological link between teenage brain development and the onset of mental illness might help researchers identify those most at risk of becoming ill.

"As we understand more about what puts people at risk for schizophrenia, that gives us an opportunity to try to identify individuals that are at risk of becoming schizophrenic in the foreseeable future, the next two to three years, and perhaps to offer some treatment then that could be helpful in preventing the onset of clinical symptoms. "

The study also sheds light on the mood and behavioral changes experienced by teenagers during normal brain development.

"The regions that are changing most are those associated with complex behavior and decision making," says Dr. Whitaker.

"It shows that teenagers are on a journey of becoming an adult and becoming someone who is able to pull together all these bits of information.

This is a really important stage to go through. You wouldn't want to be a child all your life.

This is a powerful and important stage that you have to go through to be the best and the most capable adult that you can be."

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Story source: Pallab Ghosh, http://www.bbc.com/news/health-36887224

 

Your Teen

Overweight Girls Start Periods At Earlier Age

1.45 to read

Early-onset menstruation is linked to later health problems such as breast cancer, said Sarah Keim, a researcher at The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, who wasn't involved in the new study. Girls who get their period early in life are also more likely to have sex sooner than their peers, Keim added, which increases the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.It's nothing new that girls are getting younger and younger when they have their first period, but experts worry that the current obesity epidemic could be fueling that trend.

Overweight or obese girls get their first period months earlier than their normal-weight peers, according to a Danish study. Early-onset menstruation is linked to later health problems such as breast cancer, said Sarah Keim, a researcher at The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, who wasn't involved in the new study. Girls who get their period early in life are also more likely to have sex sooner than their peers, Keim added, which increases the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. About 17 percent of American kids and teens are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the study, researchers used information on body mass index (BMI) -- a measure of weight in relation to height -- and age at first period from about 3,200 Danish girls born between 1984 and 1987. The girls started their period just after they had turned 13, on average, which is about half a year later than in the U.S. Keim said part of the reason for this difference may be that African-Americans tend to start their periods before white girls. On average, a girl got her period about 25 days earlier for every point her BMI increased. For a female of about average height and weight, a one-point change in BMI is equivalent to about six pounds. Overweight and obese girls, for example, got their period three to five months before normal-weight girls, said Anshu Shrestha, a graduate student at UCLA School of Public Health, who worked on the study. There has been past research showing a link between BMI and when girls start menstruating. However, since this study was done more recently, it shows that the link is holding up in today's generation, Keim said. The researchers also found that a girl's mother's weight was related to when her daughter started menstruating, but less so than earlier work had hinted. For every point her mother's BMI when pregnant went up, the girl's period came about a week earlier, according to the new study, which was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Keim said the Danish findings reinforce the importance of keeping a healthy weight. "It's important for your entire life, starting from very early on," she told Reuters Health. "And it can even affect your children's health." Talking to your daughter about Menstruation. Most girls begin to menstruate when they're about 12, but periods are possible as early as age 8. That's why explaining menstruation early is so important. But menstruation is an awkward subject to talk about, especially with preteen girls, who are often embarrassed by this discussion. So what's the best way to approach this ticklish topic? If your daughter asks questions about menstruation, answer them openly and honestly. Provide as many details as you think she needs at the time. It's OK to let your daughter set the pace, but don't let her avoid the topic entirely. If she's not asking questions as she approaches the preteen years, it's up to you to start talking about menstruation. Don't plan a single tell-all discussion. Instead, talk about the various issues - from basic hygiene to fear of the unknown - in a series of short conversations. Consider it part of a continuing conversation on how the human body works. Remember, your daughter needs good information about the menstrual cycle and all the other changes that puberty brings. If her friends are her only source of information, she may hear some nonsense and take it for fact. To introduce the subject of menstruation, you might ask your daughter what she knows about puberty. Clarify any misinformation and ask what questions she might have. It may be helpful to time your conversations with the health lessons and sex education your daughter is receiving in school, or you could broach the subject before a routine doctor's appointment. You can tell your daughter that the doctor may ask her whether she's gotten her period yet. Then ask if she has any questions or concerns about menstruation. Girls might prefer to learn about menstruation from a female family member, but sometimes that's not possible. If you're a single father and you're not comfortable talking about menstruation, you might delegate these conversations to a female relative or friend. The key is to make sure the information is relayed somehow. The biology of menstruation is important, but most girls are more interested in practical information about periods. Your daughter may want to know when it's going to happen, what it's going to feel like and what she'll need to do when the time comes. - What is menstruation? Menstruation means a girl's body is physically capable of becoming pregnant. Each month, one of the ovaries releases an egg. This is called ovulation. At the same time, hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If ovulation takes place and the egg isn't fertilized, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina. This is a period. - Does it hurt? Many girls have cramps, typically in the lower abdomen, when their periods begin. Cramps can be dull and achy or sharp and intense. Exercise, a heating pad or an over-the-counter pain reliever may help ease any discomfort. - When will it happen? No one can tell exactly when a girl will get her first period. Typically, however, girls begin menstruating about two years after their breasts begin to develop. Many girls experience a thin, white vaginal discharge about one year before menstruation begins. - What should I do? Explain how to use sanitary pads or tampons. Many girls are more comfortable starting with pads, but it's OK to use tampons right away. Remind your daughter that it may take some practice to get used to inserting tampons. Stock the bathroom with various types of sanitary products ahead of time. Encourage your daughter to experiment until she finds the product that works best for her. - What if I'm at school? Encourage your daughter to carry a few pads or tampons in her backpack or purse, just in case. Many school bathrooms have coin-operated dispensers for these products. The school nurse also may have supplies. - Will everyone know that I have my period? Assure your daughter that pads and tampons aren't visible through clothing. No one needs to know that she has her period. - What if blood leaks onto my pants? Offer your daughter practical suggestions for covering up stains until she's able to change clothes, such as tying a sweatshirt around her waist. You might also encourage your daughter to wear dark pants or shorts when she has her period, just in case. Your daughter may worry that she's not normal if she starts having periods before, or after, friends her age do, or if her periods aren't like those of her friends. But menstruation varies with the individual. Some girls have periods that last two days, while others have periods that last more than a week. It can even vary this drastically from month to month in the same girl. The amount of blood lost each month can vary, too, usually from 4 to 12 teaspoons (about 20 to 60 milliliters). It's also common for girls to have irregular periods for the first year or two. Some months might even go by without a period. Once your daughter's cycle settles down, teach her how to track her periods on a calendar. Eventually she may be able to predict when her periods will begin. Schedule a medical checkup for your daughter if: - Her periods last more than seven days - She has menstrual cramps that aren't relieved by over-the-counter medications - She's soaking more pads or tampons than usual - She's missing school or other activities because of painful or heavy periods - She goes three months without a period or suspects she may be pregnant - She hasn't started menstruating by age 15 The changes associated with puberty can be a little scary. Reassure your daughter that it's normal to feel apprehensive about menstruating, but it's nothing to be too worried about and you're there to answer any questions she may have.

Your Teen

Teens: Fatal Car Crashes Down

2:00

It seems like there are far too many studies reporting bad outcomes where teens are involved; too much drinking, eating, smoking and risky behaviors.

However, a recent study concludes that fatal car crashes involving teens have dropped by over half in the last decade. Researchers believe one reason may be that more teenagers are receiving driving licenses attached with restrictions.

"Many factors are probably at play, but there is wide agreement the graduated licensing programs are an important contributor to the decline in fatal crashes," lead study author Ruth Shults, an injury prevention researcher at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said in an to email to Reuters Health.

Graduated licenses may limit teens from diving at night as well as restrict how many teenage passengers can ride in a car with a teen driver.

Shults says that may be partly responsible for reducing the overall crash rate by 20 to 40 percent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of drivers aged 16 to 19 involved in fatal crashes fell by 55 percent to 2,568 in 2013, down from 5,724 in 2004, supported by an increase in graduated licenses programs.

The numbers may also be down because some teenagers are waiting till they are 18 to get their driving license, said Eric Teoh, a senior statistician at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, Virginia.

"An 18-year-old novice is probably more prepared maturity-wise than a 16-year-old novice," said Teoh, who wasn't involved in the study.

Many parents have changed what they look for in a car for their teenager. Newer models have better safety features - such as electronic stability to help keep the car in line if the driver loses control. That one feature alone may also be a contributing factor in fewer crashes.

Across 42 states included in the survey, the proportion of high school students who drive ranged from about 53 percent to about 90 percent, with the highest rates in the mid-western and mountain states, where population density is low. West coast states including California, Washington and Oregon were among eight excluded from the study.

In cities, fewer students drove, which may be related to family income, shorter travel distances and wider use of public transportation or alternatives such as walking or bicycling.

Nationwide in 2013, about three in four high school students 16 and older reported driving in the past month; the proportion was lower among black and Hispanic teens compared to white youth.

The economy may have also played a role in the reduction of teen drivers. Less dispensable money may have forced teens to look for alternative means such as public transportation, bicycles or walking.

"The economic downturn resulted in changes in the way people drive, with people taking fewer elective trips," said Raymond Bingham, a professor at the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor, who wasn't involved in the study.

Leisure trips, as opposed to driving to work or school, are associated with more crashes, Bingham said.

Whatever the reasons, it’s good to know that more of our teenage drivers are living to grow into adulthood and making it pass the turbulent adolescent years.

Source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/08/us-health-teens-drivers-crashes-idUSKBN0MZ21020150408

Your Teen

What do Energy Drinks Actually Do to the Body?

2:00

There’s been a lot of discussion over whether caffeine-spiked “Energy Drinks” are really safe for consumption, particularly for kids and young adults.  Although many manufacturers add the advisory statement “not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women and persons sensitive to caffeine” on their label, it often goes ignored.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that as these drinks have become more popular, the incidences of caffeine related overdoses and deaths have increased.

In one heartbreaking example, 14-year-old Anais Fournier died from cardiac arrest due to caffeine toxicity after consuming two 24- ounce cans of Monster energy drink a day apart.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been investigating whether there is causal link to the drinks and health problems, Mayo Clinic researcher Anna Svatikova and her colleagues wanted more information about exactly what happens in your body after you consume one of the drinks.

She and her team recruited 25 volunteers. All were young adults age 18 or older, nonsmokers, free of known disease, and not taking medications. They were asked to drink a 16-ounce can of a Rockstar energy drink and a placebo -- with the same taste, texture, color and nutritional contents but without the caffeine and other stimulants -- within five minutes on two separate days.

The energy drink had the following stimulants: 240 mg of caffeine, 2,000 mg of taurine and extracts of guarana seed, ginseng root and milk thistle. All typical ingredients associated with energy drinks.

Researchers took numerous measurements first before they drank and 30 minutes after. With the placebo, there was very little change. With the energy drink, however, many of the changes were marked:

•       Systolic blood pressure (the top number) - 6.2 percent increase

•       Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) - 6.8 percent increase

•       Average blood pressure - 6.4 percent increase

•       Heart rate - none

•       Caffeine in blood - increase from undetectable to 3.4 micrograms/mL

•       Norepinephrine level (the stress hormone, which can give you the shakes when you have too much caffeine) in blood - increase from 150 pg/mL to 250 pg/ML

Writing in JAMA, the researchers said that these changes may predispose those who drink a single drink to increased cardiovascular risk.

This may explain why a number of those who died after consuming energy drinks appeared to have had heart attacks.

They also exposed the volunteers to two-minute physical, mental, and cold stressors after consuming the energy drinks to see how that might affect blood pressure and other body functions.

The physical stressor involved asking participants to squeeze on a handgrip; the mental one to complete a series of mathematical tasks as fast as possible; and the cold one immersing their one hand into ice water. Interestingly, there was no further change.

Another thing that is typically overlooked when people choose one of these drinks is the serving size. A 16-ounce can is two servings. A 24-ounce can has three servings. Caffeine and sugar content is often listed per serving. But honestly, how many people drink a third or half a can at a time? Besides caffeine, other stimulants are often added to energy drinks such as Ginseng and Guarana. Most people have no idea what they are, what they do and if they negatively interact with medications.

The American Beverage Association defends the drinks and said in a statement  that "there is nothing unique about the caffeine in mainstream energy drinks, which is about half that of a similar sized cup of coffeehouse coffee" and that drinking coffee would have produced similar effects.

“The safety of energy drinks has been established by scientific research as well as regulatory agencies around the globe. Just this year the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed the safety of energy drinks and their ingredients after an extensive review," the organization said.

It’s up to parents to decide whether these drinks are beneficial to their family or if they should re-think purchasing one for themselves or their child. A family discussion about the pros and cons of energy drinks with pre-teens and teenagers could give the kids the information they need to make a good choice.

Source: Ariana Eunjung Cha, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=2469194

Your Teen

HPV Vaccine, Proving Effective in Teenage Girls

2:00

While the controversy over the HPV vaccine may continue in some circles, a new study says the vaccine is proving effective in teenage girls.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was introduced 10 years ago and its use immediately became a hot topic. The vaccine is recommended for young girls and boys ages 11 and 12, to protect them from the sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical as well as anal, penile, mouth and throat cancers. 

The study found that in teenage girls, the virus’s prevalence has been reduced by two-thirds.

Even for women in their early 20s, a group with lower vaccination rates, the most dangerous strains of HPV have still been reduced by more than a third.

“We’re seeing the impact of the vaccine as it marches down the line for age groups, and that’s incredibly exciting,” said Dr. Amy B. Middleman, the chief of adolescent medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, who was not involved in the study. “A minority of females in this country have been immunized, but we’re seeing a public health impact that is quite expansive.”

HPV vaccinations rates, in young girls and boys, have slowly been increasing, since the vaccine was introduced, but 4 out of 10 adolescent girls and 6 out of 10 adolescent boys have not started the recommended HPV vaccine series, leaving them vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV infections.

That is partly because of the implicit association of the vaccine with adolescent sexual activity, rather than with its explicit purpose: cancer prevention. Only Virginia, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia require the HPV vaccine.

The latest research examined HPV immunization and infection rates through 2012, but just in girls. The recommendation to vaccinate boys became widespread only in 2011; they will be included in subsequent studies.

Using data from a survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the study examined the prevalence of the virus in women and girls of different age groups during the pre-vaccine years of 2003 through 2006. (The vaccine was recommended for girls later in 2006.) Researchers then looked at the prevalence in the same age groups between 2009 and 2012.

By those later years, the prevalence of the four strains of HPV covered by the vaccine had decreased by 64 percent in girls ages 14 to 19. Among women ages 20 to 24, the prevalence of those strains had declined 34 percent. The rates of HPV in women 25 and older had not fallen.

“The vaccine is more effective than we thought,” said Debbie Saslow, a public health expert in HPV vaccination and cervical cancer at the American Cancer Society. As vaccinated teenagers become sexually active, they are not spreading the virus, so “they also protect the people who haven’t been vaccinated,” she said.

Many doctors are pressing for primary care providers to strongly recommend the HPV vaccine in tandem with the other two that preteen children now typically receive.

Many health experts are hoping that the positive results from this study will encourage more pediatricians and primary care physicians to discuss getting the vaccine with parents of young children.

The study was published in the online journal Pediatrics.

Source: Jan Hofman, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/health/vaccine-has-sharply-reduced-hpv-in-teenage-girls-study-says.html?ref=health

Your Teen

“See it before you sign it”. Fire Safety for Off College Campus Living

1:45

Whether it’s in the spring, fall, winter or summer, many college kids will eventually move to off campus living quarters. Parents and students typically have time to do research on the areas around campus that are for rent. However, there are some fire prevention safety tips that you might not have thought about.

The best advice to help keep your college student safe is… don’t sign on the dotted line until you’ve actually seen the apartment or house.

Why? Because about seven people every year, die in fires in dorms, fraternities, sororities and off-campus housing.

Since 2000, nearly 120 people have died in campus fires, according to a U.S. Fire Administration (USFA).

Off-campus housing tops the list for fires.

Most (94 percent) fatal campus fires took place in off-campus housing, according to incidents examined by USFA between 2000 and 2015.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has teamed up with USFA, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Campus Firewatch to help get this warning out. Don’t sign a contract for housing until you see it yourself. That goes for Mom and Dad too. See it, take a housing tour and make sure you look for:

#1 Working smoke alarms

Make sure there are working smoke alarms on every level and inside each bedroom. Smoke alarms save lives. Fire sprinklers add lifesaving protection too.

USFA found that smoke alarms were missing or did not have batteries in 58 percent of fatal campus fires. None of the fatal fire locations had fire sprinklers.

#2 Two ways out of each room for a safe escape. Make sure all windows and doors open easily. You need to be able to get out if there is a fire. Two ways out are best.

#3 Campus or off-campus housing that can handle today’s electric power needs.

Laptop computers, phones, televisions and coffee makers take a lot of power. Some older homes may not be able to handle all the electrical demand by today’s students. USFA found that electrical issues caused 11 percent of the fires.

#4 Be in the know.

Make sure that your college student knows how to be responsible around alcohol and smoking. The USFA study found these two things involved in the majority of the fires.

Also, if your child is going to be cooking his or her own meals, a discussion about keeping an eye on the food when it is cooking and avoiding distractions is a necessity.

College is a time of new and exciting beginnings. Be sure to “See it before you sign it” for off-campus housing so that an overlooked danger doesn’t have a chance to bring precious college years to an abrupt and devastating end.

Story source: http://onsafety.cpsc.gov/blog/2016/04/04/see-it-before-you-sign-it/

Your Teen

Bullied Teen’s Suicidal Thoughts, Attempts Reduced By Exercise

1:45

When children are bullied, they are more likely to fall into a deep depression and consider suicide as a way out of their torment than children who are not bullied. That’s not surprising considering the long-term effect being bullied can have on a child. Oftentimes, children who are depressed are prescribed medications to take, but a new study suggests that exercise may be the key to improving bullied children’s outlook and mental health.

"I was surprised that it was that significant and that positive effects of exercise extended to kids actually trying to harm themselves," said lead author Jeremy Sibold, associate professor and chair of the Department Rehabilitation and Movement Science. "Even if one kid is protected because we got them involved in an after-school activity or in a physical education program it's worth it."

Previous research has shown bullied children are at a greater risk for sadness, poor academic performance, low self-esteem, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse as well as depression.

The study used data from the CDC's National Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 13,583 high school students, researchers at the University of Vermont found that being physically active four or more days per week resulted in a 23 percent reduction in suicidal ideation and attempts in bullied students.

Nationwide nearly 20 percent of students reported being bullied on school property.

Thirty percent of the students in the study reported feeling sad for two or more weeks in the previous year while more than 22 percent reported suicidal ideation and 8.2 percent reported actual suicidal attempts during the same time period. Bullied students were twice as likely to report sadness, and three times as likely to report suicidal thoughts or attempts when compared to peers who were not bullied.

Researchers found that exercise, four or more days a week, had a positive influence on reducing suicidal thoughts and attempts by 23 percent.

Sibold’s study comes at a time when 44 percent of the nation’s school administrators have cut large amounts of time from physical education, recess and arts’ programs to focus more on reading and mathematics since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

"It's scary and frustrating that exercise isn't more ubiquitous and that we don't encourage it more in schools," says Sibold. "Instead, some kids are put on medication and told 'good luck.' If exercise reduces sadness, suicide ideation, and suicide attempts, then why in the world are we cutting physical education programs and making it harder for students to make athletic teams at such a critical age?"

Sibold and the study’s co-authors say they hope their report increases the consideration of exercise programs as part of the public health approach to reduce suicidal behavior in all adolescents.

"Considering the often catastrophic and long lasting consequences of bullying in school-aged children, novel, accessible interventions for victims of such conduct are sorely needed," they conclude.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150921095433.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Teen

More Teens Fall Victim to Dating Violence

2:00

The teenage years are supposed to be filled with laughter, fun and testing the boundaries of parental control. It’s also a time when many boys and girls will start dating. For some teens, the beginning of couple relationships is about as far away from fun as it could possibly be.

Some teenagers may think that teasing and name-calling are somehow linked with a fondness for someone, and that might have been true when they were six or seven years old. However, by the time a young girl or boy reaches their teenage years, that kind of behavior can take on a much different tone. What was once an awkward attempt at gaining someone’s attention can turn into physical and sexual abuse.

According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is happening more than you might think.

Twenty-one percent of high school girls have been physically or sexually assaulted by someone they dated -- a figure twice as high as previously estimated.

Ten percent of high school boys also reported being physically or sexually assaulted by someone they had dated.

The authors of the new report noted that the CDC has changed the way it phrases its questions about teen dating violence, leading more students to report assaults.

Sadly, teens that have experienced dating violence are at risk for other serious problems as well. Research has shown that they are more than twice as likely to consider suicide. They are also more likely to get into fights, carry a weapon, use alcohol, marijuana or cocaine and to have sex with multiple partners. Not the kind of life any parent would want for their teenager or the one that they would truly want for themselves.  

Researchers don't know if any of these events causes the others. While it's possible that dating violence could cause thoughts of suicide, it's also possible that children who are depressed are more likely than others to fall into abusive relationships, says Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston who was not involved in the study.

Assaults by romantic partners often aren't isolated events. Many teens reported being assaulted multiple times, according to the study, based on the CDC's Youth Behavior Risk Surveillance System using questionnaires answered by more than 13,000 high school students.

"If there is violence once, there is likely to be violence again," Spinks-Franklin says. "It has to be taken very seriously."

Spinks-Franklin says she has seen violence even among relationships between 10- and 11-year-olds.

"If a parent is concerned that a child is in an unhealthy relationship, they need to address it, but do it in a way that doesn't make the child shut down," she says. "They need to feel safe telling a parent."

Teens often hide the abuse from their parents, Spinks-Franklin says. Teens may not be able to confide in friends, either, because abusers sometimes isolate their victims from loved ones. Teens are sometimes more willing to talk to doctors, especially if their parents are not in the room.

Some schools have taken the lead in promoting awareness of and education on teen dating violence. Pediatricians can also discuss this important topic with their patients and parents. If time is limited, brochures in the waiting room can offer information and open the door for questions.

"This study makes it even more important for parents to ask lots of questions and get to know their teen's friends and significant others, and not ignore anything that makes them uncomfortable," says McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital. "They also shouldn't ignore any changes in their teen's behavior."

Dating violence may never be eliminated one hundred percent, but can be considerably lessoned when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.

One of the best strategies for prevention is for parents and teens to be able to communicate about serious topics without judgmental attitudes or closed-minded opinions. Your teen wants your help even if he or she doesn’t know how to ask. They'll appreciate you being there before and when they need you.

The new study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Sources: Liz Szabo, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/03/02/teen-dating-violence-study/24127121/

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teen_dating_violence.html

Your Teen

Good Family Relationships Helps Teens Avoid Obesity

1:30

Two of the most valuable resources a teen can have are a stable family and a good relationship with their parents. Adolescents that have these two important components in their lives are more likely to develop healthy habits that may protect them from obesity, according to new study.

"A high level of family dysfunction may interfere with the development of healthful behaviors due to the families' limited ability to develop routines related to eating, sleep or activity behaviors, which can lead to excess weight gain," said the study's lead author, Jess Haines, of the University of Guelph in Ontario.

For the study, the researchers reviewed information on about 3,700 daughters and 2,600 sons, aged 14 to 24, in the United States.

About 80 percent reported having close and stable families. The findings showed that 60 percent of daughters and 50 percent of sons said they had a good relationship with their parents.

Researchers also found that teens with good family relationships are more likely to be more active and get enough sleep. Two factors, in addition to a healthy diet, that contributes to reasonable weight control.

The daughters in these families ate less fast food, and were less likely to be overweight or obese, the researchers discovered.

They also noted that fathers play an important role in helping their sons develop better choices that allow them to maintain a healthy weight.

"Much of the research examining the influence of parents has typically examined only the mother's influence or has combined information across parents," Haines said in a university news release.

"Our results underscore the importance of examining the influence fathers have on their children, and to develop strategies to help fathers support the development of healthy behaviors among their children," she said.

"It appears the father-son parent relationship has a stronger influence on sons than the mother-daughter relationship has on young women," said Haines.

As kids grow into adolescents, a tug of war between independence and parental control often develops. Research has shown that ongoing positive family relationships offer protective influences for teens against a range of risky behaviors. Sometimes it may feel like as our teens mature, family influence begins to wane - but that’s not the reality. This study points out how important a stable home life and good relationships are in helping teens develop a lifetime of healthy habits.

The study was published recently in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Story source: Mary Elizabeth Dallas, https://consumer.healthday.com/public-health-information-30/family-health-news-749/parents-play-key-role-in-teens-health-712354.html

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