The Parenting Science News Feed

The Parenting Science news feed alerts you to new postings on the Parenting Science website. It also features commentaries about recent events or discoveries in anthropology, evolutionary biology, psychology, and the popular culture.

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Apr 16, 2014

What do kids stand to gain from music lessons?

In recent months, headlines announced that music lessons do not have an effect on the way kids think and learn.

But the study in question didn't test the effects of learning to play a musical instrument. Instead, it tested the effects of 6 weeks of music-oriented preschool activities on young children.

What, then, do we know about the effects of serious, sustained musical training? It's clear that such training causes changes in the brain, and there is reason to think that many of the skills musicians acquire could be relevant for academic achievement.

The best reason to enroll kids in music lessons remains the obvious one: Learning to play music, and understand it, is intrinsically rewarding. But kids may also benefit in other ways.

For an updated review of the evidence, see my article, "Music and intelligence."

Continue reading "What do kids stand to gain from music lessons?"

Apr 14, 2014

Genetic study: Does family instability age kids before their time?

Some thoughts about a new study suggesting that early life adversity shortens a child's telomeres, and, therefore, hastens the aging process.

Continue reading "Genetic study: Does family instability age kids before their time?"

Apr 09, 2014

Babies get smarter after naps

New evidence that a nap helps babies figure out the rules that govern language.

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Apr 07, 2014

Evidence-based education

How is school serving your child? Here is my updated round-up of the many articles and blog posts I've written about schooling: A review of the best-available evidence about educating our kids.

Continue reading "Evidence-based education"

Apr 03, 2014

Why the traditional, high-starch food pyramid may be steering kids towards obesity and disease

An updated look at what hunter-gatherers have to teach us about healthy diets.

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Apr 02, 2014

Are some kids born to be slim...or plump?

New research suggests that the parents of very young children are making headway in the battle against obesity. But there is evidence that many children have genetic risk factors. What can we do about it?

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Mar 27, 2014

What we don't know about our kids

Babies and children can be hard to figure out. Here are five things that researchers say many parents don't realize.

Continue reading "What we don't know about our kids"

Mar 19, 2014

Why are so many babies being spanked?

A new study of more than 2700 American families found that 30% of one-year-olds had been spanked. What's going on?

Continue reading "Why are so many babies being spanked?"

Mar 12, 2014

Why young children beat adults at figuring out gadgets

When it comes to coping with the new and unexpected, young children may have an advantage.

Continue reading "Why young children beat adults at figuring out gadgets"

Mar 10, 2014

Critical thinking in children: Are we training our kids to act dumb?

In the wake of new study reporting that preschoolers were better than college students at figuring out a strange, new device, we ought to re-examine the messages we are sending to children.

Do years of education train kids to stop thinking in innovative ways? See my updated argument about the media, popular, culture, and schooling.

Continue reading "Critical thinking in children: Are we training our kids to act dumb?"

Mar 05, 2014

Sensitive parenting explains why breastfed babies are smarter

For years we've heard about links between breastfeeding and cognitive development. New research helps pinpoint what's responsible for the link, and it doesn't seem to be the milk. It's a package of parenting practices that breastfeeding mothers tend to follow.

Continue reading "Sensitive parenting explains why breastfed babies are smarter"

Mar 03, 2014

Baby sleep deprivation

Babies deprive parents of sleep. But do babies themselves ever suffer from insomnia?

Continue reading "Baby sleep deprivation"

Feb 26, 2014

Study: Babies didn't learn to read, despite parents' beliefs

Literacy experts conducted a long-term, experimental study, and the results are in: Diligent, daily lessons did NOT teach babes how to read.

Continue reading "Study: Babies didn't learn to read, despite parents' beliefs"

Feb 24, 2014

Empathy and the brain

Exciting new research suggests that our ability to understand other people is rooted in very real, very concrete physiological phenomena. And yet empathy isn't just a matter of neurons. Read my updated article about empathy and the brain.

Continue reading "Empathy and the brain"

Feb 20, 2014

Money thoughts make parenting less meaningful

Recent research suggests that the mere reminder of money can change the way we feel about the time we spend with our children.

Continue reading "Money thoughts make parenting less meaningful"

Feb 15, 2014

Television violence and kids: Whom does it serve?

Stories without conflict would be boring. But do kids really crave stories full of physical violence? Research suggests otherwise, and so we might ask ourselves: What's the point of presenting young children with all that aggression? Who actually benefits?

An updated look at the effects of violent television on kids.

Continue reading "Television violence and kids: Whom does it serve?"

Feb 12, 2014

Why are so many breastfeeding babies low on vitamin D?

You want to make sure your baby is getting enough vitamin D. But is she? Based on the research I’ve seen, I wouldn’t bet on it. Especially if she is breastfed. Read why doctors should be monitoring the vitamin D status of breastfeeding babies...and their mothers.

Continue reading "Why are so many breastfeeding babies low on vitamin D?"

Feb 10, 2014

Evidence-based tips for breastfeeding

Why aren't human automatic breast-feeders? I'm not sure, but even monkeys have to learn.

Continue reading "Evidence-based tips for breastfeeding"

Feb 07, 2014

Play and the brain

Educated parents from information-based societies need little convincing. They harbor a cultural bias in favor of play. But in many places, schools are cutting back on recess and other opportunities for free play. How do we know these moves are counter-productive? See my updated guide to the evidence about the cognitive effects of play.

Continue reading "Play and the brain"

Feb 05, 2014

Why should we encourage pretend play?

Pretend play is stimulating and fun, and that's reason enough to do it. But might it also bring out the best in kids?

Continue reading "Why should we encourage pretend play?"

Feb 03, 2014

Is your child securely attached?

Some babies form secure attachments with their caregivers. Others don't, and this failure has implications for the development of behavior problems.

But what does it mean, in concrete terms, that a child is securely attached? How do researchers measure attachment, and why do some children fail to form secure attachments?

Continue reading "Is your child securely attached?"

Jan 30, 2014

Better baby communication: Has natural selection wired your brain for baby talk?

An updated look at a special form of baby communication - infant-directed speech - and its effects on babies.

Continue reading "Better baby communication: Has natural selection wired your brain for baby talk?"

Jan 29, 2014

Do kids think they are immortal?

A new study asked children in two different societies what they believed about "pre-life," the time before they were conceived. The results suggest that many kids think they could feel and desire even before their mothers were pregnant with them. What are the implications?

Continue reading "Do kids think they are immortal?"

Jan 24, 2014

"Cry it out" sleep training: An evidence-based guide

What does recent research tell us about the "Ferber method," also known as "cry it out" sleep training? Here is my updated review of the evidence.

Continue reading ""Cry it out" sleep training: An evidence-based guide"

Jan 22, 2014

Toddler aggression: In the genes?

Some toddlers are more likely to hit, kick, bite, or attack other people. Are their parents doing something wrong? Not necessarily. A new study suggests that in the development of early childhood aggression, genetic factors play a big role.

Continue reading "Toddler aggression: In the genes?"

Jan 17, 2014

How to help kids develop more self-control

A number of recent studies point in the same direction: Adults play a big role in the development of children's self-control. Are you contributing in a positive way? See my updated, evidence-based tips.

Continue reading "How to help kids develop more self-control"

Jan 11, 2014

Breaks and time to explore help kids learn faster

Practice makes perfect, but too much practice – in the form of lengthy, mind-numbing drills – is actually counter-productive. To help kids learn faster, we need to schedule shorter practice sessions and give kids opportunities to tinker, experiment, and explore.

Continue reading "Breaks and time to explore help kids learn faster"

Jan 04, 2014

Top ten parenting science stories of 2013

What practical insights did researchers offer parents in 2013? Here's a countdown of the stories that impressed me the most.

Continue reading "Top ten parenting science stories of 2013"

Jan 01, 2014

Taking stock of your family's sleep habits

Hoping that you and your kids will get better sleep in 2014? You might start by taking stock of your family's sleep needs. See my updated review of the research on sleep requirements, and the importance of taking an individualized approach.

Continue reading "Taking stock of your family's sleep habits"

Dec 29, 2013

Eating nuts during pregnancy: What you need to know about the latest study

You may have read about the latest study. Researchers found that children were more likely to develop peanut allergies if their mothers had avoided eating the nuts during pregnancy.

But what does the overall evidence suggest? And what exactly did the researchers in this study control for? Here's what you need to know.

Continue reading "Eating nuts during pregnancy: What you need to know about the latest study"

Dec 23, 2013

Study: Many parents set bedtime too early

Even toddlers have their own, individualized biological clocks. What happens if bedtime is out of sync with your child's personal circadian rhythms?

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Dec 19, 2013

Can Lego bricks and other construction toys boost your child’s STEM skills?

Lego bricks and other construction toys may enhance STEM skills -- especially when kids follow models or blueprints.

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Dec 14, 2013

Kids are judged by their looks, so now what?

Physically attractive people benefit from a number of prejudices, and these begin in childhood. Experiments suggest that teachers believe attractive kids are more academically competent.

What can we do to battle lookism? Raising awareness about unconscious biases is important, but we also ought to consider the slippery, culturally-relative nature of "beauty."

Continue reading "Kids are judged by their looks, so now what?"

Dec 11, 2013

Father’s diet before conception may be crucial for baby’s health

A new study published in the journal Nature suggests that men, too, can influence the development of their unborn babies through the lifestyle choices they make.

Continue reading "Father’s diet before conception may be crucial for baby’s health"

Dec 08, 2013

Protect young children from the harmful effects of testing

When approached as fun, game show-like challenges, tests can be an effective study tool. But for many kids, tests don't take this form. In places like the United States, time-consuming standardized tests are being administered to children at an early age, and some students are feeling the pressure. What can we do? A look at what critics have to say about latest tests, and tips for helping your child cope.

Continue reading "Protect young children from the harmful effects of testing"

Dec 05, 2013

Newborn sleep for the science-minded

An updated guide to newborn sleep, with tips on how to cope.

Continue reading "Newborn sleep for the science-minded"

Nov 30, 2013

Have the pregnancy police messed up your diet?

With all the vague warnings and conflicting information about food safety, it's no wonder that some conscientious pregnant women end up with overly restrictive diets.

Continue reading "Have the pregnancy police messed up your diet?"

Nov 23, 2013

First grader sparks debate: Are young children getting too much work?

Kids subjected to early, rigorous academic lessons might have a head start, but their peers appear to catch up over time. So what's the point?

Continue reading "First grader sparks debate: Are young children getting too much work?"

Nov 22, 2013

Stress in babies: A guide for the science-minded

How do parents keep babies calm, happy, and emotionally healthy?

Continue reading "Stress in babies: A guide for the science-minded"

Nov 16, 2013

Are judgmental people harming you and your family?

Parents are constantly being criticized, and there may be serious health consequences.

Continue reading "Are judgmental people harming you and your family?"



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