Archive for August, 2012

Intelligent Sex Texting – Almost an oxymoron

“Intelligent sex texting” – it’s almost an oxymoron.

At least when it comes to about 30 percent of teens, according to a new report in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, a JAMA Nework publication.

Sexting – the electronically sending sexually explicit images or messages from one person to another – is so popular that it may constitute one of many “Not My Child” parents’ worst nightmares.

Researcher Jeff R. Temple, PhD of the University of Texas Medical Branch and his colleagues studied 948 students aged 14 to 19 years old (55.9 percent female) at seven public high schools and considered the association between sexting and sexual behaviors. Participants self-reported their history of dating, sexual behaviors and sexting. The assessed teen sexting with four questions: have they ever sent naked pictures of themselves through text or email, have they ever asked someone to send them a naked picture, have they been asked to send naked pictures of themselves to someone, and, if so, how bothered were they by the request.

Specifically, more than 1 in 4 adolescents have sent a nude picture of themselves through electronic means, about half have been asked to send a nude picture, and about a third have asked for a nude picture to be sent to them,” reported the authors. “Boys were more likely to ask and girls were more likely to have been asked for a sext.” In addition, white/non-Hispanic and African American teens were more likely than the other racial/ethnic groups to have been asked and to have sent a sext.

Of note, the research found that for both boys and girls, teens who sexted were more likely to have begun dating and to have had sex than those who did not sext.

“Given its prevalence and link to sexual behavior, pediatricians and other tween-focused and teen-focused health care providers may consider screening for sexting behaviors. Asking about sexting could provide insight into whether a teen is likely engaging in other sexual behaviors (for boys and girls) or risky sexual behaviors (for girls),” the authors noted.

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

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Obesity Battle

Thank you, Albert!

Einstein, that is.

After all, he’s the one who so infamously gave use “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

And, just on time for the Fourth of July obesity researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine calling for a new national battle plan to fight obesity – one that replaces the emphasis on food restriction and weight loss with achieving “energy balance” at a healthy body weight.

In the journal Circulation, published July 3, James O. Hill, PhD and colleagues at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center moved the debate in a new direction, using the idea of “energy balance” – which combines food intake, energy expended through physical activity and energy (fat) storage – to promote the concept of a “regulated zone,” where the mechanisms by which the body establishes energy balance are managed to overcome the body’s natural tendency to preserve existing body weight.

The researchers’ goal is accomplished by strategies that match food and beverage intake to a higher level of energy expenditure than is typical for many Americans, allowing the biological system that regulates body weight to work more effectively.
And the new study is supported by other research that shows that higher levels of physical activity are associated with low weight gain, while comparatively low levels of activity are linked to high weight gain over time.
Hill, professor of pediatrics and medicine and executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the UC Anschutz Medical Campus, is the lead author of the paper. He argues that “A healthy body weight is best maintained with a higher level of physical activity than is typical today and with an energy intake that matches.” “We are not going to reduce obesity by focusing only on reducing food intake. Without increasing physical activity in the population we are simply promoting unsustainable levels of food restriction. This strategy hasn’t worked so far and it is not likely to work in the future.”

As Dr. Hill explains, “What we are really talking about is changing the message from ‘Eat Less, Move More’ to ‘Move More, Eat Smarter.’”

In a burst of common sense that contradicts fast food chains’ preoccupation with jumbo and extra-jumbo sized portions, the authors argue that preventing excessive weight gain is a more achievable goal than treating obesity once it has developed. They stress that reducing calorie intake by 100 calories a day would prevent weight gain in 90 percent of American adults – and that goal is achievable through small increases in physical activity and small changes in food intake.

In part, the Colorado researchers’ results reflect basic math: People who have a low level of physical activity have trouble achieving energy balance because they must constantly use food restriction to match energy intake to a low level of energy expenditure. As perpetual dieters already know, constant food restriction is difficult to maintain over time and when it cannot be maintained, the result is positive energy balance – the calories consumed are greater than the calories expended through daily living and exercise, there is an increase in body mass, which elevates the energy expenditure and helps reestablish energy balance.

It’s somewhat different than the proverbial “see-saw” phenomenon that so many perpetual dieters complain about. It’s more like perpetually digging an ever deeper hole and not being able to understand why you can’t get out. And that’s because 60 to 80 percent of the weight gains that follow diet failures is usually body fat. In fact, the researchers speculate that people become obese because that may be the only way to achieve energy balance in a sedentary lifestyle and a food-abundant environment.

After reviewing the scientific energy balance literature, the researchers calculated that it is not realistic to attribute the current obesity crisis solely to caloric intake or physical activity levels. They noted that energy expenditure has dropped dramatically over the past century as American lives now require significantly less daily physical activity. However, they argue that this drop in energy expenditure was a necessary prerequisite for the obesity epidemic. Part of the response to that epidemic must be reinserting more physical activity into American lives.

“Addressing obesity requires attention to both food intake and physical activity, said co-author John Peters, PhD., assistant director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. “Strategies that focus on either alone will not likely work.”

The authors also explained part of the failure of food restriction in reducing obesity. Although caloric restriction produces weight loss, it also triggers hunger and the body’s natural defense to preserving existing body weight, which leads to a lower resting metabolic rate and changes in how the body burns calories.

A 10 percent weight loss can produce a 170 to 250 decrease in energy requirements; a loss of 20 percent of body weight can result in a decrease in energy requirements of 325 to 480 calories. These figures provide some insight into weight loss plateaus and the common see-saw (weight gain) effect following a weight loss regimen.

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

Brain Training Centers of Florida can help individuals overcome weight issues using brain wave optimization with real time balancing. We are open 7 days per week from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM to accommodate our clients.

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Seniors’ Lack of Sleep Troubles

We all know how important “a good night’s sleep” can be for newborns, infants and small children. And even more so for their parents.

Back in the day (and depending on your cultural heritage), restless, crying children were described as “driving” their parents “to the loony bin” or “the funny farm.”

Now there’s evidence that regular and consistent good sleep can prevent seniors from entering nursing homes.

“Our results show that in community-dwelling older women, more fragmented sleep is associated with a greater risk of being placed in a nursing home or in a personal care home,” reports Adam Spira, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Spira and his associates reported in the July 2012 issue of the Journal of American Geriatrics Society that “compared to women with the least fragmented sleep, those who spent the most time awake after first falling asleep had about 3 times the odds of placement in a nursing home. Individuals with the lowest sleep efficiency – those who spent the smallest portion of their time in bed actually sleeping – also had about 3 times the odds of nursing home placements.”

While the authors found similar patterns of associations between disturbed sleep and placement in personal care homes, sleep duration per se did not predict placement in these settings.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has long warned that insufficient sleep is associated with chronic diseases and conditions – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression, as well as motor vehicle and machinery-related accidents.

In the new study, researchers measured the sleep of women with a mean age of 83 from the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures; participants wore actigraphs – devices that record movement – on their non-dominant wrists for at least three days and the resulting data were used to characterize patterns of sleep and wakefulness. Demographic information, including place of residence, was gathered at the initial interview and again five years later.

The researchers reported, “ Greater sleep fragmentation is associated with greater risk of placement in a nursing home or personal care home 5 years later after accounting for a number of confounders,” noted Kristine Yaffe, M.D., senior author of the study and professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.

Spires also noted that this was an observational study and the results cannot be considered causative. “We need more research to explain how sleep disturbance might lead to this outcome, and whether interventions to improve sleep might prevent it.”

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

Brain Training Centers of Florida can help individuals overcome sleep issues through brain wave optimization using real time balancing. The Centers are open 7 days per week from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM in an effort to accommodate our clients. For further information, please call (305) 412-5050.

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“Fat Talk,” Body Appearance, Healthly Weight

Nearly all college women reported that they engage in fat talk with friends and almost one third of these women described their fat talk as frequent or very frequent. Interestingly, the women thought that groups of other female college friends engaged in fat talk much more frequently (an effect size of over two standard deviations) than they do in their own group of friends. These results are consistent with past research that describes fat talk among college women as a normative phenomenon (Britton et al., 2006; Tompkins et al., 2009). Also consistent with viewing fat talk as a social norm for women, results indicated that thin-ideal internalization was correlated with both self-reported frequency of fat talk and how often participants thought other women engaged in fat talk. In other words, the more women endorse the notion that the ideal female body is very thin, the more they share and reinforce these beliefs in social interactions.
Frequency of Fat Talk Associated With Increased Body Dissatisfaction, Regardless of Waistline
ScienceDaily (Mar. 30, 2011) — College women who engage in “fat talk” (women speaking negatively about the size and shape of their bodies) face greater dissatisfaction with their bodies and are more likely to have internalized an ultra-thin body ideal than those who engage in fat talk less frequently, according to a review article from Psychology of Women Quarterly.
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Study results found that while frequency of fat talk was associated with increased dissatisfaction with women’s own bodies, over half of the participants reported that they believe fat talk actually makes them feel better about their bodies. It’s concerning that women might think fat talk is a helpful coping mechanism, when it’s actually exacerbating body image disturbance. Researchers Rachel H. Salk of the University of Wisconsin and Renee Engeln-Maddox of Northwestern University found that “fat talk” is overwhelmingly common in the college-age women they studied, with more than 90 percent reporting they engaged in “fat talk.”
“The most common response to fat talk was denial that the friend was fat,” wrote Salk and Engeln-Maddox, “most typically leading to a back-and-forth conversation where each of two healthy weight peers denies the other is fat while claiming to be fat themselves.”
An additional interesting finding was that the frequency of “fat talk” was not related to a respondent’s BMI. “In other words, there was no association between a woman’s actual body size and how often she complained about her body size with peers,” Salk and Engeln-Maddox wrote.
“These results serve as a reminder,” wrote Salk and Engeln-Maddox, “that for most women, fat talk is not about being fat, but rather about feeling fat.”
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The study, reported in 2011 in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly – “If You’re Fat, Then I’m Humongous!”

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by SAGE Publications, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.
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Journal Reference:
1. R. H. Salk, R. Engeln-Maddox. “If You’re Fat, Then I’m Humongous!”: Frequency, Content, and Impact of Fat Talk Among College Women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 2011; 35 (1): 18 DOI: 10.1177/0361684310384107
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Almost 90 percent of normal-weight college coeds yearn to be thinner.
And, perhaps more disturbingly, most overweight women don’t want to be thin enough to achieve a healthy weight.
Those are among the findings of a Cornell University study of 310 college students
In addition, researchers found that half of underweight women want to lose even more weight, or stay just the way they are, thank you very much.

Most College Students Wish They Were Thinner, Study Shows
ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2007) — Most normal-weight women — almost 90 percent in a Cornell study of 310 college students — yearn to be thinner. Half of underweight women want to lose even more weight, or stay just the way they are, thank you very much.
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Meanwhile, most overweight women don’t want to be thin enough to achieve a healthy weight.
According to the study, one of the few to quantify the magnitude of body-weight dissatisfaction, which was published recently in the journal Eating Behaviors, most — 78 percent — of the overweight males surveyed also want to weigh less. But of this group, almost two-thirds — 59 percent — do not want to lose enough, so the body weight they desire would still keep them overweight.
More than 60 percent of U.S. adults are considered overweight or obese. And “because they don’t meet the societal ideals propagated by the media and advertising for body weight, they are often targets of discrimination within educational, workplace and health-care settings and are stigmatized as lazy, lacking self-discipline and unmotivated,” says Lori Neighbors, Ph.D. ’07, who conducted the research with Jeffery Sobal, Cornell professor of nutritional sociology in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology.
These factors have led many people to be dissatisfied with their bodies, says Neighbors, now an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
When the Cornell researchers assessed body weight versus the weight and shape individuals wish they had, they found that:
Men and women are similarly dissatisfied with their weight by an average of about 8 pounds, though women are much more dissatisfied with their bodies. Men have more mixed desires — some want to lose weight while others want to gain weight.
Most of the normal-weight women who want to weigh less desire a weight still within the normal-weight range. However, 10 percent want to weigh what experts deem as officially underweight.
Half of the underweight women want to stay the same or lose weight. “The majority of underweight females, closer in body size to the thin cultural ideal, consider their body weight ‘about right,'” said Sobal, even though experts have deemed these body weights unhealthful.
Overweight women want to weigh less. But about half want a body weight that would continue to make them overweight.
The findings suggest “that the idealized body weight and shape, especially among underweight females and overweight individuals of both genders, are not in accordance with population-based standards defining healthy body weight.”
In a society in which excess weight is the norm, it’s vital, say the researchers, to better understand body dissatisfaction and how this dissatisfaction impacts weight-management efforts.
“While both men and women express some degree of body dissatisfaction, a surprising proportion of people with less healthy body weights — underweight females and overweight individuals of both genders — do not idealize a body weight that would move them to a more healthy state,” said Neighbors.
The research was supported primarily by the National Institutes of Health.
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For Young Adults, Appearance Matters More Than Health, Study Suggests
ScienceDaily (Aug. 13, 2012) — When it comes to college-age individuals taking care of their bodies, appearance is more important than health, research conducted at the University of Missouri suggests. María Len-Ríos, an associate professor of strategic communication, Suzanne Burgoyne, a professor of theater, and a team of undergraduate researchers studied how college-age women view their bodies and how they feel about media messages aimed at women. Based on focus group research findings, the MU team developed an interactive play about body image to encourage frank discussions about conflicting societal messages regarding weight, values and healthful choices.
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“During our focus group conversations, we learned that young people don’t think about nutrition when it comes to eating,” Len-Ríos said. “They think more about calorie-counting, which isn’t necessarily related to a balanced diet.”

The focus groups included college-age women, college-age men and mothers of college-age women, who discussed how body image is associated with engaging in restrictive diets, irregular sleep patterns and over-exercising.
“We receive so many conflicting media messages from news reports and advertising about how we should eat, how we should live and how we should look,” Len-Ríos said. “Some participants said they realize images of models are digitally enhanced, but it doesn’t necessarily keep them from wanting to achieve these unattainable figures — this is because they see how society rewards women for ‘looking good.'”
The researchers also completed in-depth interviews with nutritional counselors who said lack of time and unhealthy food environments can keep college-age students from getting good nutrition.
“Eating well takes time, and, according to health professionals, college students are overscheduled and don’t have enough time to cook something properly or might not know how to prepare something healthful,” Len-Ríos said.
Based on the focus group conversations and interviews, Carlia Francis, an MU theater doctoral student and playwright, developed “Nutrition 101,” a play about women’s body images. During performances, characters divulge their insecurities about their own bodies, disparage other women’s bodies and talk about nutrition choices. After a short, scripted performance, the actors remain in character, and audience members ask the characters questions.

“When you’re developing something for interactive theater, focus groups and in-depth interviews are great at getting at stories,” Len-Ríos said. “Many of the stories used in the interactive play — like valuing people because of their appearance and not their personal qualities or abilities — came from individuals’ personal experiences.”

Burgoyne says the play helps facilitate dialogues about nutrition, media messages and self-awareness.
“Body image is a sensitive topic, and the play helps open discussions about how individuals view themselves and how media messages influence their self-images,” Burgoyne said. “An easy way to improve individuals’ body images does not exist, but hopefully, the conversations that arise from the performances will help develop ways to counteract the images that the media promote.”
MU student actors debuted the play last spring, and Burgoyne said performances will resume during the upcoming fall semester.
The study, “Confronting Contradictory Media Messages about Body Image and Nutrition: Implications for Public Health,” was presented earlier this month at the annual Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference in Chicago.
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Brain Training Centers of Florida has had a tremendous amount of success in helping individuals overcome weight issues. For further information, call (305) 412-5050. Our hours are 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM Monday through Friday and 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM Saturday and Sunday.

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Sleep Loss and Weight Control

Didn’t get a good night’s sleep last night? Better be careful ‘cause you’re more likely to blow your diet today.

Want to lose weight? Get a good night’s sleep – eight hours.

That’s the news – old and new – from researchers at Uppsala University.

Researchers Christian Benedict and Helgi Schioth of the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University (Sweden), one of the world’s leading research universities, who had previously published a report showing that a single night of total sleep loss in young, normal weight men curbed their energy expenditure the next morning. Hey, that report in the American Journal of Clincial Nurtition, explains why so many of us don’t want to hit the gym after a rough night’s sleep. The research also showed that subjects had increased levels of hunger, which indicates that an acute lack of sleep may affect folks’ perception of and reaction to food.

In a new study, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, the researchers and their associates Samantha Brooks and Elna-Marie Larsson have systematically examined regions of the brain involved in appetite sensation. Using functional magnetic imaging (fMRI), they studied 12 normal-weight males while they viewed images of food and compared the results after a night with normal sleep with those obtained after one night without sleep.

“After a night of total sleep loss, these males showed a high level of activation in an area of the brain that is involved in a desire to eat,” explained Benedict. “Bearing in mind that insufficient sleep is a growing problem in modern society, our results may explain why poor sleep habits can affect people’s risk to gain weight in the long run. It may therefore be important to sleep about eight hours every night to maintain a stable and healthy body weight.”

And, as much as you might fear the “I-told-you-so”s of Mom, here’s more “Mom was right” news.
Compared to breakfast-eaters, breakfast skippers tend to weigh more and have other unhealthy habits including consuming too many sugary drinks or high-calorie snacks. Approximately 18 percent of Americans over the age of 2 regularly skip breakfast, according to Nancy Auestad, PhD, vice president of regulatory affairs at the Dairy Research Institute.
During a symposium at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) 2012 Annual Meeting and Food Expo, Auestad noted that breakfast-eaters obtain about 17 percent of their daily calories from breakfast, as well as a significant portion of their daily recommended intake of key nutrients, Vitamins D (58 percent), B12 (42 percent), and A (41 percent).
And in studies of young people, researchers found that breakfast-skippers consume 40 percent more sweets, 55 percent more soft drinks, 45 percent fewer vegetables, and 30 percent less fruit than people who eat breakfast.
Potentially good news is that breakfast may be a tool for weight loss and in the battle against obesity. “Most of these negative factors were abbreviated when breakfast was consumed, compared with breakfast-skippers,” said Heather Leidy, PhD, assistant professor in the department of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri. “Targeting that behavior could lead to a reduction in obesity.”

In her study, Leidy assembled a group of 10 breakfast-skipping teens and divided them into groups that consumed no breakfast, a normal-protein breakfast and a high protein breakfast.

The subjects’ reports of hunger levels and other indicators caused Leidy to find that eating a healthy breakfast of any kind lead to a more satiety (the feeling of being full or not wanting anything more to eat) and less overeating throughout the day. These findings were especially prominent among teens who ate the high-protein breakfast. They consumed about 200 calories less in evening snacks.

But there’s GOOD NEWS and BAD NEWS:
Magnetic resonance imaging reveals that a protein-rich breakfast reduces the brain signals controlling food desire – even many hours after breakfast. GOOD NEWS!
But, despite the demonstrated benefits of consistently eating breakfast, breakfast-skippers went back to their old ways within six months. BAD NEWS.

For parents, the news simply reinforces one more reason to be parents – not friends – to their kids. Parents make certain that kids eat breakfast – high protein breakfasts. Parents who are friends to their kids leave it up to kids – and later bemoan the fact that their children are out-of-shape and over- weight. Of course there’s the third group of parents – those who are so oblivious to these issues (and are often overweight themselves as a result of their own bad eating habits) or just completely self-absorbed that their kids will be paying for it physically and emotionally for years to come.

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

This is just one of many areas addressed by the Brain Training Centers of Florida with hours from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM, seven days per week. For further information call (305) 412-5050.

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Destructive Cousins – Sleep Loss and Stress

Severe sleep loss and exposure to stress. They’re not exactly identical twins – more like pretty close and very destructive cousins.

That’s a conclusion to be drawn from the work of researchers in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, who compared the white blood cell counts of 15 healthy young men under normal and severely sleep-deprived conditions.

White blood cells – granulocytes – showed a loss of day-night rhythmicity, along with increased numbers, particularly at night. While other studies have associated sleep restriction and sleep deprivation with the development of diseases like obesity, hypertension and obesity, scientists have long known that sleep helps sustain the immune system’s ability to function and chronic sleep loss is a risk factor for immune system impairment.

In this new study, the team, headed by Katrin Ackermann, PhD, followed 15 young men following a strict schedule of eight hours of sleep every day for a week. Participants were also exposed to at least 15 minutes of outdoor light within the first 90 minutes of waking and prohibited from using caffeine, alcohol or medication during the final three days of the project. These requirements were designed to stabilize participants’ circadian clocks and minimize sleep deprivation before the intense research study.

In the second part of the experiment, white blood cell counts were collected during 29 hours of continual wakefulness. “The granulocytes reacted immediately to the physical stress of sleep loss and directly mirrored the body’s stress response,” reported Ackermann, a postdoctoral researcher at the Eramus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Ackermann noted that future research will be necessary to explain the molecular mechanisms behind this “immediate stress response” to sleep deprivation. “If confirmed with more data, this will have implications for clinical practice and for professions associated with long-term sleep loss, such as rotating shift work.”

For the moment, the less is a restatement of what your mother and physicians have been telling you for years: “Get a good night’s sleep if you want to stay healthy.”

The Brain Training Centers of Florida are here to help individuals with sleep loss and stress issues seven days per week between the hours of 8:00 AM and 10:00 PM. These are among many areas the Centers are able to help with. For more information, call (305) 412-5050.

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

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Sociometric versus Socioeconomic Status

A Bentley Continental Supersports Coup goes for somewhere north of a cool quarter million.

A Harvard undergraduate degree – roughly $50,000 a year if you live on ramen noodles when the dining halls are closed.

A twenty-plus days European cruises – chump change.

The respect and admiration of your friends and neighbors. PRICELESS.

It’s not just a riff on a clever commercial. It’s actually the truth.

At least in regard to overall happiness, according to a psychological scientist Cameron Anderson of the Haas School of Business, University of California (Berkley). Haas and his coauthors found that higher socioeconomic status not only doesn’t equate with a greater sense of well-being, but higher sociometric status – respect and admiration in your face-to-face groups including friendships, neighborhood, and athletic team – might make a difference in overall happiness.

“Having high standing in your local ladder leads to receiving more respect, having more influence, and being more integrated into the group’s social fabric,” noted Anderson in reporting a series of four studies in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science – June 20, 2012.

In the first study, the researchers surveyed 80 college ROTC students who participated in 12 different campus groups, including sororities. Peer sociometric statuses were calculated through a combination of peer ratings, self-report, and the number of leadership positions each student held; students also reported their total household income and answered questions related to their social well-being. In the ROTC study, sociometric status – but not socioeconomic status – predicted students’ social well-being scores, even after accounting for gender and ethnicity. The researchers replicated these results in a second – larger and more diverse – sample of participants. They found the relationship between sociometric status and well-being could be explained – in part – by the sense of power and social acceptance students said they felt in their personal relationships.

In a third study, the researchers found evidence that the relationship between sociometric status and well-being could actually be evoked and manipulated in an experimental study.

In the final study, researchers studied MBA students in “the real world” and found that sociometric status and well-being changed as students moved from pre-graduation to post-graduation and corresponded to changes in the students social well-being. A post-graduation sociometric status predicted social well-being more strongly than did post-graduation socioeconomiuc status.

“I was surprised at how fluid these effects were – if someone’s standing in their local ladder went up or down, so did their happiness, even over the course of 9 months,” noted Anderson.

Taken as a whole, the studies provide clear evidence for the relationship between sociometric status and well-being. “One of the reasons why money doesn’t buy happiness is that people quickly adapt to the new level of income or wealth. Lottery winners, for example, are initially happy but then return to their original level of happiness quickly,” noted Anderston.

At the same time, however, “It’s possible that being respected, having influence, and being socially integrated never gets old.”

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

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Parent: Friend or Parent?

I am tired of an all-too-popular piece of (for want of a better phrase) parental crap: The idea that parents and children are “friends.” In truth, I want to slap the stupidity of parents who tell me “My child is my best friend” or “I’m my child’s best friend.” It’s bogus, easy, cheap, and bovine digestive byproduct.

Years before my father was even in ill health, I had mentally written the opening lines to the sermon I would one day deliver at his funeral: “I don’t remember when; I don’t remember where; I don’t remember to whom he was speaking; but, one day I heard my father say, ‘I will never be a friend to my children. I will always be their father.’ And it was true. ‘Til his death, our father was always our father.”

Now, new evidence of the importance of fathers – especially those who encourage their children to live physically and intellectually healthy lives.  

             Even as the nation’s most exclusive universities are moving away from the privileged status of “legacy” applicants – students who get a leg up on their competition for admissions because their parents or grandparents attended the school, it appears that sons of fathers with high incomes tend to end up with higher than average incomes themselves.

But (and it’s a big BUT), new research shows that it’s not just dad’s money that helps a son on his way to personal success: “Human capital” endowments passed from fathers to sons –“smarts,” advice, a work ethic, or some other intangible – may be more important to the next generation’s success than the size of dad’s paycheck. If money is the only thing that matters in the intergenerational transfer of income, then the son of the lucky father would end up with a higher income than the son of the unlucky father.

However, if human capital matters, the two sons may end up with more similar incomes. Among the clues for fathers’ “human capital”:  educational levels and the nature of their occupations. Fathers with more education or those who work in jobs that require specialized skills are considered to have higher human capital endowments that could be passed to sons.

Reporting in the June 8, 2012 edition of the Journal of Political Economy, researchers Lars Lefgren, Matthew J. Lindquist and David Sims explored the relationship between the incomes of fathers in differing labor market conditions. They theorized that if the income correlation weakens for fathers and sons in various situations, they could conclude that money isn’t the only thing that matters.

And that was exactly what their study found. Income differences not related to a father’s human capital were weaker predictors of the son’s income. In other words, human capital does matter.

“We conclude that, for the men in our dataset, differing human capital endowments passed from father to son account for about two-thirds of the overall intergenerational income,” reports Sims, an economics professor at Brigham Young University and one of the study’s authors.

And, when it comes to children’s health, researchers at Oregon State University have demonstrated that parents are a major factor in whether young children are active or couch potatoes.

Reporting in the journal Early Child Development and Care (available online June 21, 2012), researchers at Oregon State University found that children who had “neglectful” parents, or whose parents weren’t home often and who self-reported spending less time with their kids, were getting half-an-hour more television and computer game time- “screen time” on average each weekday.

And, in an age when childhood obesity is skyrocketing, all of the children ages 2 to 4 were sitting more than several hours per day.

“Across all parenting styles, we saw anywhere from four to five hours a day of sedentary activity,” noted lead author David Schary. “This is waking hours not including naps or feeding. Some parents counted quiet play – sitting and coloring, working on a puzzle, etc., – as a positive activity, but this is an age where movement is essential.

The researchers – Schary, a doctoral student in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU, Bradley Cardinal, a professor of social psychology of physical activity, and Paul Loprinizi, who completed his doctorate at OSU and is now at Bellamine University (Kentucky) – considered four parenting styles: authoritative (high warmth and control), authoritarian (controlling, less warm), permissive (warm, low control) and neglectful (low control and warmth).

In the sample of almost 200 families, all of the children were sitting four to five hours in a typical day; however, children in the more neglectful category were spending up to 30 additional minutes a day watching television, playing video games or being engaged in some other form of “screen time.”

“A half hour each day may not seem like much, but add that up over a week, then a month, and then a year and you have a big impact,” observed Schary. “One child may be getting up to four hours more active play every week, and this sets the stage for the rest of their lives.”

And, to complicate matters even more, parents who were less participatory during the week did not make up for it on weekends. In fact, just the opposite is true. Sedentary time increased nearly one hour each weekend day. And, as Cardinal noted, sedentary behavior goes against the natural tendencies of most preschool-age children. “Toddlers and pre-school age children are spontaneous movers, so it is natural for them to have bursts of activity many minutes per hour. We find that when kids enter school, their levels of physical activity decrease and overall, it continues to decline throughout their life. Early life movement is imperative for establishing healthy, active lifestyle patterns, self-awareness, social acceptance, and even brain and cognitive development.”

In addition, Schary and Cardinal examined the same group of students and asked about the ways parents support and promote active play. They found that parents who actively played with their children had the most impact, but that any level of encouragement, even just watching their child play or driving them to an activity  – made a difference.

“When children are very young, playing is the main thing they do during waking hours, so parental support and encouragement is crucial,” said Schary. “So when we see preschool children not going outside much and sitting while playing with a cell phone or watching TV, we need to help parents counteract that behavior.”

In the end, part of the lesson of these studies is that it is the role of parents to model the need for intellectual inquiry and the importance of active, physical runnin’ around, tree climbin’ real play. If you’re a parent, be a parent: Get off the couch and away from the flat screen and video game controllers and go out walking, running, swimming or biking with your kids. Take them to the games and other physical activities that encourage mental and physical growth and fight the epidemic of childhood obesity. Your kids are kids. They should be playing like kids. They aren’t Idaho, red or sweet potatoes. Don’t allow or encourage them to act like couch potatoes.

 Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

 

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