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Friday Roundup – The Latest in Mental Health News
(and other stuff)
Playing Favorites with Children
According to research, about 80 percent of parents have a favorite child. That’s right. Science says so. And it may or may have not been you. NPR reports on research that shows it isn’t the fact that favorites exist that matters but rather if children think that a favorite exists. According to Alex Jensen, a psychologist who studies family relationships, “It’s not just how you’re treating them; it’s how they perceive it.”
Jensen, with Brigham Young University, conducted research that focuses on how teens’ perception of favoritism affects their behavior. Jensen found children who believed they were less favored were more likely to get into trouble, despite actual fair treatment by parents. Jensen also found that these children were at an increased risk of smoking in the last year, smoking marijuana, or using hard drugs. The more children felt they were being slighted compared to a sibling, the riskier their behavior.
Fortunately. Jensen believes there is a way to work around these perceptions. His study also found that close-knit families, in which there was infrequent fighting and positive relationships, less perceived inequality was detected.
Jensen concludes, “In families like that there’s really no link between kids’ perception and their behavior.”
So don’t be stingy with the love and respect. Hug your kids today.
Drunkenness on YouTube
The depiction of alcohol and excessive drinking on social media platforms compared to real-life consequences of drinking often conflict. The negative consequences of consuming too much alcohol include car accidents, victimization, dependence, unsafe sexual situations, and other risky behaviors and situations that may even lead to death.
These negative realities, however, are not how drinking is depicted on YouTube. The Washington Post reports on a new study, recently published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, that – in an effort to conduct a “comprehensive” analysis of how inebriation is depicted on YouTube – watched and classified the top 70 videos that portray intoxication. Altogether, the videos received over 330 million views. Videos were analyzed for various aspects, including characteristics associated with alcohol, ramifications, and users’ s moods and opinions.
Researchers found that almost 90% of the videos included men while only 50% included women. 81% characterized alcohol intoxication in the audio and almost 70% included it in the video. 44% referenced a brand name. 86% portrayed “active intoxication,” but less than 10% referred to alcohol dependence. Almost 80% involved humor as associated with alcohol use. 14% referenced tobacco while 4% referenced marijuana and cocaine each. 14% of the videos involved aggression, 19% involved injury, and almost 25% involved the use of a car.
Across the videos, the most positive associations with alcohol use were social, emotional, and sexual.
For every “dislike” on a video, there were an average of 23 “likes.”
While researchers did not make any conclusions about these videos influencing the behavior of others, they did note the similarity to movies, television, and music videos, which have proven to have an influence. YouTube videos are unique in their “peer-to-peer dialogue,” which can very much influence others.
Brian Primack, lead researcher and physician, says “A lot of the myths that are propagated on social media … are very similar to the ones that we see … propagated through a lot of movies and ads and TV shows – namely that intoxication is extremely humorous, that it is associated with very positive emotional and sexual consequences.”
Primack and his researchers encourage public health advocates to use the same medium to deliver a more realistic message about drinking to the public.
Mental Preparation May Reduce Stress
When you’re stressed about certain situations – whether they’re related to work, home, relationships, etc. – do you find yourself just wishing the problem would go away or do you think about the steps needed to solve the issue at hand? Research shows strategies in which you wish problems would just vanish may do more harm than good. Fox News reports on a new study that shows how you think about stress before it happens can influence your mood.
The study, conducted out of North Carolina State University, included just over 40 adults. Participants were asked to keep a daily diary for nine days that answered questions about mood, physical health, and stressful things or situations they expected to face in the near future and how they were planning for those stressors.
Coping mechanisms were classified into four categories: problem analysis (thinking actively about why an issue is happening); plan rehearsal (thinking about ways to solve the problem); stagnant deliberation (ruminating on a problem without making any changes); and outcome fantasy (fantasizing that the issue will somehow fix itself).
The study found that people changed the way they used coping strategies frequently, depending on the context of stressors (related to work, home, etc.)
According to study author and professor of psychology at NCSU, Shevaun Neupert, “The findings tell us that one person may use multiple coping mechanisms over time — something that’s pretty exciting, since we didn’t know this before.”
The study also found that people who used “outcome fantasy” and “stagnant deliberation” strategies to cope were more likely to report a decreased mood and poor physical health the next day compared to individuals who used “problem analysis” and “plan rehearsal” strategies, whose mood and physical health remained stable.
Neupert concludes, “The more we understand what’s really going on, the better we’ll be able to help people deal effectively with the stressors that come up in their lives.”
Late-Night Eating and the Brain
TODAY reports on research that highlights how eating late at night, or during the “wrong time of day,” particularly at night when our bodies should typically be sleeping, may interfere with memory and learning. Christopher Colwell, a contributing researcher and professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, emphasizes that our bodies need to maintain a specific cycle to ensure health, despite the instant availability of food and light.
Colwell tells TODAY, “We have this illusion that with the flip of a switch, we can work at any time and part of that is eating at any time. But our biological systems — that’s not the way they work. They work based on having a daily rhythm.”
Midnight snacking may not be an issue if it’s done very infrequently. The more common late-night eating becomes, however, the chances of disrupting your body’s natural rhythm become greater. Frequent midnight eating interferes with the sleep-wake cycle.
In Colwell’s study, two groups of mice were given the same amount of food and slept the same amount of time, but the second group slept at a different time of day. After weeks of these trials, the mice were given learning tests. The group which ate food during the times they should have been sleeping were “severely compromised” in recalling what they’ve learned. The study also showed that the late-night eating group experienced more difficulty identifying a new object and showed changes in the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
“If you’re going on vacation, no big deal. But on the other hand, if you’re in a work environment where you find yourself chronically in situations where your internal clock is being mistimed, then you start having problems,” Colwell stated.
This week’s roundup is dedicated to overcoming adversity. You’re stronger than you think.