Posts Tagged ‘children’

The following Ars Technica post by John Timmer emphasises the importance for children of learning self-control, a strategy to postpone immediate gratification, resulting in long-terms postive effects on physical and mental wellbeing as well as success in adult life.

 

 

The events of our childhood can help influence the trajectories of the rest of our lives. The economic status of a family, as well as factors like a child’s IQ, have been correlated with various forms of adult welfare, from health to financial stability. But factors like these tend to be difficult to change; why do some people overcome a difficult background, and how might we enable more people to do so? That’s the question asked by a research team that has followed over 1,000 children from birth until they were 32, and the results are pretty straightforward: teach the kids a bit of self-control.

The kids in question were born in Dunedin, New Zealand, and enrolled in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study; 32 years later, a full 96 percent of the initial cohort were still checking in. Along the way, the children, their parents, teachers, and friends reported in on their physical and mental status. Professionals also performed medical and psychiatric evaluations, giving a remarkably complete perspective on the children’s development. Hundreds of papers have been produced using the data in the last decade alone.

The latest study focuses on self-control, which seems to be a major interest of the authors. “The need to delay gratification, control impulses, and modulate emotional expression,” they note, “is the earliest and most ubiquitous demand that societies place on their children.” That sort of self-control remains a major factor throughout adulthood, as we expect individuals to pay their debts, avoid substance abuse, and so forth. And, as the authors also note, there are some indications that self-control can change during an individual’s lifetime, and may possibly be learned.

So, they used a battery of tests and surveys—from the children, their parents, their teachers—to generate a composite self-control score for the children at two-year intervals, from ages 3 through 11. They then correlated this score with a variety of measures in adulthood, including general measures of health, substance abuse, financial well-being, and criminal activity. In addition to testing for a direct correlation, they ran a statistical model that controlled for the impact of IQ and the socio-economic status of the child’s parents.

Recurrent depression was just about the only thing that didn’t correlate with childhood self-control. A health index that covered everything from periodontal disease to STDs showed that low self-control correlated with adult health problems; it also correlated with substance abuse issues. Kids with low self-control were more likely to end up raising kids as single parents, had lower savings, and less put away into retirement or home ownership. Finally, a scan of all the police records in Australia and New Zealand showed that criminal convictions also correlated with low childhood self-control. In some cases, IQ and socio-economic status had more profound effects, but the impact of self-control persisted after these were (ahem) controlled for.

(One amusing aside here is that a lack of childhood self-control didn’t seem to make the kids any less likely to still be enrolled in the study at age 32. So, one potential confounding factor didn’t seem to play a role in the results, but that seems like a somewhat odd result in itself.)

To strengthen the case for a potential causal relationship, the authors divided up the data in two different ways. They split the total population into fifths based on how much self-control they exhibited as children, and found that the degree of self control also predicted the results of the measures of adult well-being. That is, kids in the middle range of scores tended to have intermediate levels of adult health. They also identified individuals who, over the course of their childhood, had improved their self-control as they transitioned to adulthood. In these cases, the adult outcomes improved as well.

To provide a somewhat stronger control for environmental influences, the researchers also looked at a twin study that had performed a self control test at five, and had data on the individuals when they had reached 12 years old. Already, the kids with less self control were displaying antisocial behaviors, performing poorly at school, and more likely to have started smoking. The authors term these last two “traps,” where the lack of self-control early helps lock the kids into habits that will damage their future health and prosperity.

The only obvious weakness of the study is its use of composite scores for some of the correlations. So, although a lot of the health measures are very objective—you don’t “sort of” get an STD—the composite health scores lump the STDs in with heart disease and gum disease to create a single value. That runs the risk of accentuating the correlation by pooling a few values that aren’t independent. For example, periodontal problems are often associated with heart disease. It also may gloss over some important differences in health risks; STDs, for example, would seem to be a classic self-control issue. But, overall, the work looks pretty solid.

What might set people a bit on edge, however, is the fact that the authors take their work and use it to make policy suggestions. Since it’s cheaper to have a healthy, productive member of society, they suggest, governments might consider developing programs that help develop self-control in children as investments in a country’s future. In addition, they suggest social programs like retirement savings be made opt-out, since those without self-control would be less likely to bother to skip them, and more likely to need them in their later years. These sorts of policy recommendations aren’t typically mixed in with most research papers, which tend to focus on arguing for the direct conclusions from the work.

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Hypocrite  Garrett has  forced the Australia Council into territory of ridicule: it has to request artists to even take images taken 18 years ago of fully clothed children of their websites if they want to continue to receive funding. And as for the removal of naked children: what is not already addressed by the law to protect children that the Australia Council’s new rules are forced to cover? Nothing. Apart from what lurks behind the new catch cry: exploitation.

Arts council pulls the wool, hat and trench coat over our eyes

David Marr
Sydney Morning Herald
December 19, 2008

censoredWith a scrubbing brush in one hand and a packet of Ajax in the other, the Australia Council is scouring the internet of art. It’s not the arts bureaucrats’ fault, poor wretches. Being the cleaning ladies of the cyber age is not what they signed up for. They had dreams of “cultivating the nation’s creativity” until the Rudd Government put them to work to scrub pictures of children from the net.

Not pornographic pictures. Not obscene pictures. Not just pictures of naked kids. We’re talking any pictures of children at all. Once the council’s new “Protocols for Working with Children” come into effect on January 1, arts funding will be ripped from anyone posting pictures of children on the internet unless onerous conditions are met.

The nation is moving deep into wacky territory. Trials of compulsory internet filtering are about to start.

A poor bloke in Queensland is in court for forwarding from one internet site to another a weird but happy sequence of an adult swinging a kid around. And now the Australia Council is getting into the business of busting art online.

Even the glimpse of a child will be enough to attract the council’s scrubbing brush. A hand or a foot will do.

Children don’t have to be recognisable. They don’t even need to look much like children. Artists can out-Picasso Picasso all they like, but if they use a “real child under the age of 18” to make their picture – or poster or print or video or digital projection or sculpture – then it can’t go on the internet unless permissions demanded by the protocols are obtained.

Here’s how silly it is: the photograph of a 17-year-old dressed from top to toe in hat, gloves, greatcoat and working boots can’t be put on the net after January 1 by any artist or organisation taking Australia Council funding unless the parents or guardians of that overdressed model consent to the image being there. That the young person is old enough to drive and consent to have sex doesn’t matter. Unless Mummy and Daddy say so, the picture can’t go up.

While an unvoiced terror of the net seems to be at the heart of them, the protocols also apply to all books, magazines, advertising and catalogues funded by the Australia Council. The rule is: no publication without permission.

So here’s another weird possibility: the council could fund an exhibition of sculptures of fully clothed children but forbid publication of a catalogue of the show because a parent or guardian somewhere can’t be found to give permission. Note: we’re talking fully clothed children.

It gets worse. The protocols apply only to “contemporary images” but the Australia Council takes a long view of contemporary. Footnote 5 on page 7 explains they’re laying down the law for all images of children “created in the previous 18 years”.

So photographs taken back in the early 1990s can’t be published now by Australia Council-funded organisations unless the child models can be tracked down and permission obtained – either from them if they are grown up or from their parents and guardians if they’re still kids.

“These are very onerous conditions that amount to de facto censorship,” says Tamara Winikoff of the National Association for the Visual Arts. “It seems excessively paranoid and misdirected.” She believes that after January 1 galleries and organisations that take core funding from the council will be stripping images of children from their websites.

The Australia Council didn’t wish this on itself. It is acting under orders from the Rudd Government following the Bill Henson uproar. The Arts Minister, Peter Garrett, says: “The Government is pleased that a rigorous process undertaken by the Australia Council, at the request of the Government, has delivered protocols which will now provide clear and sufficient certainty for artists applying for funding through the council.”

No one is quibbling with new protocols on the creation of art. They are fine: artists funded by the council must now vouch that they’re not breaking the law when they work with children, and that the parents have both given their full consent and supervised their children at work.

The trouble begins with the council’s weird restrictions on publication. What is the harm they address that is not already addressed by laws on child pornography, obscenity, defamation, employment, child welfare, copyright and privacy?

The protocols talk of fresh obligations arising from “the ease with which images and written depictions can be distributed nationally and internationally” on the internet. So what? We’re not talking porn or filth here. There are laws to deal with that. We’re talking art.

What’s wrong with paintings and prints and posters and photographs having the widest possible distribution on the net?

“Exploitation,” is the reply of the patient officers of the Australia Council. “The exploitation of a person’s image when they are not of an age to give permission.”

But if the images aren’t being sold, how are the models being exploited? “Because the artist is increasing his profile.”

But what’s the harm to the child in that? “Exploitation.”

The protocols won’t be policed. No plans are on foot, alas, to form an art squad in the Australian Federal Police. So, there are those who denounce the new rules as political rubbish that can be safely ignored. But if you take the radical view that all involved will follow the protocols scrupulously, the result’s going to be one hell of mess.

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Hard to believe nowadays that there was a time when parents were so naive and brainwashed by cigarette advertising. [from the recently Google acquired Time Magazine photo archive – thanks to iheartphotograph]

I’ve been busy lately uploading 1.500 photos onto my Flickr site 🙂 and therefore totally neglected my blog; hopefully I’ll be able to devote a bit more time to it again. Here’s a great article from an equally wonderful site called “The Natural Child Project“. I came across it coz Gunda practices this concept with what it requires and deserves: love and dedication; I wish I could have had parents with that philosophy …

What is Attachment Parenting?

by Jan Hunt, M.Sc.

Attachment parenting, to put it most simply, is believing what we know in our heart to be true. And if we do that, we find that we trust the child. We trust him in these ways:

  • We trust that he is doing the very best he can at every given moment, given all of his experiences up to that time.
  • We trust that though he may be small in size, he is as fully human as we are, and as deserving as we are to have his needs taken seriously.
  • We trust that he has been born innocent, loving, and trusting. We do not need to “turn him around”, to teach him that life is difficult, or train him to be a loving human being – he is that at birth and all we need to do is celebrate that, and support and sustain it.
  • We don’t have to give him lessons about life – life brings its own lessons and its own frustrations.
  • We recognize that in a very beautiful way, our child teaches us – if we listen – what love is.1
  • We understand that if a child “misbehaves”, instead of reacting to the behavior, we should always examine what has been taking place in his life: what stresses, frustrations or frightening, confusing, or difficult situations he has just experienced. We also need to examine whether we have brought about any of these experiences, intentionally or not. It is our job to be responsive parents, meeting the needs of our child; it is not the child’s job to meet our needs for a quiet and perfectly well-behaved child.
  • We understand that It is unfair and unrealistic to expect a child to behave perfectly at all times; after all, no adult can do this either. Yet behind all punishment is the unstated expectation that a child can and should behave perfectly at all times; there is no leeway.
  • We see that so-called “bad behavior” is in reality nothing more than the child’s attempt to communicate an important need in the best way he can, given the present circumstances and all of his prior experience. “Misbehavior” is a signal to us that important needs are not being met. – by us or by others in the child’s life. We should not ignore that behavior any more than we should ignore the sound of a smoke detector. We should instead see “bad behavior” as an opportunity – an opportunity to reevaluate our own behavior, to learn about our child’s needs, and to meet those needs in the best way possible.

As Albert Einstein wrote, “Behind every difficulty lies an opportunity.” This is true in general, but it is profoundly true in parenting. For example, if a child chases a ball into the road, that is an opportunity to teach him safety measures by practicing for similar situations in the future. The parent could ask the child to purposely throw the ball into the road, then come to the parent and report the situation. In this way, the real lesson can be learned: it is the parent who needs to spend more time teaching safety, not the child who should somehow have known this information, and obviously does not yet know. Punishment is the most damaging response: it is unfair, upsetting, and confusing, and distracts the child from the learning that needs to take place. Instead we should give gentle, respectful instruction at the time the behavior occurs – this is exactly when the child can relate it to his life. In this way the best learning can take place.

Through attachment parenting, children learn to trust themselves, understand themselves, and eventually will be able to use their time as adults in a meaningful and creative way, rather than spending it in an attempt to deal with past childhood hurts, in a way that hurts themselves or others. If an adult has no need to deal with the past, he can live fully in the present.

As the Golden Rule suggests, attachment parenting is parenting the child the way we wish we had been treated in childhood, the way we wish we were treated by everyone now, and the way we want our grandchildren to be treated. With attachment parenting, we are giving an example of love and trust.

Our children deserve to learn what compassion is, and they learn that most of all by our example. If our children do not learn compassion from us, when will they learn it? The bottom line is that all children behave as well as they are treated – by their parents and by everyone else in their life.

Dr. Elliott Barker is a Canadian psychiatrist and the Director of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Children. He describes attachment parenting as having these two facets:

  • Being willing and able to put yourself in your child’s shoes in order to correctly identify his/her feelings.
  • Being willing and able to behave toward your child in ways which take those feelings into account.

In short, attachment parenting is loving and trusting our children. If we can do that, they will be able to trust us and in turn, trust others and be trustworthy persons themselves. The educator John Holt once said that everything he wrote could be summed up in two words: “trust children”. This is the most precious gift we can give as parents.


1 See The Little Goo-Roo by Jan and Tracy Kirschner (Atlas Press, 1997).

Malina

Posted: August 30, 2008 in creativity
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She is just sosososo cute and so loveable :-*:-*:-*

Thinking of Gunda and Malina, that Bettina Wegner song definitely brought tears to my eyes that were hard to stop …

Malina

Posted: July 12, 2008 in creativity
Tags: ,