An overview of recent stories that affect your role as a parent
Air pollution linked to low IQ scores in children
Researchers at Columbia University in New York have found a link between air pollution when inhaled by pregnant women and lower IQ scores in childhood. The study, published in the medical journal Pediatrics, involved 249 children of New York City women who wore backpack air monitors for 48 hours during the last few months of pregnancy. They mostly lived in low-income neighbourhoods - Harlem and the South Bronx - and were exposed to varying levels of air pollutants such as car, bus and lorry exhaust fumes. Children whose mothers had breathed in the highest levels of PAHs during pregnancy scored four to five points lower on the IQ test. However, the results were still within the average range of IQ for all children. It's not clear whether the effects of exposure to smog before birth has any noticeable effect on a child's day-to-day life.
In the journal Science, a study by Italian researchers shows that being raised bilingual makes a child's brain more flexible. It claims that although children raised in bilingual environments have to learn twice the amount, their speed of acquisition of two languages is comparable to monolinguals. Researchers monitored babies in their first 12 months, and believe those raised bilingual become more flexible at learning speech structures than monolinguals. "Bilinguals may acquire two languages in the time in which monolinguals acquire one because they quickly become more flexible learners," the study read.
Children who lead a sedentary, couch-potato lifestyle take an extra three minutes to fall asleep for every hour of the day spent physically inactive. Researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand monitored sleep patterns among 519 seven-year-olds, measuring how long they spent asleep, awake but inactive, and active. It took 26 minutes on average for a child to fall asleep once put to bed, but those who had been inactive during the day took longer. Every hour of sedentary behaviour during the day added 3.1 minutes to the time it took to fall asleep.
A multimillion-dollar United Nations strategy to save children worldwide has had little effect, a new study suggests. Designed by the World Health Organisation and Unicef, the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness Programme has been implemented in more than 100 countries since 1997. The aim was to reduce deaths in children under the age of five due to diarrhoea, pneumonia, measles and malnutrition. The London-based think-tank International Policy Network looked at Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries, as a case study. They compared results between areas that implemented the strategy with those that did not, and found there was surprisingly little difference. The study was published in the medical journal The Lancet.
A new study reveals that mothers who received anaesthesia during Caesarean sections are no more likely to have children with learning disabilities than mothers who had natural births. About 20 per cent of children from both groups were found to develop difficulties with reading, writing or maths by the age of 19. Researchers were surprised to find that women who were administered local, as opposed to general, anaesthesia were the lowest-risk group overall. On average, the findings suggested they had only a 15 per cent chance of having children with learning disabilities. Researchers are at a loss to explain why this group is least at risk.
Recent research by Play England, of the UK's National Children's Bureau, has found that more than half of all parents feel that the pace of modern life prevents them from engaging in enough playtime with their children. As many as 84 per cent of parents with children under the age of seven express a desire for additional time to play. In addition to lengthy working hours and commutes, 73 per cent cited excessive homework as detracting from available playtime. Some argue that schools have failed to make enough time for unstructured activities, which are thought to contribute to certain types of learning unattainable through formal lessons. Many parents believe that lack of play causes children to be less happy, attentive and well-behaved.
Researchers at the University of Trento in Italy emphasise the importance of preventive treatment for younger people in combating the spread of H1N1 swine flu virus. The study, published in the journal BMC Central Infectious Diseases, says that although age should not be a factor in receiving treatment once the illness is contracted, preventive measures should focus on people under the age of 25 in order to limit the number of antiviral drug doses needed. Because many countries have limited supplies of the antiviral drug stockpiled, scientists are trying to determine the most effective use of existing stores. Younger individuals are more likely to spread the virus through school, college, and social gatherings. Thus, their use of antiviral drugs is expected to have a more extensive effect than that of older people.