Media Watch

This section of the APPPAH Newsletter is intended to draw attention to items in the news that are pertinent to prenatal and perinatal psychology. APPPAH does not necessarily agree with, or vouch for, the scientific worthiness of any of the news items mentioned here. We mean merely to take note of what is going on, so that you may.

Study Shows Connection Between Armed Conflict and Birth Weights

A new study shows pregnant women exposed to armed conflict have a higher risk of giving birth to underweight babies, a result that could change the way aid is delivered to developing countries. The study will be published in the Journal of Development Economics. [January 18, 2012; ScienceDaily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120118132332.htm]

Mom's love good for child's brain

School-age children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress. The new research is the first to show that changes in this critical region of children's brain anatomy are linked to a mother's nurturing. Their research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. "This study validates something that seems to be intuitive, which is just how important nurturing parents are to creating adaptive human beings," says lead author Joan L. Luby, MD, professor of child psychiatry. "I think the public health implications suggest that we should pay more attention to parents' nurturing, and we should do what we can as a society to foster these skills..." [January 30, 2012; Washington University School of Medicine: http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/23329.aspx#.TynWZLSvR0v.email]

Effects of Premature Birth Can Reach Into Adulthood

In the longest running U.S. study of premature infants who are now 23 years old, University of Rhode Island Professor of Nursing Mary C. Sullivan has found that premature infants are less healthy, have more social and school struggles and face a greater risk of heart-health problems in adulthood. Sullivan has also found that supportive, loving parents and nurturing school environments can mitigate the effects of premature birth. She also found that premature babies are resilient and have a strong drive to succeed. Her latest work is based on the 'fetal origins hypothesis,' which states that the stress response of pre-term infants, called the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, is a mechanism underlying fetal origins of adult chronic diseases. [June 15, 2011; ScienceDaily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615171408.htm]

Risk of Disease Partially Set in Womb

According to a provocative new field of research, what happens during pregnancy can have lasting consequences that emerge decades after the child leaves the hospital. Studies are finding that adult illnesses like heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes can have roots in the mysterious months we spend in the womb. Although genetics and lifestyle choices certainly influence an adult's risk of getting a disease, researchers now believe that the food a pregnant woman eats, her weight and fitness, her stress level, and the drugs, pollutants and infections she is exposed to can trigger changes that also make her baby vulnerable to disease after birth. [November 13, 2011; Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/ct-met-pregnancy-guilt-20111113,0,1822393.story]

An Integrated Scientific Framework for Child Survival and Early Childhood Development

Building a strong foundation for healthy development in the early years of life is a prerequisite for individual well-being, economic productivity, and harmonious societies around the world. Growing scientific evidence also demonstrates that social and physical environments that threaten human development (because of scarcity, stress, or instability) can lead to short-term physiologic and psychological adjustments that are necessary for immediate survival and adaptation, but which may come at a significant cost to long-term outcomes in learning, behavior, health, and longevity. [4 January 2012; Pediatrics: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/01/02/peds.2011-0366.abstract]

A Poverty Solution That Starts With a Hug

Perhaps the most widespread peril children face isn't guns, swimming pools or speeding cars. Rather, scientists are suggesting that it may be "toxic stress" early in life, or even before birth. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a landmark warning that this toxic stress can harm children for life...this is a "policy statement" from the premier association of pediatricians, based on two decades of scientific research. [January 7, 2012; NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/opinion/sunday/kristof-a-poverty-solution-that-starts-with-a-hug.html?_r=1]

Maslow Updated

Reworking of the famous psychological pyramid of needs puts parenting at the top.Caring for your children, feeding them, nurturing them, educating them and making sure they get off on the right foot in life – all of the things that make parenting successful – may actually be deep rooted psychological urges that we fulfill as part of being human. The bottom four levels of the new pyramid are highly compatible with Maslow's, but big changes are at the top. Perhaps the most controversial modification is that self-actualization no longer appears on the pyramid at all. At the top of the new pyramid are three evolutionarily critical motives that Maslow overlooked – mate acquisition, mate retention and parenting. [August 19, 2010; ScienceDaily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100819112118.htm]