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Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians.  Each issue of the Blog is intended to assist parents, encourage children, and enrich the family.  Read our most recent issue below, and scroll to the bottom of this page to read earlier issues.

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Babies’ Memories

happy baby memoriesResearch has studied infants’ memory capabilities and other research has studied infants’ ability to discriminate between different emotions, but a study done by BYU combined both ideas to see what effect different emotions had on infants’ memory. The study found that “babies are more likely to remember something if there is a positive emotion, or affect, that accompanies it.”

The experiment consisted of researchers showing infants a shape that was introduced by a happy, neutral, or angry voice. The researchers tested the infants’ memory 5 minutes later and one day later. They tested their memories by showing them the same shape and a new shape side-by-side and measured how long they looked at each shape. They found that infants’ memories didn’t improve when a negative voice was paired with the shape, but were much better at remembering when a positive voice was used.

The researchers believe that this occurs because using a positive voice “heightens the babies’ attentional system and arousal. By heightening those systems, we heighten their ability to process and perhaps remember this geometric pattern.”

So to help your infants’ learn more, make sure to keep their environment and your interactions with them happy and positive.

For more information see:

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Relationship Technoference

tech interefering with relationship
A recent study found that cell phones are distractions that can interfere with romantic relationships. The study focused on women in committed relationships and found that 74% reported, “that cell phones detract from their interactions with their spouse or partner.” This “technoference” causes “more conflict about technology, lower relationship quality, lower life satisfaction and [a] higher risk of depression.” A different study referenced in the article “found that serious couple conversations, apologies, and disagreements do more harm than good if not done in person. For relationship quality, the best texting stays positive.”

The study on “technoference” reported these statistics:

  • 62% said technology interferes with their free time together.
  • 35% say their partner will pull out the phone mid-conversation if they receive a notification.
  • 25% said their partner will actively text other people during the couple’s face-to-face conversations.

To alleviate this problem, couples can try the following when they are together.

  • Place the phone somewhere else on silent, such as in a purse or on a shelf.
  • If you need to check on something legitimately important, provide an explanation first and then check your phone.
  • Don’t get defensive when you get called out for technoference – it’s somebody’s way of saying they’d like to connect with you in-person.

Keeping technology under control helps couples focus on face to face interaction, increasing the relationship quality.

For more information see:

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Parents Comparing Siblings

comparing siblingsA study done by BYU found that siblings might become more different over time as a result of their parents’ beliefs about them and the comparisons they make between them. The study looked at 388 teenage first- and second-born siblings and their parents’ beliefs about them. What they found was most parents believed their oldest did better in school even though most siblings’ achievement was very similar.

“Parents’ beliefs about sibling differences weren’t influenced by past grades, but future grades by the teenagers were influenced by the parents’ beliefs.” There was a 0.21 difference in GPA the following year with the child parents thought was more capable doing better than their sibling. Over the years, this difference can continue, making a bigger impact.

There was one exception to the trend though; if the oldest was a brother and second-born a sister, parents believed their daughter was smarter. This seemed to be true when comparing grades; sisters usually had better grades than their brothers.

To best set our children up for success, “parents should focus on recognizing the strengths of each of their children and be careful about vocally making comparisons in front of them.”

For more information see:

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Sensitive Parenting

baby sleepingResearch shows that consistent sensitivity from parents has a positive influence on all domains of infants’ development. Parental sensitivity refers to a parent’s ability to be in tune with their infant’s cues and signals and respond correctly and consistently. Parental sensitivity and responsiveness includes providing support and care during distress, encouraging confidence and agency of the child1, being prompt, treating infants as capable of intentions.2 Infants learn best when interacting with others who are aware of them and responsive to them. Parents should strive to be sensitive to their infants as this will foster optimum development of their infant and inspire their infant to become the best they can be.

Here are some specific discoveries the research has uncovered about sensitive parents.

  • Cognitive development
    • Sensitive parents provide a stimulating interactive environment and a supportive emotional climate for children. This promotes a child’s “exploration of her surroundings, a developmentally appropriate pattern of reciprocal verbal and non-verbal exchanges, and reward in response to achievement as well as encouragement in response to failure.”1
    • With sensitive parents, children feel secure and confident thus they spend more time exploring and experiencing different situations that foster cognitive development.1,3,4 This security allows the child to concentrate and master new skills.5
    • “A sensitive caregiving environment likely provides an optimal emotional context for children’s early brain maturation and cognitive development.”1
    • Parenting behaviors that have been associated with child cognitive development include…
      • Linguistic and cognitive stimulation1,2
      • Quality physical care1
      • Reciprocal engagement1
      • Parent–child synchrony1
      • Sensitivity1
      • Positive engagement1
      • Interpreting the infant’s actions as meaningful2
      • Treating the infant as an intentional agent2
      • Always talking to the infant while doing other things6
      • Reading to the infant6
      • Showing pictures to the infant6
    • Parental behaviors that promote social and emotional development2 are…
      • Responding promptly to a cry recognized as signaling distress
      • Comforting the infant when upset
      • Being available for interaction
    • Fathers
      • “Fathers were just as sensitive, positive, and cognitively stimulating as mothers,” and both mothers’ and fathers’ sensitivity predicted children’s cognitive scores now and in the future7
      • Fathers contribute differently than mothers to an infant’s development.5
        • Fathers provide sensitive support during infant’s exploration by being sensitive to emotions, being supportive, cooperating and providing scaffolding.
      • Counters negative influences: Paternal sensitivity offset the negative effects of maternal anxiety on cognitive development8
      • Timing of sensitivity: Both early and later parental sensitivity can predict infant’s cognitive development.1,3,4
      • Sensitive parents help their children develop a sense of self-efficacy.3
      • Joint attention: When mothers are responsive to their children, it helps them “share a way of looking at the world,” which then helps “children to interpret and make sense of adult utterances during parent–child conversation.”3

So what can parents do?

  • Talk to your infant while you are doing other things.
  • Take care of your infant physically; feed them, bath them, keep them safe.
  • Take time to interact with your infant positively.
  • Respond promptly to your infant’s signals correctly and consistently.
  • Comfort your infant.
  • Read to your children; show them pictures.
  • Be an involved father no matter how amazing the mother is.

Choose to be a sensitive parent today! Make an effort to be responsive to your infant no matter what your parenting has been in the past. Sensitive parenting encourages optimal development no matter when that sensitivity occurs.

For more information see:

1 Roger Mills-Koonce, W., Willoughby, M. T., Zvara, B., Barnett, M., Gustafsson, H., & Cox, M. J. (2015). Mothers’ and fathers’ sensitivity and children’s cognitive development in low-income, rural families. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 38, 1-10. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2015.01.001

2 Page, M., Wilhelm, M. S., Gamble, W. C., & Card, N. A. (2010). A comparison of maternal sensitivity and verbal stimulation as unique predictors of infant social–emotional and cognitive development. Infant Behavior and Development, 33, 101-110. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2009.12.001

3 Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Bornstein, M. H., & Baumwell, L. (2001). Maternal responsiveness and children’s achievement of language milestones. Child Development, 72(3), 748.

4 McFadden, K. E., & Tamis-Lemonda, C. S. (2013). Maternal responsiveness, intrusiveness, and negativity during play with infants: Contextual associations and infant cognitive status in A low-income sample. Infant Mental Health Journal, 34(1), 80-92. doi:10.1002/imhj.21376

5 Hall, R. A. S., De Waard, I. E. M., Tooten, A., Hoffenkamp, H. N., Vingerhoets, A. J. J. M., & van Bakel, H. J. A. (2014). From the father’s point of view: How father’s representations of the infant impact on father–infant interaction and infant development. Early Human Development, 90, 877-883. doi:10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2014.09.010

6 Murray, A., & Egan, S. M. (2014). Does reading to infants benefit their cognitive development at 9-months-old? An investigation using a large birth cohort survey. Child Language Teaching & Therapy, 30(3), 303-315. doi:10.1177/0265659013513813

7 Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Shannon, J. D., Cabrera, N. J., & Lamb, M. E. (2004). Fathers and mothers at play with their 2- and 3-year-olds: Contributions to language and cognitive development. Child Development, 75(6), 1806-1820. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2004.00818.x

8 Grant, K., McMahon, C., Reilly, N., & Austin, M. (2010). Maternal sensitivity moderates the impact of prenatal anxiety disorder on infant mental development. Early Human Development, 86, 551-556. doi:10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2010.07.004

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Do Disney Princesses Perpetuate Stereotypes?

disney princessesParents often consider Disney movies safe for their young children and many of these films are, compared to many other films targeted to kids. But research has found that Disney princess movies might have some negative effects. The study looked at almost 200 preschoolers and found “96 percent of girls and 87 percent of boys had viewed Disney Princess media.” 61% of girls and only 4% of boys played with princess toys at least once a week.

“For both boys and girls, more interactions with the princesses predicted more female gender-stereotypical behavior a year later.” Girls who adhere to female gender stereotypes are “not as confident that they can do well in math and science” and they experiment less because they don’t want to get dirty. For boys it was found that those who watched Disney princess movies were more helpful to others and had better body esteem. It seemed to “provide a needed counterbalance to the hyper-masculine superhero media that’s traditionally presented to boys.”

Disney princesses are usually the first exposure 3 and 4 year olds get to the idea of thin being beautiful. It was found that girls with poorer body esteem engaged with more Disney Princesses throughout the years, because they seemed to be “seeking out role models of what they consider to be beautiful.”

Parents can’t completely avoid the Disney princess culture, so what can they do?

  • Parents can foster children’s interests in a variety of activities. “Moderation in all things” is usually best.
  • Parents can also take the time to talk to their children about the movies they watch. They can discuss the positives and negatives of Disney princess media at an age appropriate level.

For more information see:

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Super Babies

super babyTelevision, videos, computer games,  and tablets can offer all sorts of stimulating activities for our children.  When these products first hit the market, I was thrilled.  The activities were fun and educational.  It wasn’t like I was plopping my toddler in front of the television to watch some mindless drivel.  But I quickly realized that every child I saw watching and playing with educational programs or software seemed to be addicted, to easily have tantrums when pried away from the videos and games, and to have really short attention spans.  I began to wonder if it really is a great idea for my children to use these electronic devices.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one concerned.  Multiple studies have been done examining this issue and according to Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, watching television “rewires” an infant’s brain.  He says, “In contrast to the way real life unfolds and is experienced by young children, the pace of TV is greatly sped up.  Quick scene shifts of video images become ‘normal,’ to a baby when in fact, it’s decidedly not normal or natural…Exposing a baby’s developing brain to videos may overstimulate it, causing permanent changes in developing neural pathways.”  The result appears to be an increase in children with ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In the study of more than 2,000 children, Christakis found that a toddler watching three hours of infant television daily had nearly a 30 percent higher chance of having attention problems in school.

The solution?  Go back to basics.  Turn off the electronics, or at least limit them.  If you really need a break, find a friend with children and trade off some babysitting time.  Read to your children.  And let them play with traditional non-electronic toys – like pot lids and spoons!

Christakis, D. A. (2009). The effects of infant media usage: what do we know and what should we learn?. Acta Paediatrica, 98(1), 8-16.

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Why Marriage Matters

marriage matters

Marriage is important for more reasons than you may think. “Why Marriage Matters” is a book that highlights 30 conclusions from social sciences that proclaim the importance of marriage. They have compiled the 30 reasons into 5 domains. Here is a list of the 30 findings.


  • Marriage increases the likelihood that fathers and mothers have good relationships with their children.
  • Children are most likely to enjoy family stability when they are born into a married family.
  • Children are less likely to thrive in complex households.
  • Cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage.
  • Growing up outside an intact marriage increases the likelihood that children will themselves divorce or become unwed parents.
  • Marriage is a virtually universal human institution.
  • Marriage, and a normative commitment to marriage, foster high-quality relationships between adults, as well as between parents and children.
  • Marriage has important biosocial consequences for adults and children.


  • Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase poverty for both children and mothers, and cohabitation is less likely to alleviate poverty than is marriage.
  • Married couples seem to build more wealth on average than singles or cohabiting couples.
  • Marriage reduces poverty and material hardship for disadvantaged women and their children.
  • Minorities also benefit economically from marriage.
  • Married men earn more money than do single men with similar education and job histories.
  • Parental divorce (or failure to marry) appears to increase children’s risk of school failure.
  • Parental divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from college and achieve high-status jobs.

Physical Health and Longevity

  • Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than do children in other family forms.
  • Parental marriage is associated with a sharply lower risk of infant mortality.
  • Marriage is associated with reduced rates of alcohol and substance abuse for both adults and teens.
  • Married people, especially married men, have longer life expectancies than do otherwise similar singles.
  • Marriage is associated with better health and lower rates of injury, illness, and disability for both men and women.
  • Marriage seems to be associated with better health among minorities and the poor.

Mental Health and Emotional Well-being

  • Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological distress and mental illness.
  • Cohabitation is associated with higher levels of psychological problems among children.
  • Family breakdown appears to increase significantly the risk of suicide.
  • Married mothers have lower rates of depression than do single or cohabiting mothers.

Crime and Domestic Violence

  • Boys raised in non-intact families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behavior.
  • Marriage appears to reduce the risk that adults will be either perpetrators or victims of crime.
  • Married women appear to have a lower risk of experiencing domestic violence than do cohabiting or dating women.
  • A child who is not living with his or her own two married parents is at greater risk of child abuse.
  • There is a growing marriage gap between college-educated Americans and less educated Americans.

For more information see these websites.

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10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting – Part 5

parents kissing babyThis is part five of 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting post based on Laurence Steinberg’s book with the same title. Here are principles nine and ten with their major concepts also listed.

9. Explain your rules and decisions. “Good parents have expectations they want their child to live up to. Generally, parents over-explain to young children and under-explain to adolescents. What is obvious to you may not be evident to a 12-year-old. He doesn’t have the priorities, judgment or experience that you have.”

  • Make sure your expectations for your child are clear and that they are appropriate for your child’s age.
  • Children are more likely to follow the rules when they know the reasoning behind the rule. The following are general guidelines for what type of reasoning is necessary for children of different ages. Explanations need to be…
    • <6: Reasonable
    • 6-11: Reasonable and logical
    • >11: Reasonable, logical, and consistent with other things you have said or done.
  • “Because I said so” is not a reasonable explanation to give your children. This is a parent asserting their power of their child. Your child should respect you as the parent but should obey you because you are correct, not because you have power.
  • Take the time to hear your child’s point of view. This will help your child know their opinions matter and help them develop the skills to make correct decisions.
  • It is best to admit when you were wrong or made a mistake to teach your children by example.

10. Treat your child with respect. “The best way to get respectful treatment from your child is to treat him respectfully. You should give your child the same courtesies you would give to anyone else. Speak to him politely. Respect his opinion. Pay attention when he is speaking to you. Treat him kindly. Try to please him when you can. Children treat others the way their parents treat them. Your relationship with your child is the foundation for her relationships with others.”

  • Don’t just talk to your child, but talk with them. To have a two-way conversation with your child…
    • Pay attention to what your child is actually saying.
    • Ask for your child’s opinion or viewpoint.
    • Ask questions that require detailed answers.
    • Don’t interrupt.
    • Be genuine.
  • Enjoy the stage of development your child is in, don’t rush them to the next stage, and let them act their age.
  • Remember that children learn to treat others by the way they are treated at home by their parents. By treating your child with respect, they will learn to do the same with others.

These are 10 simple principles that, when applied, help parents build better relationships with their children and develop better parenting practices.

Nobody is perfect, so we can all work on becoming better parents for our children by reflecting on these principles and trying to more fully encompass them in our lives.

For more information see:

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10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting – Part 4

mom dad with baby outsideThis is part four of 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting post based on Laurence Steinberg’s book with the same title. Here are principles seven and eight with their major concepts also listed.

 7. Be consistent. “If your rules vary from day to day in an unpredictable fashion, or if you enforce them only intermittently, your child’s misbehavior is your fault, not his. Your most important disciplinary tool is consistency. Identify your non-negotiables. The more your authority is based on wisdom and not on power, the less your child will challenge it.”

  • “Consistency in your daily routines will breed consistency in your parenting.”
  • Have a united front as a couple especially when your child is young.
  • Figure out what your non-negotiables are then be flexible with the rules while being consistent.

8. Avoid harsh discipline. “Children who are hit or slapped are more prone to fighting with other children. They are more likely to be bullies and more likely to use aggression to solve disputes with others.”

  • Don’t be verbally abusive, don’t hit, slap, or beat your child. Learn to control your temper.
  • Disciplinary spanking should never leave more than a minute or two of redness and never any bruising. If corporal punishment is implemented, seek out expert advice on how to do so in a way that avoids negative side effects (see ACPeds handout Guidelines for Disciplinary Spanking and position statement Corporal Punishment: A Scientific Review of Its Use in Discipline).
  • The right way to punish includes…
    • Identifying the act that was wrong.
    • Describing the impact of the bad behavior.
    • Suggesting an appropriate alternative behavior.
    • Clearly stating what the punishment will be.
    • Stating your expectation that your child will do better next time.

For more information see:

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10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting – Part 3

daughter kissing momThe following is part three of 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting post based on Laurence Steinberg’s book with the same title. Here are principles five and six with their major concepts listed.

5.  Establish and set rules. “If you don’t manage your child’s behavior when he is young, he will have a hard time learning how to manage himself when he is older and you aren’t around. Any time of the day or night, you should always be able to answer these three questions: Where is my child? Who is with my child? What is my child doing? The rules your child has learned from you are going to shape the rules he applies to himself.”

  • All children need structure in their lives and the best way to do this is to establish clear rules and limits.
  • Make sure to establish rules that “make sense, that are appropriate to your child’s age, and that are flexible enough to change as your child matures.”
  • Be firm in making your children keep the rules that have been appropriately set.
  • When children disagree about the rules, the best option, when appropriate, is to come up with a new rule with your child that satisfies both of you.

6.  Foster your child’s independence. “Setting limits helps your child develop a sense of self-control. Encouraging independence helps her develop a sense of self-direction. To be successful in life, she’s going to need both. Accepting that it is normal for children to push for autonomy is absolutely key to effective parenting. Many parents mistakenly equate their child’s independence with rebelliousness or disobedience. Children push for independence because it is part of human nature to want to feel in control rather than to feel controlled by someone else.”

  • When allowing autonomy remember to pick the battles that really matter, limit your child’s options to ones that you approve of, praise the decisions your child makes, help your child think through decisions, and let them learn from their mistakes.
  • Toddlers and early adolescents go through stages where they argue about wanting more autonomy. To cope with this, it is best to allow them more autonomy, by following the guidelines above, to help them feel more independent.
  • Give your child psychological space; don’t “constantly hover” and undermine their sense of self-confidence.
  • When children request to do something out of the ordinary, keep this principle in mind, “protect when you must, but permit when you can.”

For more information see:

Steinberg, L. D. (2005). The ten basic principles of good parenting New York : Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2005, c2004; 1st Simon & Schuster Paperbacks ed.

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