Friday, December 03, 2010

How Parents Create the Entrepreneur

Think your decision to own your own business is all yours?

Maybe not. New research finds that parents have a lot more to do with career choice than you might think.

While previous researchers have determined that a career inclination may be inherited genetically and others say the driving force is upbringing and the nurturing from parents, a new child-development theory bridges those two models.

The research indicates that the way a child turns out can be determined in large part by the day-to-day decisions made by the parents who guide that child's growth.

"This model helps to resolve the nature-nurture debate," said  psychologist George Holden at Southern Methodist University in Dallas who conducted the research.

Holden hypothesizes that parents guide their children's development in four complex and dynamic ways:
  • Parents initiate trajectories, sometimes trying to steer their child in a preferred developmental path based on either the parents' preferences or their observations of the child's characteristics and abilities, such as enrolling their child in a class, exposing them to people and places, or taking a child to practices or lessons;
  • Parents also sustain their child's progress along trajectories with encouragement and praise, by providing material assistance such as books, equipment or tutoring, and by allocating time to practice or participate in certain activities;
  • Parents mediate trajectories, which influences how their child perceives and understands a trajectory, and help their child steer clear of negative trajectories by preparing the child to deal with potential problems;
  • Finally, parents react to child-initiated trajectories.
Trajectories are useful images for thinking about career development because one can easily visualize concepts like "detours," "roadblocks" and "off-ramps," Holden says.

Detours, he says, are transitional events that can redirect a pathway, such as divorce. Roadblocks are events or behavior that shut down a potential trajectory, such as teen pregnancy, which can block an educational path. Off-ramps are exits from a positive trajectory, such as abusing drugs, getting bullied or joining a gang.
Holden says there are other ways parents influence a child's progress on a trajectory, such as through modeling desired behaviors, or modifying the speed of development by controlling the type and number of experiences.

Some of the ways in which children react to trajectories include accepting, negotiating, resisting or rejecting them, he says.

"Some factors that also can influence trajectories include the family's culture, their income and family resources, and the quality of the parent-child relationship," says Holden. "What this model of parenting helps to point out is that effective parenting involves guiding children in such a way as to ensure that they are developing along positive trajectories."


Exposure to animals during pregnancy cuts dermatitis risk in kids

Swiss researchers have revealed that women who spend their pregnancy in the proximity of farm animals and cats have children with a reduced risk of developing atopic dermatitis in their first two years of life.

Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema, is a chronic and extremely painful inflammation of the skin that frequently occurs in early childhood, generally already in infancy.

Earlier research has indicated that allergies were less common in children who grew up on farms and whose mothers lived on farms during their pregnancy.

Exposure to farm animals and bacteria frequently found in farms as well as drinking milk from the dairy offered the immune system protection. However, proof of this protective effect in connection with atopic dermatitis had remained elusive.

Now, Roger Lauener, Caroline Roduit and their colleagues from the University of Zurich have analyzed how prenatal environmental factors and genetic mechanisms influence the development of atopic dermatitis during the first two years of life.

They examined over 1,000 children in rural areas of five European countries - Austria, Finland, France, Germany and Switzerland.

Of the 1,063 children, 508 were from families that lived on farms while 555 were not farm children.

The researchers identified two genes in these children that are of vital importance for innate immunity and were able to link the expression of these genes to a lower likelihood of a doctor diagnosis of an allergic condition.

The findings of the study are not only significant in the face of the frequency of the disease and the suffering it causes but also support the theory that gene-environment interaction with the developing immune system influences the development of atopic dermatitis in young children.

The study is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. (ANI)


Saving Umbilical Cords Saves Lives

Public education is critical to helping parents understand the value of cord blood stem cells. That was the message Dr. Frances Verter delivered in an op-ed she recently penned for The Baltimore Sun. Dr. Verter should know - she is the founder and executive director of the Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation and the website, which provides expectant parents with information about cord blood stem cells and cord blood banks.

Dr. Verter is also the parent of a child who passed away in 1997 from leukemia, a condition that can be treated with cord blood stem cells. As a result, “I have made it my life's mission to educate expectant parents about the value of these cells, and hopefully persuade them not to throw them away,” Dr. Verter explains in her editorial.

You can read the full text of Dr. Verter’s op-ed here.


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Baby names reveal more about parents than ever before

The names people choose to give their children communicate a wealth of social information - more so now than ever before.

A new analysis of name statistics suggests that the meaning conveyed by a baby's name - that is, what a name tells others about the parents' tastes and background - has ramped up significantly over the last 25 years as baby names have become more diverse and numerous.

"We're in the middle of a naming revolution," said Laura Wattenberg, author of the popular book "The Baby Name Wizard" (Three Rivers Press, 2005) and creator of the website "Parents are putting a much higher premium on distinctiveness."

As Wattenberg points out, in the 1950s, the top 25 most common boy's names and the top 50 girl's names accounted for half of babies born. Today, however, those top names are given to fewer babies. In fact, you'd have to include the most popular 134 boy's names and the top 320 girl's names to cover half of all babies born every year.

"If you have 10 guesses to get somebody's name today there's almost no chance you'll get it," Wattenberg told LiveScience. "But 100 years ago, if you guessed the top 10 names you'd have a really good chance" of guessing correctly.

But with these changes in naming trends come social implications.
"The more diverse naming styles become, the more we are going to read into somebody's name," Wattenberg said. She analyzed baby name statistics from the U.S. Social Security Administration to calculate a measure called "Shannon entropy" from the field of information theory. This measure is used to describe the information contained in a message — in this case, how much is communicated by the choice of a name.

Names communicate so much, because they often embody parents' values and tastes, as well as dreams and ambitions for their child.

"Sociologists love names," Wattenberg said. "They're practically the only case of a choice with broad fashion patterns that there's no commercial influence on. There's no company out there spending millions to convince you Brayden is a perfect name for your son." (Studies have shown that movies, celebrities and other cultural trends do have an impact on the popularity of certain names.)

Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, called Wattenberg's work an "interesting analysis" and said, "It looks solid to me."

Twenge, author of book "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement" (Free Press, April 2009), said the shift toward unique names was part of a broader social shift toward individualism in many aspects of our lives.

"It is much more common now for people to say, 'I want my child to stand out,'" Twenge said. "Naming a kid used to be an easier decision. Now you have to strike a balance in finding a name that isn't too popular, and isn't too weird."

And the fact that everyone who meets a child will now be able to glean more information from his or her name just adds to the predicament.

That means that parents-to-be who obsess over the choice of what to name their bun in the oven are justified in devoting hours to the decision. As Wattenberg wrote, "They're not just obsessive, they're responding to a new reality. I can prove it."

So how did names evolve to favor uniqueness over popularity?

Certainly the Internet is part of it. The social networking and easy communication with people beyond one's geographical local sphere means more sources of influence surround parents when deciding on a name. And with the rise of online user names — often based on a person's real name — comes an added incentive for that name to be one that no one else has.

"The idea of your name as a unique signifier that separates you from everyone else — that's a new idea," Wattenberg said. "Names never had to be unique. But today your name is often the first way and sometimes the only way people know you."

While it used to be enough to have a name unique to your neighborhood, now many parents are deterred if it's a name more than a few people in the world share.

Yet Twenge stressed that the trend toward distinctive names started before the Internet became so important.
Statistics show the diversification of baby names began in the 1960s, at the same time that Americans started placing more emphasis on individuality and less on collectivity and fitting in.

Also, the advent of name statistics has undoubtedly shaped naming trends. The Social Security Administration has only recently made baby name data available. Before that, people had anecdotal reasons to think a given name was popular or scarce, but they couldn't be sure. Now every year the country's most popular names are ranked and released.

"It's had a huge effect," Wattenberg said of the data. "There's a kind of reverse competitiveness that nobody wants to be number one."

And as much as people strive for uniqueness, ultimately humans are social animals that still want to fit in.

"We all want to be different from each other, but our tastes are still as much alike as they ever were," Wattenberg said. "So the result is we have a thousand tiny variations on a theme. You get Kayden, Brayden, Hayden, Jayden."

Common Heartburn Medicines Pose Little Risk For Birth Defects

Common heartburn medicine, known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), has shown no evidence of increasing birth defects when taken during pregnancy, a new Danish study explains.

While this large study found no data supporting the dangers of the medicine, researchers stress the importance of gathering additional information to determine just how safe it would be to take PPIs while pregnant.

For the study, more than 840,000 births were examined between January 1996 and September 2008. Research can be found in the New England Journal of Medicine, NEJM.

Heartburn is a very common symptom during pregnancy, and many women turn to common medicines to help ease the pain.

The most popular medicines are omeprazole, esomeprazole, and lansoprazole.

Researchers analyzed prescription data in relation to birth defects. Women were analyzed in two groups: those who used PPIs for the entire first trimester, including 4 weeks prior, and those using PPIs for the entire first trimester.

Results from the study showed 2.6 percent of more than 840,000 babies to have birth defects, and 3.4 percent of babies from mothers who used PPIs four weeks prior to conception had a major defect compared to only 2.6 percent of the babies from the other group.

Researchers conclude the usage of proton-pump inhibitors did not appear to increase the risk of birth defects.


U.S. cautious on breast milk sharing as trend grows

U.S. health officials are cautioning new parents about sharing breast milk as a growing number of women are using social networking and other websites to share their milk instead of turning to infant formula.

Health experts have long promoted breast-feeding as the "perfect food" to provide babies with needed nutrients as well as ward off illness, but the Food and Drug Administration is worried about the practice.

In a statement on Tuesday, the agency urged parents not to casually use breast milk from other, unscreened mothers because of the risk of disease or contamination from bacteria, drugs or chemicals.

"FDA recommends against feeding your baby breast milk acquired directly from individuals or through the Internet," the agency wrote. Instead, parents should talk to their doctors and use breast milk from special human milk banks, it said.

The move comes ahead of a public FDA meeting on Monday to discuss breast milk donations and banking. The agency is poised to release documents related to the meeting on Thursday.

It also follows some concern in recent years with the $2.8 billion infant formula market that has seen controversy over chemicals in can linings as well as various recalls.

A small network of self-regulated breast milk banks offer screened milk. But experts say they simply do not have enough milk to serve other mothers unable to breast-feed their babies.

Some women have turned to other women. Such web-based exchanges have spiked in recent weeks with the growth of Eats on Feets, a new global exchange that connects women who want to donate milk with women who need it.

Emma Kwasnica, one of two women who helped launch the group globally, said the warning was misguided. "It won't stop us mothers. ... They can't possibly regulate what women do with their bodies and their milk," she said.

Pauline Sakamoto, past president of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, said with just 10 banks nationwide, her nonprofit group understands the limits of banked milk, which can cost $3 to $5 an ounce (30 grams).

FDA's meeting could help highlight the need to expand insurance coverage as well as the number of actual banks, which are subsidized in most other countries, she said.

Larry Grummer-Strawn, a top nutrition expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said most banks barely have enough milk to serve very low weight babies such as preemies.

"There's not enough supply right now, so they're focused on where there's the most need," he said.
Eats on Feets' Kwasnica said those who need milk can't wait for better banks and that other women who pump too much can help: "Breast milk is not a scarce commodity. It's a free-flowing resource, and we are dumping it down the drain."


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Study shows pregnant mother's diet impacts infant's sense of smell

A major new study shows that a pregnant mother's diet not only sensitizes the fetus to those smells and flavors, but physically changes the brain directly impacting what the infant eats and drinks in the future.

"This highlights the importance of eating a healthy diet and refraining from drinking alcohol during pregnancy and nursing," said Josephine Todrank, PhD, who conducted the two-year study while a visiting scientist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "If the mother drinks alcohol, her child may be more attracted to alcohol because the developing fetus "expects" that whatever comes from the mother must be safe. If she eats healthy food, the child will prefer healthy food."

Researchers studying mice found that the pups' sense of smell is changed by what their mothers eat, teaching them to like the flavors in her diet. At the same time, they found significant changes in the structure of the brain's olfactory glomeruli, which processes smells, because odors in the amniotic fluid affect how this system develops.

"This is the first study to address the changes in the brain that occur upon steady exposure to flavors in utero and early in postnatal life when the newborn is receiving milk from the mother," said Diego Restrepo, PhD, co-director of the Center for NeuroScience at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and sponsor of the study. "During these periods the pup is exposed to flavors found in the food the mom is eating."
The research, he said, could have important public health implications.

"Many diseases plaguing society involve excess consumption or avoidance of certain kinds of foods," said Restrepo, a professor of cell and developmental biology. "Understanding the factors that determine choice and ingestion, particularly the early factors, is important in designing strategies to enhance the health of the infant, child, and adult."

In her study, Todrank, now a research fellow with collaborator Giora Heth, PhD, at the Institute of Evolution at the University of Haifa, Israel, fed one group of pregnant and nursing mice a bland diet and another a flavored diet. At weaning age, the pups from mothers on the flavored diet had significantly larger glomeruli than those on the bland diet. They also preferred the same flavor their mother ate, while the other pups had no preference.

"Exposure to odor or flavor in the womb elicits the preference but also shapes the brain development," said Todrank, whose work was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and was published Dec. 1, 2010 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a major biological research journal.

"From the fetus' point of view, whatever is in the womb is considered "good". If your mother ate it and survived to give birth to you then it was probably safe," she said. "This is a good strategy for a mouse that is foraging for food. It treats those same foods as safe."

Due to the similarities in mammalian development, she said, there is no reason to think that experiments would produce different results in humans.

"What an expectant mother chooses to eat and drink has long-term effects – for better or worse – on her child's sensory anatomy as well his or her odor memory and food preferences in the future," Todrank said. "It is not yet clear how long these changes and preferences last, but we are currently investigating that question."


Due Maternity Goes Live With "Big Changes for Small Change"

RetailROI, the Retail Orphan Initiative, today announced Due Maternity has gone live with the yearlong "Big Changes for Small Change" campaign, allowing consumers to round up the dollar amount of their purchase as a donation to RetailROI when checking out.

Due Maternity is the first retailer to implement the program.

"Due Maternity is committed to the mission of RetailROI, and we have the ideal customer base to offer them our support," said Albert DiPadova, vice president, Due Maternity. "We understand how busy and chaotic life can be for new moms and the 'Big Changes for Small Change' program is an easy way for moms to continue giving back and making a difference in the lives of others without losing precious moments with their own child."

"Through the generous efforts of retailers such as Due Maternity, shoppers can support RetailROI in helping the millions of orphaned and vulnerable children around the world," said Greg Buzek, donor trustee for the Retail Orphan Initiative. "Every little bit helps, and with continued support from the retail community, RetailROI can continue giving to the deserving organizations who are on the frontlines caring for these children."


How Much Does Birth Order Shape Our Lives?

There are lots of expectations and assumptions about how birth order may shape our adult lives, and many of them go back ages. Centuries ago, the oldest son had huge incentives to stay on track and live up to family expectations - that's because, by tradition, he was set to inherit almost everything.

"Historically the practice of primogeniture was very common in Europe," says Frank Sulloway, a visiting scholar at the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California, Berkeley. "So firstborns had every reason to preserve the status quo and be on good terms with their parents."

Now you may think any "first born" effect would have completely disappeared in modern times. But not so, say experts who study birth order. Researchers first examined the status of firstborns among Washington power brokers in 1972.

"I expected that there would be a disproportionately high number of firstborns among members of Congress" says psychologist Richard Zweigenhaft of Guilford College. "And that's exactly what I found."

Out of 121 representatives and senators included in his sample, Zweigenhaft found that 51 were firstborns, 39 were middle children, and 31 were youngest children. It wasn't a huge overrepresentation of firstborns, but the difference, he says, is too significant to ignore.

Several surveys and studies conducted throughout the years have found that firstborns do edge out later-borns in lots of high-achieving professions, from corporate CEOs to college professors to U.S. presidents and Supreme Court justices. There's even evidence that firstborn children are about 3 IQ points smarter than their second-born siblings.

So what nudges oldest children to be conscientious, striving achievers? One factor is that firstborns tend to get undivided parental resources, explains Sulloway.

"When the second [child] comes along, the oldest still gets half of all that [attention], so younger siblings never have a chance to catch up," he says.

It's not that mothers and fathers intend to parent differently — oftentimes it just works out that way. Partly it's the inexperience that makes some first-time parents go overboard: signing children up for every lesson and activity imaginable, for example.

Experts say it's never entirely predictable how birth order may influence our personalities, behaviors or family dynamics — there are plenty of firstborns who don't fit the mold.

"The one thing you can say about birth order is that it's not absolutely deterministic of how people's lives turn out," says Sulloway.

Experts say it's just one small piece of the puzzle.

"I'm not sure I would say that birth order plays a strong role in who we become," Zweigenhaft says. "Birth order contributes to who we become."

After all, we're all amalgams of many childhood influences, from teachers and peers to random life events, including turns of good luck and bad.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stella McCartney Gives Birth To Girl

Stella McCartney has given birth to a baby girl.

The British fashion designer and daughter of Beatles legend Sir Paul McCartney, delivered her fourth child with husband Alasdhair Willis on November 23 at Portland Hospital in London, the tot weighed a healthy 8lbs.

The overjoyed couple have named their new arrival Reiley, who joins her three siblings, Miller, five, Bailey, three, and two-year-old Beckett.

The 39-year-old fashionista was recently inspired by her large family to make an affordable range of clothes for children which she wants to be "timeless".

She said: "I just find it wrong to do a kids' line and be incredibly expensive, purely by dint of being a designer brand.

"Children's clothes have become disposable in order to be accessible. I wanted to do affordable and accessible kids clothes that are still timeless with a great quality that you would want to pass down for generations.

"Kids and parents, aunts, uncles, friends, should all be able to have access to Stella McCartney Kids clothes. We have tried to make that possible in this first collection, and hope it is enjoyed!"

The fourth addition to Stella's family means Paul McCartney now has seven grandchildren.


Europe Bans Baby Bottles Made With BPA

Europe has banned baby bottles that contain bisphenol-A, a chemical linked to male infertility, diabetes and cancer.

The manufacture of baby bottles made with bisphenol-A, or BPA, will be banned by European Union member states from March 1 next year, the European Commission said in a statement on its website. Imports of baby bottles containing BPA will be banned from the EU marketplace from June 1, the commission said.

"The decision is good news for European parents who can be sure that as of mid-2011 plastic infant feeding bottles will not include BPA,” John Dalli, the EU Commissioner for health and consumer policy, said in the statement.

Europe’s decision to ban the chemical in baby bottles follows that of Canada, which was the first country in the world to declare BPA a toxic substance in October. BPA, which mimics the female hormone estrogen, is used to harden plastic and make canned food watertight. The chemical is found in many everyday items such as tinned food and soda cans.

The World Health Organization said earlier this month that people were being exposed to BPA mainly through food packaging. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration said earlier this year that they will study the potential health effects of BPA.

Nina Garcia Welcomes Baby No. 2

Congratulations to Project Runway judge Nina Garcia and husband David Conrod who welcomed their second son over the Thanksgiving weekend:
"Delighted to announce that over the wknd we welcomed 8lb13oz Alexander David Conrod into our home! Baby is doing great & Lucas is thrilled!" Nina, 45, announced via Twitter.
The happy couple are already parents to 3½-year-old son Lucas.

In addition to her role on Project Runway, Nina is also fashion director at Marie Claire magazine.