KATHY SENA compiles the latest news on mental health.
TRAFFIC injury remains the leading health threat to children in the United States, according to a study reported in the journal Pediatrics. And while that's a big concern in itself, the study's authors stress that the psychological scars from such accidents can last long after the physical injuries have healed.
According to the researchers, children with even minor injuries following a traffic incident are at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a group of symptoms and psychological reactions that may follow a traumatic experience. The authors note that accident-related PTSD rates are similar to those of children exposed to violence.
Researchers from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, studied 102 families with children between ages three and 18 who were involved in traffic-related injuries. They found that older children, as well as those whose parents developed PTSD, were at higher risk.
According to the study, 25% of the children and 15% of the parents suffered PTSD, but only 46% of the parents of affected children sought help for their child. And only 20% of affected parents sought help for themselves.
The authors suggest that children and their parents should be screened for PTSD after even minor traffic-related injuries, and should be referred for treatment when appropriate. - LAT-WP
Joint custody preferable
CHILDREN from divorced families who either live with both parents at different times or who spend time with each parent are better adjusted, in most cases, than children who live and interact with just one parent, according to a recent study reported in the Journal of Family Psychology.
Psychologist Robert Bauserman of the Maryland AIDS Administration, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, analysed 33 previous studies, which examined a total of 1,846 sole-custody and 814 joint-custody children. The studies compared child adjustment in joint-custody settings with sole-custody settings and with 251 intact families.
Children in joint-custody arrangements had fewer behavioural and emotional problems, better family relations and better school performance than children in sole-custody arrangements. These children were as well-adjusted as intact-family children, says Bauserman, “probably because joint custody provides the child with an opportunity to have ongoing contact with both parents.”
The findings indicate that children need to spend substantial time with both parents, especially with their fathers, Bauserman says. Also, joint-custody couples reported less conflict, possibly because both parents participated equally in their children's lives. Of course, Bauserman adds, when one parent is abusive or neglectful, sole custody with the other parent would clearly be preferable. – LAT-WP
Caught in the web?
WHILE experts argue over whether “Internet addiction” is a true addiction, some people spend hours each week (an average of nearly 30 hours, in one study) surfing the Net, participating in chat rooms or playing computer games. The real problem comes when these people sacrifice their families, their jobs or their friends to feed their habit, says a report in the Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource newsletter.
Some data indicate that lonely, middle-aged women who spend hours in chat rooms are among those most affected.
Kimberly Young, a psychologist who conducted one of the first studies on the topic, classifies dependent Internet users as those who meet four or more of the following criteria over a 12-month period:
If your Internet use is interfering with the rest of your life, it may be time to seek help. – LAT-WP
Drug treatment for autism
ONE of a newer class of anti-psychotic medications has been found to successfully treat serious behavioural disturbances associated with autism in children ages five to 17, according to a new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“Although this study did not attempt to treat the core symptoms of autism, our findings suggest that (the medication) risperidone can be useful in treating moderate to severe behaviour problems that are associated with autism in children,” says Lawrence Scahill, principal investigator at the Yale Child Study Centre site at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
Researchers randomly assigned 101 children and adolescents, 82 boys and 19 girls, age five to 17, to receive either placebo or risperidone, one of a new class of anti-psychotic medications called atypical.
The study found risperidone to be significantly more effective than a placebo in improving behaviour. It was well tolerated, with few neurological side effects. However, the medication was associated with a substantial increase in body weight (an average of about a 2kg to 3kg increase in the eight-week period).
Autism is a chronic condition that appears in early childhood. It is characterised by impaired social relatedness, delayed language and restricted behaviour patterns. It affects as many as 20 children per 10,000. Although the causes are unknown for most cases, available evidence implicates abnormalities in brain development. Twin and family studies also point to a strong genetic contribution. - LAT-WP