Parenting Educational Intervention Can Reduce Childhood Obesity

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ian M. Paul, M.D., M.Sc. Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health Sciences Chief, Division of Academic General Pediatrics Vice Chair of Faculty Affairs, Department of Pediatrics Penn State College of Medicine Hershey, PA 17033-0850

Prof. Paul

Ian M. Paul, M.D., M.Sc.
Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health Sciences
Chief, Division of Academic General Pediatrics
Vice Chair of Faculty Affairs, Department of Pediatrics
Penn State College of Medicine
Hershey, PA 17033-0850

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: 20-25% of 2-5 year old children are overweight or obese in the US, and these children have increased risk of remaining overweight across the lifecourse. To date, research efforts aimed at preventing early life overweight have had very limited success.

In our randomized clinical trial that included 279 mother-child dyads, a responsive parenting intervention that began shortly after birth significantly reduced body mass index z-score compared with controls at age 3 years. Continue reading

Genes From Dad Influence How Mom Cares for Babies

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Family” by IsaacVakeroKonor is licensed under CC BY 3.0Professor Rosalind John
Head of Biomedicine Division, Professor
School of Biosciences
Cardiff University
Cardiff UK

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: I have been studying a really remarkable family of genes called “imprinted genes” for the last 20 years. For most genes, we inherit two working copies — one from our mother and one from our father. But with imprinted genes, we inherit only one working copy – the other copy is switched off by epigenetic marks in one parent’s germline. This is really odd because we are all taught at school that two copies of a gene are important to protect us against mutations, and much safer than only one copy. So why turn off one copy?

Maternal care boosted by paternal imprinting in mammals

Maternal care boosted by paternal imprinting in mammals

When my research group were studying these genes in mice, we found out that one of them, called Phlda2, plays an important role in the placenta regulating the production of placental hormones. Placental hormones are critically important in pregnancy as they induce adaptations in the mother required for healthy fetal growth. There was also some indirect evidence that placental hormones play a role in inducing maternal instinct. Women are not born with a maternal instinct –  this behaviour develops during pregnancy to prepare the mother-to-be for the new and demanding role of caring for her baby. This led to my idea that this gene expressed in the offspring’s placenta could influence maternal behaviour, which was entirely novel. 

Until now direct experimental evidence to support the theory that placental hormones trigger this “motherly love” by acting directly on the brain of the mother has been lacking. To test the theory that our imprinted gene could influence the mother’s behaviour by regulating placental hormones, we generated pregnant mice by IVF carrying embryos with different copies of Phlda2. We used IVF to keep all the mothers genetically identical. This resulted in genetically identical pregnant female mice exposed to different amounts of placental hormones – either low, normal or high.

We found that female mice exposed in pregnancy to low amounts of placental hormones were much more focused on nest building (housekeeping) and spent less time looking after their pups or themselves than normal mice. In contrast, female mice exposed to high placental hormones neglected their nests and spent more time looking after their pups and more time self-grooming. We also found changes in the mother’s brain before the pups were born so we know that the change in priorities started before birth. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This study is important because it shows, for the first time, that genes from the dad expressed in the placenta influence the quality of care mothers gives to their offspring. Perhaps more significantly, this study highlights the importance of a fully functional placenta for high quality maternal care.

We have shown in a mouse model that genes in the placenta and placental hormones are important for priming maternal nurturing in an animal model. Human placenta have the same imprinted genes and also manufactures placental hormones. It is possible that problems with the placenta could misprogram maternal nurturing in a human pregnancy and these mothers may not bond well with their newborn. It is also possible that problems with the placenta could contribute to depression in mothers. We are all familiar with postnatal depression but many more mothers experience depression in pregnancy with 1 in 7 mothers reporting clinically significant symptoms. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: After we found out that Phlda2 could influence maternal behaviour in mice, we asked whether there were changes in this gene in human placenta from pregnancies where women were either diagnosed with clinical depression or self reported depression in pregnancy. Phlda2 seems to be OK but we found another gene that belongs to the same imprinted gene family called PEG3 that is expressed at lower than normal levels in women with depression. Strangely, this seems to only be in placenta from boys. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: To explore this further, we have just started our own human cohort study called “Grown in Wales” at Cardiff University focused on prenatal depression. We are now looking at placental hormones in the mother’s blood and gene expression in the placenta to test the idea that the genes we are studying in mice are misregulated in the placenta of pregnancies where the mothers suffer with depression. This work is now funded by the Medical Research Council.

Citation: 

Maternal care boosted by paternal imprinting in mammals

D. J. Creeth, G. I. McNamara,, S. J. Tunster, R. Boque-Sastre,, B. Allen,, L. Sumption, J. B. Eddy,A. R. Isles, R. M. John PLOS
Published: July 31, 2018

Aug 2, 2018 @ 11:48 pm 

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Sibling Closeness in Middle School Predicts Differences in College Graduation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“siblings” by Britt Reints is licensed under CC BY 2.0Xiaoran Sun

Department of Human Development and Family Studies
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802.  

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: College graduation has significant implications for adult life outcomes including for employment, family formation, and health (IOM & NRC, 2015).

Investigating how sibling differences in college graduation emerge sheds light on why children growing up in the same family sometimes follow diverging paths in adulthood. Our study also responds to the call by researchers interested in policy and practice to conduct longitudinal research investigating the role of early family socialization processes in educational attainment (Pettit, Davis-Kean, & Magnuson, 2009). Despite siblings’ important role in child and adolescent development, previous research has focused on parenting and on the academic outcomes of individual children in the family.

Further, although sibling experiences, including their relationship characteristics and parental differential treatment, have been linked to sibling similarities and differences in domains such as risky behaviors (Slomkowski, Rende, Novak, Lloyd-Richardson, & Raymond, 2005), to date, there has been very little research on the role of sibling experiences in positive development, such as academic achievement.   Continue reading

When Do Organized Activities for Kids Become Too Much?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Sharon Wheeler PhD

Dr Sharon Wheeler PhD Lecturer in Sport, Physical Activity and Health Department of Sport and Physical Activity Faculty of Arts and Sciences Edge Hill University Lancashire

Dr. Wheeler

Lecturer in Sport, Physical Activity and Health
Department of Sport and Physical Activity
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Edge Hill University
Lancashire

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: It is well-known that family background and parents’ investment in their children has a big impact on a number of outcomes, including how well people do at school, the jobs they get, and how they spend their leisure time. It is also known that it is middle-class parents who tend to work particularly hard to make sure their children get on in life.

This research starts to question whether parents’ investment in their children’s organised activities is having the desired impact. Parents initiate and facilitate their children’s participation in organised activities as it shows that they are a ‘good’ parent and they hope such activities will benefit their children in both short-term (keeping fit and healthy, developing friendship groups) and long-term ways (getting jobs, having lots of opportunities in the future).

The reality, which has been highlighted in this research, is that while children might experience some of these benefits, a busy organised activity schedule can put considerable strain on parents’ resources and families’ relationships, as well as potentially harm children’s development and well-being.

Continue reading

Parents More Willing To Lets Kids Watch ‘Justified’ Violence on TV

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Crime Scene _MG_4847” by thierry ehrmann is licensed under CC BY 2.0Daniel Romer, PhD

Research Director Annenberg Public Policy Center and
Director of its Adolescent Communication Institute (ACI)
University of Pennsylvania

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We have been studying the steady increase in gun violence that has been occurring in popular PG-13 movies since the new rating was adopted in 1984.  It has recently even surpassed the amount of gun violence in R-rated movies.  Since these movies are open to the public at any age, we are concerned that they promote the use of guns and potentially socialize youth to believe that using guns to defend oneself is an appropriate way to handle threats and other conflicts.

We knew that the rating requires the omission of graphic consequences, such as blood and suffering, that can make the violence more acceptable.  But we also wondered whether the motivation for the violence might make a difference as well.  Many of the characters in PG-13 movies are seen as heroic (e.g., Bruce Willis and Liam Neeson).  Could that also be a factor that makes such films more acceptable to parents despite their concerns about their children seeing so much violence in the movies.  So, we conducted this experiment to see if parents are less upset by justified violence in PG-13 style movies.  Continue reading

Dad’s Reading To Children Associated With Better Language Outcomes

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Reading” by Kate Ter Haar is licensed under CC BY 2.0Dr. Jon Quach, PhD

Postdoctoral research fellow
Royal Childrens Hospital’s Centre for Community Child Health
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: The reading practices of mothers and fathers was assessed in 405 families in Melbourne when children were 2, and child had their language and literacy skills assessed when they were 4 years old.

We found fathers reading practices were associated with better language outcomes 2 years later, even after accounting for mothers reading and key family demographics  Continue reading

Couples With Children More Likely To Have Conflicts With In-Laws

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Mirkka Danielsbacka PhD, D.Soc.Sci

Senior researcher
University of Turku

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Relations between family generations are widely studied in disciplines such as family sociology and demography. However, relations between in-laws are often neglected in family studies of contemporary societies. Especially conflicts have been surprisingly little investigated. We were especially interested in how parenthood is associated with relations to in-laws in a contemporary Western society.

Using nationally representative survey data from Finland with over 1,200 respondents, we studied conflicts that spouses reported having with their own parents and their in-laws. Overall, Finns more often reported having had any conflict with their own parents than with their in-laws. Compared to childless couples, couples with children were as likely to report conflicts with their own parents. However, couples with children were more likely to report conflicts with their parents-in-law. Our results took into account how frequently family members were in contact with each other and how emotionally close they felt, as well as other sociodemographic factors.

Continue reading

Father’s Involvement In Childrearing Important In Reducing Pediatric Obesity

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Michelle S. Wong PhD Department of Health Policy and Management Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Baltimore, Maryland

Dr. Wong

Michelle S. Wong PhD
Department of Health Policy and Management
Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
Baltimore, Maryland
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: As background, there haven’t been many studies on how fathers might influence overweight or obesity in their children.

Unsurprisingly most of the research has focused on
the mothers’ influence. Existing studies on fathers have focused on the relationship between their parenting practices (e.g., discipline), as well as feeding and physical activity behaviors, with child overweight or obesity. A few studies found that some father feeding practices were related to higher child BMI, but we don’t know whether fathers’ general caregiving matters.

Continue reading

Oxytocin Enhances Paternal Bonding With Their Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

James K. Rilling, PhD Professor, Anthropology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Science Emory University School of Medicine

Dr. James Rilling

James K. Rilling, PhD
Professor, Anthropology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
Emory University School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: It has been known for a long time that female mammals experience hormonal changes during pregnancy that prepare them to care for their offspring. More recently, it has been shown that some mammalian males, including humans, can also experience hormonal changes that prepare them to care for their offspring. For example, oxytocin levels can increase in human fathers and studies have shown that oxytocin facilitates paternal physical stimulation, play and emotional synchrony with their children. We examined the effects of intranasal oxytocin on brain function in human fathers. We found that intranasal oxytocin increased activation in brain areas involved with reward and empathy when human fathers viewed pictures of their children, but not unknown children.

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Involved Fathers Have Positive Impact on Pre-Adolescent Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Charles Opondo, BPharm MSc PhD. Researcher in Statistics and Epidemiology National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit Nuffield Department of Population Health University of Oxford Oxford

Dr. Charles Opondo

Charles Opondo, BPharm MSc PhD.
Researcher in Statistics and Epidemiology
National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit
Nuffield Department of Population Health
University of Oxford
Oxford

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Our study measured fathers’ involvement in their child’s upbringing in infancy by looking at their emotional response to their child (e.g. feeling confident with the child, making a strong bond with the child), how involved they were in childcare (e.g. changing nappies, playing, night feeding, and also general care tasks around the house such as meal preparation) and their feelings of being a secure in their role as a parent (e.g. feeling included by mother in childcare, not feeling inexperienced with children).

We found that the children of fathers who scored highly in terms of their emotional response and feeling like a secure parent were less likely to have symptoms of behavioural problems when they were 9 or 11 years.

However, fathers being more involved in direct childcare did not seem to affect the child’s risk of having later behavioural problems.

Continue reading

Young Fathers May Die Early

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Elina Einiö PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher
Population Research Unit, Department of Social Research
University of Helsinki Finland

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Response: Some previous studies have shown that young fatherhood is associated
with poorer health and higher later-life mortality. It was unclear
whether the association is credible, in the sense that mortality and
young fatherhood just appear to be associated because both are
determined by family related social and genetic characteristics.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Response: Men who had their first child before age 22 or at ages 22-24 had a
higher risk of dying early in middle age than their brothers who had
their first child at the average age of 25-26 years.

These findings suggest a causal effect of young fatherhood on midlife
mortality.

Continue reading