Archive for ‘parenting’

April 18, 2014

The trend of less talk and more medication for patients with mental disorders

by Grace

Clinical psychologist Brandon A. Gaudiano wrote in the New York Times that psychotherapy is in decline while the use of medication is on the rise for the treatment of mental disorders.

…  In the United States, from 1998 to 2007, the number of patients in outpatient mental health facilities receiving psychotherapy alone fell by 34 percent, while the number receiving medication alone increased by 23 percent. This is not necessarily for a lack of interest. A recent analysis of 33 studies found that patients expressed a three-times-greater preference for psychotherapy over medications.

Yet psychotherapy for the most common conditions is considered the best treatment “of first choice”.  What is going on? The benefits of psychotherapy seem fuzzy to many potential patients, but pharmacological treatment enjoys “clearer, better marketed evidence” of its efficacy.  Some of this comes from the failure of psychotherapists to take a scientific approach to patient treatment.

But psychotherapy’s problems come as much from within as from without. Many therapists are contributing to the problem by failing to recognize and use evidence-based psychotherapies (and by sometimes proffering patently outlandish ideas). There has been a disappointing reluctance among psychotherapists to make the hard choices about which therapies are effective and which — like some old-fashioned Freudian therapies — should be abandoned.

Psychologists need better, well-defined treatment guidelines.

There is a lot of organizational catching up to do. Groups like the American Psychiatric Association, which typically promote medications as treatments of first choice, have been publishing practice guidelines for more than two decades, providing recommendations for which treatments to use under what circumstances. The American Psychological Association, which promotes psychotherapeutic approaches, only recently formed a committee to begin developing treatment guidelines.

Lack of clarity is also a problem in diagnosis. Gary Greenberg, a practicing psychotherapist and author of of The Book of Woe: The Making of the DSM-5 and the Unmaking of Psychiatry, argues that another problem is the method used to diagnose mental disorders, which “is not scientific, but political and bureaucratic”.

Psychiatry and psychology just seems fuzzy all around, more art than science.

Related:  ‘Every 20-something I know is in therapy for something’ (Cost of College)

April 16, 2014

How to talk to your kids about paying for college

by Grace

When should parents have the “talk” with their children?

Of course, I mean the talk about how their college education will be financed.  According to comments in a recent College Confidential thread, fourteen is too early and 12th grade is too late.  And just like sex education, kids should not be hit with everything all at once.

It’s like the sex talk … Tell them a little at a time in chunks they can understand.

“Parents of High School Juniors: Talk Finances NOW” is the title of the thread, and the original poster wants families to avoid the disappointment that sometimes occurs this time of year for high school seniors.

If you are the parent of a high school junior who will be applying to colleges next year, now is the time to take a close look at what you will be willing and able to pay toward your kid’s college education–and to make sure your kid understands it. You may never have told your kid about your family’s finances–now, you must do so, even if you’d rather not. Don’t be the subject of a thread next year when your kid says, “My parents told me I could apply to any college I wanted and they’d make it work, but now they’re saying I have to go to the relatively undesirable college that’s giving me a scholarship.”

So, look at some price calculators on college websites, get financial advice, think about whether your kid will have to have scholarships, what you feel comfortable borrowing (if anything), what you will expect your kid to contribute, whether you will expect your kid to pay back any of the money you spend on education, etc. And share the result with your kid. There should be no unpleasant surprises when acceptances come in next year–at least, there should be no surprising changes in your position.

In US News, Ryan Lane outlines a series of steps in planning for the talk.  It’s important to set clear expectations, and he even suggests putting it in writing to instill a better understanding.  Whatever else they do, parents should avoid the mistake of making a vague and uninformed promise that “we’ll find a way to pay” for college.

One way to begin the process is to run a few Net Price Calculators for some prospective colleges, including both private and public institutions.  It can serve as a reality check in laying the groundwork for the big talk.

March 27, 2014

Is it futile to try to slow down the ‘high-stakes parenting arms race’?

by Grace

Wilma Bowers, president of an affluent Virginia suburban high school PTA, is on a quixotic crusade to get parents to slow down the ‘high-stakes parenting arms race’.

Bowers knows it’s a high-stakes parenting arms race in McLean and communities like it. The obsession with grades and college résumés can overwhelm everything. She wants people to back off — and is trying to get them to, with film screenings, workshops, lectures and meetings with clergy and mental health professionals.

In a twist on the NIMBY “Not in my Backyard” concept, many parents agree that although not every kid is destined for Harvard, they’re reluctant to be the first ones to ease off with their own children.

Many fellow parents think that disarming sounds good, in theory. The problem is, they’re reluctant to try it with their own kid.

Parents should encourage “authentic success” instead of pushing for perfection at any cost.

There are 3,000 colleges out there, Allison said as she ran through a presentation of nearly 100 slides. The guiding principles for parents, she told them, should be: Students should be doing something they love; they should be able to support themselves; and they should give something back. That’s authentic success.

Fearful parents

Despite this uplifting advice, I predict that affluent parents will continue to push their children to achieve at the highest levels.  They do not think of themselves as average, so they are unlikely to settle for average outcomes for their children.  And they are fearful their children will be left behind in the ongoing economic rat race.

Brigid Schulte, “In McLean, a crusade to get people to back off in the parenting arms race”, Washington Post, March 23, 2014.

March 7, 2014

What is the most important secret for a SAT ‘Perfect Score’?

by Grace

20140304.COCPerfectScoreProject1The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT by my friend Debbie Stier is described as “one of the most compulsively readable guides to SAT test prep ever”.

As it climbs the charts in popularity, this book is attracting praise as “a toolbox of fresh tips”, as well as some criticism that it is the work of a “hyperprotective, status-seeking” helicopter mom.  The criticism seems to stem mainly from some selective editing in the book’s promotion, and clarification is provided over at Kitchen Table Math.  While there’s no doubt that Debbie is a very involved parent, I can attest that she does not fit the image of an overbearing, pushy mother.  In fact, she has helped me in gaining better insight into the type of supportive parenting that is instrumental in launching children to a satisfying and independent adult life.

The revamped SAT may change some details on the best ways to prepare for the test, but I believe that one of Debbie’s core messages will endure:

… if you have a solid foundation, test prep, great test prep works. if you don’t have a solid foundation, no amount of test prep can help you.

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February 20, 2014

‘The War on Poverty became the welfare state.’

by Grace

Robert Samuelson writes that the War on Poverty has been a “success at strengthening the social safety net” but a “failure as an engine of self-improvement”.

The War on Poverty is often branded a failure because the share of Americans below the official poverty line has barely budged. In 1982, at the end of a harsh recession, it was 15 percent. In 2010, after the Great Recession, it was 15 percent.

The trouble is that the official poverty rate is a lousy indicator of people’s material well-being. It misses all that the poor get — their total consumption. It counts cash transfers from government but not non-cash transfers (food stamps, school lunches) and tax refunds under the EITC. Some income is under-reported; also, the official poverty line overstates price increases and, therefore, understates purchasing power.

Based on material well-being, the poverty rate is actually only about 5%.

Eliminating these defects, economists Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago and James Sullivan of the University of Notre Dame built a consumption-based index that estimates the 2010 poverty rate at about 5 percent.

People at the bottom aren’t well-off, but they’re better off than they once were. Among the official poor, half have computers, 43 percent have central air conditioning and 36 percent have dishwashers, report Meyer and Sullivan. These advances are especially impressive because the massive immigration of unskilled Hispanic workers inflated the ranks of the poor. From 1990 to 2007, all the increase in official poverty was among Hispanics.

But LBJ’s vision of “a hand up, not a handout” failed miserably.

… America remains a tiered society with millions at the bottom still living more chaotic and vulnerable lives. Government’s capacity to boost them into the mainstream was oversold. Although Head Start produces some gains for 3- and 4-year-olds, improvements dissipate quickly; one study found most disappeared by third grade. Schools are continually “reformed,” because they don’t produce better results.

The War on Poverty became the welfare state.

Marriage trends point to a gloomy outlook.

Worse, the breakdown of marriage and spread of single-parent households suggest that poverty may grow.

From 1963 to 2012, the share of families with children under 18 headed by a single parent tripled to 32 percent. It’s 26 percent among whites, 34 percent among Hispanics and 59 percent among African-Americans. Just why is murky. Low-income men may flunk as attractive marriage mates. Or, “women can live independently more easily rather than put up with less satisfactory marriages,” as Brookings’ Isabel Sawhill says. Regardless of the causes and despite many exceptions, children in single-parent households face a harder future. They’re more likely to drop out of school, get pregnant before age 20 or be unemployed.

Poverty becomes self-perpetuating.

Handing out money is the easy part.

The War on Poverty’s success at strengthening the social safety net — a boon in the Great Recession — should not obscure its failure as an engine of self-improvement. Government is fairly good at handing out money; it’s less good at changing behavior. The two roles intersect. If the safety net is too generous, it will weaken work incentives. If it’s too stingy, it will condone suffering. This tale of two wars has left the fight against poverty in a costly and unsatisfying stalemate.

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February 11, 2014

Does ‘expanding equality of opportunity increase inequality’?

by Grace

It seems that expanding opportunity leads to increased inequality.  Would higher taxes be a good solution?

Since “families are the primary transmitters of human capital”, does it follow that “expanding equality of opportunity increases inequality because some people are simply better able than others to exploit opportunities”.  This is the premise explored by George Will in a Washington Post opinion piece last year.

If America is to be equitable, with careers open to all talents and competent citizens capable of making their way in an increasingly demanding world, Americans must heed the warnings implicit in observations from two heroes of modern conservatism. In “The Constitution of Liberty” (1960), Friedrich Hayek noted that families are the primary transmitters of human capital — habits, mores, education. Hence families, much more than other social institutions or programs, are determinative of academic and vocational success. In “The Unheavenly City” (1970),Edward C. Banfield wrote: “All education favors the middle- and upper-class child, because to be middle or upper class is to have qualities that make one particularly educable.”

Some lucky, privileged “people are simply better able than others to exploit opportunities”.

Elaborating on this theme, Jerry Z. Muller, a Catholic University historian, argued in the March-April 2013 issue of Foreign Affairs that expanding equality of opportunity increases inequality because some people are simply better able than others to exploit opportunities. And “assortative mating” — likes marrying likes — concentrates class advantages, further expanding inequality. As Muller said, “formal schooling itself plays a relatively minor role in creating or perpetuating achievement gaps” that originate “in the different levels of human capital children possess when they enter school.”

Would raising taxes on rich people reduce inequality?

Recognizing that a meritocracy doesn’t always work very well for people lacking supportive families or other advantages, Matt Yglesias proposes that the government should tax rich people and “give the money to poor people” as a way to make everyone happy.

Should we guarantee everyone a “great” life?

,,, When you think about physical disabilities this becomes particularly clear. We try to help out people who are blind or who lost a leg in Iraq or who are born with a congenital heart weakness not because providing such assistance accords with a principle of merit, but precisely because people who lack “merit” in the field of seeing or walking or not dying as a child due to heart failure are the people who need help. But lots of people suffer from less visible problems, be it a genetic weakness for alcoholism or the below-average intelligence that afflicts exactly 50 percent of the population. Those people should have great lives, too.

More money is not the solution.

The rich already “pay an overwhelming majority of the taxes in the United States”, but presumably Yglesias means their taxes should be increased.  As much money as we throw at them, I don’t think we can provide every disadvantaged person with a great life.  Add on the problem “that you eventually run out of other people’s money”, and this doesn’t seem like a good solution.  Money can sometimes help improve lives, but it must be spent wisely.  Politicians and bureaucrats don’t have that part quite figured out, and it seems that the more money we give them to control the less effectively they spend it.

Related:  Changes in marriage patterns have affected poverty and income inequality (Cost of College)

December 31, 2013

Advances in holographic technology may mean less business travel

by Grace

Holographic telepresence technology may mean a cutback in business travel and easier telecommuting.

Remember when Princess Leia’s hologram delivered a message to General Kenobi?


The future is now.

Beam yourself across the world

The growth in video communication has been exponential. Skype now boasts 300 million users, and a 2012 Ipsos/Reuters poll revealed one in five people worldwide now frequently “telecommuted” to work. But Star Trek fans will be happy to hear that incoming technology will add a further dimension to international conference calls. Known as holographic telepresence, it involves transmitting a three-dimensional moving image of you at each destination – allowing you to converse as if you were in the room. One system from Musion, based in Britain, uses Pepper’s Ghost, an effect popular with illusionists, to beam moving images onto sloped glass. Musion has already digitally resurrected rapper Tupac Shakur at a music festival. But full 3D holographic communication is not far behind – in the shape of the Polish company Leia. Named after the Star Wars princess, its Leia Display XL uses laser projectors to beam images onto a cloud of water vapour. The result is a walk-in holographic room, in which 3D objects can be viewed and manipulated from every angle. An IBM survey of 3,000 researchers recently named holographic video calls as one technology they expected to see in place in the next year or so.

Easier telecommuting

It might also make telecommuting more attractive in some situations.  If this technology had been available years ago, I may have been able to continue telecommuting.  As it was, my boss at the time asked me to go back to showing up at the office five days a week after I had tried working partly from home for about a year.  Since it meant a three-hour daily commute while parenting young children, I resigned that job in favor of a better quality of life.  Future workers may have better choices.

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December 20, 2013

Is the Pajama Boy message directed to moms?

by Grace

The Obamacare Pajama Boy has been getting a lot of ribbing this week.  Most people seemed to agree it was not the best image to use for the purpose of encouraging young people to buy health insurance.

20131219.COCPajamaBoyOriginal1

Surprisingly, pajama onesies in adult sizes are available for purchase, just in case anyone would like to recreate that look.

It’s true that many young people could use some advice on appropriate job interview attire, but I hope Pajama Boy at least knows that red plaid does not convey a sense of professionalism.

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Ann Althouse suggests the Pajama Boy message is directed not to young people, but to their parents.

What is the message in the original Pajama Boy tweet? Pajama Boy is home for the holidays, reintegrated into his parents’ concept of him, as if he is still a little boy. He accepts that — the chocolate and the Christmas/holiday pajamas — because he loves his parents and he wants a good visit. But the subject of health insurance can be talked about in that milieu. For some reason, it won’t be inappropriate, won’t spoil the home-for-the-holidays spirit, it can fit. Pajama Boy is not a “douchebag.” He’s an average young guy, trying to do what’s right, including visiting his parents and living up to their expectation,s and he needs a little prodding to talk about getting insurance, which is part of what a good little boy should do.

But maybe the message is not so much for the boy but for the parents. The parents may think that when their little guy comes home for the holidays, they just want to baby him. But they really should also make sure he’s got his insurance. Don’t completely pretend he’s still a child. He’s your kid and you need to make sure he’s safe and sound. Jammies and warm milk are comforting, but he needs more protection than that. Do what you can to protect your little sweetheart now, before he once again leaves the bosom of the family and exposes himself to the danger of the world beyond the home. He may not quite yet realize what the risks and helping the “young invincibles” get insured is a parental responsibility just like the clothing and feeding you did when he was young. He doesn’t really need those jimjams and cocoa. He needs insurance. Help this dear boy one last time, Mama.

Appealing to helicopter moms, perhaps?

Related:  Can young college graduates burdened by student loans be convinced to buy health insurance? (Cost of College)

December 12, 2013

Consider yourself rich if you have an ‘above-ground pool’ and ‘one dad’

by Grace

Often we think wealth means mansions and luxury vacations.  But sometimes being rich can be defined in terms of having an “above-ground pool” and “one dad”.

The Middle is a sitcom that has popped up a few times in my Internet surfing.  The show is about the Hecks, a middle-class family of five with everyday problems that many viewers can relate to.  The dad is a manager at the local quarry, the mom is a dental hygienist, and the kids are average in many ways.  They are not rich by any stretch of the imagination.

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A recent episode featured the neighborhood bullies–the three Glossner boys from a household with an absent father.  One day while the Heck kids were home alone the Glossner boys showed up, creating havoc in their house and refusing to leave.  Sue Heck, the middle child, attempted to get them out of their house.

Trying a new tactic to get the Glossners out of their house, Sue simply asked them to leave. And they did. Derrick explained that he listened because he kind of liked her. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I mean, look at ya. You’re a rich girl — with your above-ground pool, your two kinds of chips, and your one dad? Forget it. You’re way out of my league.”

Sue was stunned to learn the Glossner boys considered her a “rich girl”, gaining a fresh perspective on a different kind of wealth.

I really should make time to watch this show.  Apparently it’s on Netflix, so I could spend an hour or two checking out the Hecks.  Brooke Shields plays the Glossner mom, complete with a mullet hairstyle and tattoos.

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November 29, 2013

Call it helicoptering or snowplowing, coddling kids stunts their growth

by Grace

Helicopter parents have graduated to become “snowplow” parents to their college children.

Everyone has heard of parents who do their grade schooler’s science project or are overly involved in their kids’ social lives. But the infamous helicopter parents, hovering over their younger children, are now transitioning into so-called snowplow parents, trying to smooth a path for their kids even after they’ve started college.

Aided by technology, some parents are overly involved in the lives of their college children, who “are not developing the skills they need to become fully functioning adults”.

“Teacup” students have never been allowed to fail.

“Parents have the delusion that what they’re doing is helping,” she said, “but it’s okay to let your kid fail in safe circumstances.”

College has always been, in part, an education in separation, a time of transitioning from adolescent to adult. But some administrators say they see greater parental involvement postponing that.

“It’s to the point where some of our students not only have never experienced adversity before, but they have no idea how to deal with it when they do face it,” says Chebator. “What to most people might be a relatively minor issue becomes a major life crisis.”

Such students are referred to as “teacups.” “They’re so fragile, they break easily,” he says.

Helping or Hovering? The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on College Students’ Well-Being is a study that examined over-controlling parenting of college students.

…  Students who reported having over-controlling parents reported significantly higher levels of depression and less satisfaction with life. Furthermore, the negative effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ well-being were largely explained by the perceived violation of students’ basic psychological needs for autonomy and competence.

 Are Kids Too Coddled? is the question asked by Frank Bruni in the New York Times.  Given the “Bubble-Wrapped” environment parents have created for their children, he believes we may be “paying the price of having insulated kids from blows to their egos and from the realization that not everyone’s a winner in every activity on every day“.

“Our students have an inflated sense of their academic prowess,” wrote Marc Tucker, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, in Education Week. “They don’t expect to spend much time studying, but they confidently expect good grades and marketable degrees.”

Doing well in school can be stressful and often requires hard work.

Aren’t aspects of school supposed to be relatively mirthless? Isn’t stress an acceptable byproduct of reaching higher and digging deeper? Aren’t certain fixed judgments inevitable? And isn’t mettle established through hard work?

Doing well or even simply surviving in life often requires hard work.  Whether we label it helicoptering or snowplowing, failing to teach that lesson does no favors for our children.

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