Research Across the Ages

Times have changed a lot over the last few decades. The world our parents grew up in, is tremendously different from that in which we now live, and it is very likely that the same will be said for coming generations. One large change is the way families are now viewed. A family of married parents with children was very much the only way to go, back in the 1960’s, and through the 80’s, though there is far less emphasis on the importance thereof in todays society, and its prevalence has decreased (Hetherington, Bridges, Insabella, 1998).

Research from Klein and Schulman (1980) sought to examine the link to behaviour in children based on maritial adjustment. Adjustment here was defined as mutual consensus, satisfaction, cohesion and effectional expression, as measured using the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (Spanier, 1976, as cited by Klein and Schulman, 1980). The measured the relation between Adjustment, gender roles and child behaviour.

Questionaires were also used to measure behaviour, using a Childrens Behaviour Questionaire (Gordin, 1976, as cited by Klein and Schulman, 1980) containing a 32 item scale measuring behaviour at school, home or in social situations. Gender roles were assessed using the Typology of Self Descriptions (Stein & Neulinger, 1968, as cited by Klein and Schulman, 1980), using an excercise asking subjects to prioritise 20 different needs, the answers from which were analysed by several psychologists categorise each parent as to whether they were ‘instrumental’ or ‘expressive’, instrumental considered to be the traditional male role, and expressive that of the female.

And the results showed that children of parents with good maritial adjustment had lower mean behavioural problems than those of poor adjustment. Results also showed that when mother and father assumed their traditional roles in parenting (father primarily to provide, mother primarily to nurture) that behavioural problems were lower compared with the reverse of this.

So, is this reliable and is this valid? The results were found significant. Yet are there possibilities of bias, due to parents wanting to be seen to conform to the accepted way? Did parents want to show their children in the best light? Or their marriage too? Were their perceptions of their roles based on their aspirations or their actual behaviour?

We are informed that these methods are correct, that the Childrens Behaviour Questionaire has a split half reliability of 0.82, and that the internal consistency reliability of the Dyadic Adjusment Scale is 0.92 (Klein & Schulman, 1980), but I would like to answer this quesion by looking at reliability of measures over time, since with the change in views and attitudes, such bias is less likely to impact data.

Research throughout the time this data was recorded up to the present day support that conflict free marrage and positive behaviour are related. A 2005 longitudinal study, examining the relationship between marital conflict and child behaviour problems used teacher assessments of childrens externalising and internalising behaviour, and parents reporting conflict using various self report quesionaires. As with the previous study, the reported internal consistency of the different measurement tools was quite high (ranging from .66 – .87).

And the results supported the 1980 research, that partner conflict increases child behaviour problems. The results shows that partner conflict at time 1 in the study predicted behavioural problems at time 2 (Jenkins, Simpson, Dunn, Rasbash & O’Connor, 2005).

The general consensus of research carried out surrounding this question also speaks in favour of the married family, even though over recent decades, views have largely changed, suggesting that there is indeed reliability in the research undertaken by Klein and Schulman (1980). This is only a brief examination of such research, however others have reported similar trends (e.g. Najman et al, 1997).

References:

Hetherington, E. M., Bridges, M. & Insabella, G. M. 1998. What Matters?  What does not? Five Perspectives on the Association Between Marital Transitions and Children’s Adjustment. American Psychologist, 53, 167-184.

Klein, M. M. and Schulman, S. 1980. Behaviour Problems of Children in Relation to Parental Instrumentality-Expressivity and Marital Adjustment. Psychological Reports, 47, 11-14.

Najman, J. M., Behrens, B. C., Andersen, M., Bor, W., O’Callaghan, M. & Williams, G. M. 1997. Impact of Family Type and Family Quality on Child Behavior Problems: A Longitudinal Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 36, 1357-1365.

Jenkins, J., Simpson, A., Dunn, J., Rasbash, J. & O’Connor, T. G. 2005. Mutual Influence of Marital Conflict and Childrens Behaviour Problems: Shared and Nonshared Family Risks. Child Development, 76, 24-39, doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2005.00827.x

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Ice Cream as addictive as Cocaine? Something like that…

In the beginning there was psychological research, and it was good. And then did the Daily Mail come among the people, and did contain false teachings and twisted words that sought to lead the people astray.

In fact if you look on the Daily Mail today you will read that the passive hearing of rock music causes racism, and that the moon is to blame for sinking the titanic. If you read it yesterday, you would have read that ice cream might be as addictive as cocaine. So, let’s examine this research.

The evidence that substantiates this claim comes from research by Burger and Stice (2012) in which they selected neurologically normal participants and measured the correlation between reward pathway activation and quantities of different foods consumed. A block food frequency questionnaire (Block, Hartman and Naughton, 1990) was administered to assess what quantities of different food types had been consumed during the two weeks prior to the study.  Participants were then either administered a tasteless solution designed to emulate saliva (control group) or a chocolate milk shake (experimental group).

The results, when categorised by different types and quantities of foods consumed during the two weeks prior, showed reduced activity in the dopamine signalling capability and reduced striatal D2 receptor (an area of the thalamus) density in subjects who had consumed a lot of ice-cream. Noteworthy as well is that other foods (e.g. hamburgers or chocolate) consumed in the two weeks prior did not correlate to these reductions in function, suggesting a specific attribute, common to both the milkshake and the ice-cream has a relationship to the activity of these brain regions.

Now for that claim about cocaine. Take a look at the paper, the word cocaine is mentioned only in the references, to another study having examined the effects of cocaine in rhesus monkeys, in which it was found that over the period of one week, monkeys having cocaine administered to them had reduced D2 receptor density (Nader et al, 2006).

The research concludes that consumption of energy-dense foods “may contribute to down-regulation of reward circuitry, echoing the effects of frequent drug use” (Burger and Stice, 2012). Reference to addiction does not occour within the research, and neither need it do. This study merely finds a connection between ice-cream consumption and a decrease in certain brain activity, within the bounds of the experiment.

Having only calculated correlations from food consumed in a two week period prior to the experiment, it doesn’t necessarily account for long term eating habbits or patterns. The conclusions drawn relating to the reward pathways of the brain may easily be a functioning system of the brain, either suggesting to the alert mind that the time is come to stop eating such a food, or part of a naturally aquired system to activate the storage of energy as body fat, as has been historically necessary.

All new discoveries are valuable individual brush strokes as we paint the picture of empiric understanding. This is to me, essentially a small discovery about how the brain handles specific attributes of ice-cream and milkshake, in relation to an already largely corroborated understanding of health behaviour and consequence.

References:

Block, G., Hartman, A. M. & Naughton, D. (1990). A Reduced Dietary Questionnaire: Development and Validation. Epidemiology, 1, 58-64

Burger, K. S. & Stice, E. (2012). Frequent ice cream consumption is associated with reduced striatal response to receipt of an ice cream–based milkshake. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.027003

Nader, M. A., Morgan, D., Gage, H. D., Nader, S. H., Calhoun, T. L., Buchheimer, N., Ehrenkaufer, R. & Mach, R. H. (2006) PET imaging of dopamine D2 receptors during chronic cocaine self-administration in monkeys. Nature Neuroscience, 9, 1050-6