Category Archives: 5. The Adolescent

From age 10 to age 18.

Negative Experiences Early in Life Can Lead to Teen Violence

From Duke University

Sad BoyAdverse experiences early in life can lead to minor childhood behavior problems, which can grow into serious acts of teen violence, according to new research.  This “cascading effect” of repeated negative incidents and behaviors is the focus of an article in the November/December 2008 edition of Child Development.

Using a novel approach that went beyond simply identifying risk factors, a research team led by a Duke University psychologist measured how violent behavior develops across the life span, from early childhood through adolescence.

The researchers tracked children from preschool through adulthood and documented that children who have social and academic problems in elementary school are more likely to have parents who withdraw from them over time. That opens the door for them to make friends with adolescents exhibiting deviant behaviors and, ultimately, leads them to engage in serious and sometimes costly acts of violence.

About the Study

The researchers followed 754 children from 27 schools in four different areas in the United States for 12 years. The data included school records covering kindergarten through eleventh grade and annual reports collected from the children, their parents, peers, and observers.

The article, “Testing an Idealized Dynamic Cascade Model of the Development of Serious Violence in Adolescence,” appears in Vol. 79, Issue 6, of Child Development, a publication of the Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.

The developmental path toward violent outcomes was largely the same for boys and girls, said Kenneth A. Dodge, the lead author of the study and director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University.

Child Temperament a Risk Factor

Dodge and his colleagues in the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group also found that the cascade could be traced back to children born with biological risks or born into economically disadvantaged environments, both of which make consistent parenting a challenge.

About the Research Group

The Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group is made up of scientists from Duke University, Pennsylvania State University, Tufts University, The University of Alabama, University of South Carolina, and University of Washington.

The Research Group determined biological risk by assessing the temperaments of the children in infancy, based on mothers’ reports; those at risk were irritable, easily startled, and difficult to calm. These children are more likely to exhibit minor social and cognitive problems upon entering school. From there, the behavior problems begin to “cascade,” Dodge said.

Positive Interactions Make a Difference

“The findings indicate that these trajectories are not inevitable, but can be deflected at each subsequent era in development, through interactions with peers, school, and parents along the way,” said Dodge, who is the William McDougall Professor of Public Policy and a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke. “Successful early intervention could redirect paths of antisocial development to prevent serious violent behavior in adolescence.”

Fortunately, successful interventions, such as parent training and social cognitive skills training for children, are available, he said.

Quiz: Are You a “Problem Parent?”

By Tamara Parnay

HeartPeople talk about the “problem child,” but I’m not really sure what a problem child is.

According to the MSN Encarta online dictionary, a problem child is “a child who requires a disproportionate amount of attention or correction.” This definition leads me to ask a couple questions:

  • Disproportionate to what? Both of my children sometimes need more attention than other children, and the intensity of their need for attention varies from one moment to the next.
  • What is “correction”? Is this punishment and/or persistent behavior management and feedback (e.g. rewards) for acting “properly”? Correction implies there is something wrong with children. Is there? Or is there something wrong with our view of children?

Continue reading Quiz: Are You a “Problem Parent?”

Secure vs. Insecure Attachment: A Quick Reminder

From API’s Publications Team

Mother and ChildA January 6 article in the United Kingdom’s Nursery World magazine, “A Unique Child: Attachment – Practice in Pictures – A Sense of Security,” illustrates the difference between a securely and insecurely attached child.

Secure attachment, according to the article’s author Anne O’Connor, creates empathy between the parent and child, so that the child “begins to appreciate that their caregivers can have feelings and needs of their own.” In addition, as conflicts arise, secure attachment allows the child and parent to develop a partnership in resolving the situation.

According to O’Connor, secure attachment occurs when a child has a safe, affectionate, and predictable emotional bond with his attachment figures, whether primary or secondary, with these main features:

  • Sensitivity;
  • Affection; and
  • Responsiveness.

“Secure attachments provide a safe base for a child, reducing fearfulness and stress while building confidence and self-esteem,” O’Connor writes. In essense, the child learns through countless positive experiences that her attachment figure can be relied upon to meet her needs.

Also, secure attachment helps the child to develop self regulation toward stress, which helps in conflict resolution such as preventing potential tantrums.

Children with insecure attachments, on the other hand, tend to over-react to minor stressors, unable to self-regulate their stress levels. In addition, these children – because they cannot trust their attachment figures to provide consistent, reliable emotional care – have difficulty in empathizing with their caregivers. By not connecting in this way, the child has less chance of getting emotionally hurt.

To read the entire article, go to—Practice-pictures—sense-security/.

Mentally Ill Parents More Likely to Form Insecure Attachments with Their Children

From API’s Publications Team

familyAccording to an article on, “One in Four Aussie Kids Have Parent with Mental Illness,” mentally ill parents are more likely to form insecure attachments with their children.

A study published in the January 6 Psychiatric Bulletin explains the correlation between the more severe mental illnesses and less sensitive and competent parenting, insecure infant attachment, lower quality bonds between mother and child, and a greater risk of mental illness developing in the children. However, the authors stress that mental illness in parents does not guarantee poor outcomes in children, only that there appears to be a greater risk.

To read the entire article, go to–$1258690.htm.

Teaching Empathy Through Gentle Discipline

By Tamara Parnay

**Originally published in the Fall 2006 Divorce & Single Parenting issue of The Journal of API

Mom and sonOur children model our behavior. When surrounded by people who love them and respond to them sensitively and empathetically, they learn to respond this way to others. In my view, the API principle of Responding with Sensitivity best illustrates the concept of Attachment Parenting (AP). I may or may not adhere to all the principles of AP, but if emotional responsiveness does not permeate my parenting, then I question whether I can cultivate a strong bond with my children.

What if I am consistently emotionally responsive to my family, but I don’t make the effort to regularly model sensitivity to others outside my family? I can’t help wondering how this impacts my children’s emotional and moral development.

I’m not a die-hard Star Trek fan, but there is an episode that’s my favorite, one that’s always stayed with me: “The Empath.” As a child, I was mesmerized by this being who could feel and absorb other people’s pain. I remember her big, emotion-filled, empathic eyes and imagined that she could curl herself up around me, listen to me, and make me feel loved, drawing from me all my childhood pains. Continue reading Teaching Empathy Through Gentle Discipline

Being There for Our Children and Others Through Empathic Parenting

By Tamara Parnay

**Originally published in the Winter 2006-07 Balance issue of The Journal of API

Tamara and baby

When I was a child, I was fascinated by people and characters like “The Empath” on the Star Trek television series, who showed great empathy. I wanted to be like them but I was unable to think much beyond my own needs.

Now that I’m a mother, I find myself experiencing the mighty feelings of unconditional love that an attached mother has for her little ones. It is a type of love I once thought I was incapable of giving.

Because I want to be a good role model for my children, I need to extend a certain degree of empathy toward those with whom I cross paths. Continue reading Being There for Our Children and Others Through Empathic Parenting

Decoding Tantrums

By Stephanie Petters, leader of API of North Fulton, Georgia

**Originally published in the Spring 2007 annual New Baby issue of The Journal of API

TantrumWhen a parent utters the word tantrum to another parent, the reaction is either a supportive smile or a grimace of dread; I have yet to see or hear another parent respond with glee. And really, who blames her? Until recently, tantrums were considered manipulation by the child to control the parent.

Times are changing, and the subject of childhood tantrums has new meaning and insight for parents. We now understand the reasons and/or causes of tantrums, how to effectively manage them while remaining connected to our children, and how to take preventive action for the tantrums that you can control.

What is a Tantrum?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a tantrum is a fit of a bad temper. Connection Parenting, by Pam Leo, defines a temper tantrum as a spillover of emotions, while the tantrum is the release of the accumulated hurts not seen by the parents. In Elizabeth Pantley’s Gentle Baby Care, a baby tantrum is defined as an abrupt and sudden loss of emotional control. Continue reading Decoding Tantrums

UAE Childhood Depression on the Rise

From API’s Publications Team

childhood depressionAccording to an article on the United Arab Emirates’, “More than Sadness,” the rate of children with depression in the UAE is on the rise.

According to Dr. Timo Brosig of the German Center for Neurology and Psychiatry in Dubai Healthcare City, one in 33 children under 12 years old – and one in eight adolescents – suffers from significant depression. Experts blame the rising divorce rate, more stress in general, and family anxiety are to blame. With concerns over an economic recession and the financial worries families will have, the rate of childhood is only expected to increase.

Another factor in the UAE is that more children – especially expats – are being cared for by someone other than Mom or Dad. Parents aren’t taking the time to connect with their children, and television is replacing the caretaker position. Continue reading UAE Childhood Depression on the Rise

Solution to Childhood Obesity is in the Parents’ Behavior

From API’s Publications Team

ice creamAn article on the United Kingdom’s, “Tackle Child Obesity: Teach Mums to Eat,” explains how the solution to rising childhood obesity is in teaching parents that their eating behavior is how children themselves learn to eat.

According to a study published in the Paediatrics journal, one in four children ages four to five years old is overweight, despite normal birth weights. The reason, writes a convinced Susie Orbach, is that children are learning from their parents’ troublesome eating habits – their fear of food, preoccupation with body size, frequent dieting, and bingeing.

“You don’t have to be a psychoanalyst to know that childhood is formative and that one’s earliest eating experiences – entwined as they are with our fundamental feelings of security, love, attachment, and caring – form the basis of how we approach food and succour throughout our lives,” Orbach writes.

Continuing, she discusses how children learn to eat unhealthily from parents who eat to fill an emotional void. Children who watch their parents struggle with eating will grow up believing this is normal. These children grow up learning that eating is done not necessarily to meet a physical need but to curb negative feelings of boredom, anxiety, anger and conflict, sadness, and overexcitedness. Instead of dealing with their upset feelings, people with a tendency toward obesity turn to food for soothing, Orbach wrote.

To read the entire article, go to

Looking Back on My Time as an AP Mother Now that My Children are Grown

By Lisa Walshe

Raising babies and small children is hard work. Physically, there is a lack of sleep and just the constancy of keeping up with toddlers. Apart from times of illness, I enjoyed the experience and found it relatively stress-free. All I had to do was go with the flow.

The challenge began when I had to take my son, Guy, to school.

The Problem with School

Guy was bright, well-behaved, and a delight to be around, but this was a time of great sadness for him as he found out that other five-year-olds did not believe in the same things he did. As he grew older, this feeling of being disappointed in the kindness of others continued. He was extremely trusting and honest, so he thought others would be in return. I remember in the sixth grade, he told me that he had learned to pretend to be “normal,” to not care about others as much.

A Different Kind of Education

After living in an apartment in Hong Kong for five years, we moved onto a boat for six months. During that time, we found great happiness in not having to go to school and be with others. The marina we lived in was out of Hong Kong, and it was like being in another world. Guy would spend hours studying fish and sea creatures, learning things from the local boat crews. Both Guy and his brother Dean would entertain themselves with creating things from paper, blue tack, and other random items they had available to them. They were never bored! When my husband was home, he taught our sons boat-related skills, such as how to tie knots and fix things.

Loving Each Uniquely as They Grew

Guy and Dean showed great interest in the arts growing up, both having been into music, drama, and the fine arts. From an early age, it was evident that they would pursue careers in a creative space. Today, they both work in the design and production of computer games. Although they share many passions, they have always done their own thing. It was obvious they were very different from the beginning, and my husband and I have always tried to respect those differences.

I do not think there is anything that can prepare a parent for the teenage years. It is always going to be hard. I never tried to be their friend, and Guy once told me, as a young adult, that he was grateful for that I had cared enough to say “no!”  That is not to say that he liked it at the time, or that we did not have many arguments. Guy always needed to see the justice in any situation, and he felt everything more intensely than most.

Guy was much more concerned with fitting in, and Dean seemed not to care. I think Dean had learned so much from watching Guy cope with adolescence that there were many experiences he just did not have to go through. Dean decided, at 12 years old, that school was too much of a social circus, and he chose to homeschool. He spent his time attending an adult art school, while pursuing his drama and personal sporting interests. He fitted his studies in around the things that mattered to him, and life was much easier for him.

Looking Through an Adult Child’s Eyes

When I asked my now-grown sons about the benefits of being raised AP, 21-year-old Dean said that the key to parenting is holding the baby a lot. And Guy, 26 years old, said that AP’s about developing a strong emotional bond so that the parents know their children well enough to know who they are as individuals, and then using that to guide them in developing into their own individual personalities, likes, and dislikes.

All I do know for sure is that I do not regret a moment of the time I spent mothering, and my advice to all is to enjoy each day and to just do what feels right. Looking now at Guy and Dean, I am pleased that they seem so emotionally secure. They are successful, sensitive, independent, and extremely honest young men. I’d like to think that their start to life, in the way I parented them as babies and young children, played a part in helping them become who they are today.

As he grew older, this feeling of being disappointed in the kindness of others continued. He was extremely trusting and honest, so he thought others would be in return.