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The Family Cat Could Be Good Medicine for Kids With Autism

Cats have a long history of boosting people's moods and brightening their days. And that's probably true for kids on the autism spectrum as well, new research shows.

The small study suggests that adopting a shelter cat may help reduce separation anxiety and improve empathy in kids with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

"Cats, and companion animals in general, offer uncond...

How Divorce Harms Kids, and How to Lessen That Harm


Kids who see their parents bicker during a separation or divorce are more likely to develop a fear of abandonment, new research warns.

And even if a youngster feels close to one or both parents, that fear can still undermine his or her mental health down the road.

The findings stem from interviews with roughly 560 kids between 9 and 18 years of age. Pa...

Sperm Samples May Help Predict Autism Risk in Offspring

Biomarkers in sperm may help identify men at risk of fathering children with autism, researchers say.

For the study, investigators examined sperm epigenetics -- the molecular processes that affect gene expression -- in 13 men who fathered sons with autism and 13 who had children without the disorder.

The American and Spanish researchers focused specifically on DNA methylation, a che...

Is Self-Control the Key to a Long, Healthy Life?

If your children are well-behaved, do they stand a greater chance of having healthy, happy lives as adults?

A new study says yes.

After tracking just over 1,000 New Zealanders from birth to the age of 45, investigators found that kids who were goal-oriented and better able to restrain their thoughts, behavior and emotions turned out to have healthier bodies and brains by the time th...

Pediatricians' Group Says School Is Priority, With Proper Safety Measures

A prominent U.S. doctors' group reaffirmed its recommendation this week that having kids physically in school should be the goal, while also outlining safety protocols needed to allow schools to be open.

In its COVID-19 guidance for safe schools, the American Academy of Pediatrics listed measures communities need to address. These include controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the communit...

Kids With Congenital Heart Disease Face Higher Odds of Mental Health Issues

Kids born with heart defects may be more likely to develop anxiety, depression and/or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), regardless of the severity of their heart condition.

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the United States, affecting about 40,000 babies a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The defects...

Fewer Food Allergies in Kids If Mom Drinks Milk While Breastfeeding: Study

Mothers who drink cow's milk while breastfeeding may reduce their child's risk of developing food allergies, a new Swedish study suggests.

"This is a compelling first step in defining a potential relationship between maternal diet and allergy risk," said Dr. Peter Lio, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in C...

Masks Don't Mask Others' Emotions for Kids

Children can still read the emotional expressions of people wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers say.

"We now have this situation where adults and kids have to interact all the time with people whose faces are partly covered, and a lot of adults are wondering if that's going to be a problem for children's emotional development," said study co-author Ashley Ruba, a postd...

Could Going Vegetarian Lower Kids' Asthma Risk?

Compounds in meat may trigger wheezing in some children that can potentially lead to asthma or other respiratory conditions, a new study suggests.

These compounds, called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), are released as meat is cooked at high temperatures while grilling, frying or roasting. AGEs attach themselves to cells in the lungs, causing inflammation and an immune system resp...

Do Genes Doom Some Kids to Obesity? Probably Not, Study Finds

While childhood obesity is a significant challenge, German researchers have uncovered some hopeful news while investigating the impact of genes.

Though some "obesity genes" do play a minor role in the success of weight loss interventions, environmental, social and behavioral factors make the biggest difference, according to a new study from the Technical University of Munich.

Those ...

Type 2 Diabetes in Youth Is Especially Unhealthy: Study

The earlier in life type 2 diabetes arises, the deadlier it is, a new analysis finds.

The study, which pooled the results of 26 previous ones, revealed a clear pattern: The younger people were when they developed type 2 diabetes, the greater their risk of complications like heart disease and stroke.

For each year type 2 diabetes was delayed, the risk of blood vessel diseases fell by...

New Clues to Crohn's Disease in Kids

Important clues about Crohn's disease in children have emerged in new research.

Scientists analyzed gene expression in individual cells in the inner lining (epithelium) of the intestines of human fetuses, six to 10 weeks after conception.

Then, they examined tissue from the intestines of 4- to 12-year-olds with Crohn's disease.

The upshot: Some of the cellular pathways active ...

Why a Newborn's First Breath Is So Important

New research on what happens as a newborn is delivered and takes its first breath may shed light on a potential contributor to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

A team led by doctors from the University of Virginia School of Medicine discovered a signaling system within the brainstem that activates almost immediately at birth to support early breathing.

The findings help re...

Sports Might Be Good Therapy for Boys With Behavioral Issues: Study

Participation in organized sports could help reduce behavior problems in very young boys, a new study of Irish kids suggests.

One-year-old boys with developmental delays were less likely to have developed emotional problems or poor conduct by age 5 if they regularly attended a sports club or group, researchers reported recently in The Journal of Pediatrics.

"Think about it ...

'Body Issues' Raise Depression Risks for Teens

Body dissatisfaction significantly increases teens' risk of depression, researchers say.

The degree of heightened risk ranged from 50% to 285%, according to the report published online Dec. 8 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

"These findings demonstrate that body dissatisfaction should be considered as a public health issue of pressing concern," concluded a...

Parents, Don't Worry if Baby's Sleep Is Erratic

New parents can relax: Research suggests it's normal for infants' sleep patterns to vary widely.

"Although previous research has shown that infants start sleeping through the night at different stages of development, little is known about individual sleep patterns night after night," explained study leader Marie-Helene Pennestri. She's an assistant professor in the department of education...

Birth Defects Tied to Rise in Lifelong Cancer Risk

Major birth defects are associated with an increased, lifelong risk of cancer, researchers say.

It has been known that people with major birth defects have a greater risk of developing cancer as children and teens, but it wasn't clear whether the risk extends into adulthood.

To find out, Norwegian researchers compared more than 62,000 people in Scandinavia, aged 46 and younger, who ...

Does Parents' Nagging Kids About Screen Time Even Matter?

Parents' constant refrain, telling their teens to turn off the TV, stop playing video games or put down the cellphone, may not be necessary.

And new research suggests those worried about their kids becoming addicted to technology may even be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

The amount of time young people spend on technology -- and parental limits on that time -- had no lasting eff...

Are Healthy Kids Getting Too Many Heart Tests?

Not every kid needs an electrocardiogram (ECG) before playing sports or as part of routine exams, child health experts say.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is advising parents and pediatricians to avoid unnecessary tests, and has released a list of common medical practices and therapies that may not be needed for young patients.

The AAP and the Choosing Wisely campaign al...

Why Kindergarten Matters

Being well-prepared to start kindergarten provides lifelong benefits, a new Canadian study shows.

It included 2,000 children born in the province of Quebec in 1997 and 1998. At age 5, their knowledge of numbers and their receptive vocabulary (recognition of written or spoken words) was assessed. Their kindergarten teachers also reported on the children's classroom engagement, such as how ...

Newborn Brain Bleeds Resolve by Age 2

Here's some good news for new moms: Babies born with asymptomatic brain bleeds have normal brain development by the time they reach the age of 2, researchers report.

MRIs were used to examine the brains of 311 newborns in the Early Brain Development Study at the University of North Carolina between 2003 and 2016.

Of those newborns, 26% were found to have asymptomatic subdural hemorr...

AHA News: Can Video Games Help You Level Up Your Health?

You might assume that portraying video games as bad for your health would be as easy as shooting ducks on an old Nintendo.

Even a professional gamer like Noah "Nifty" Francis, 22, admits players aren't known for having great habits. Francis, who plays Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for the Dallas-based Team Envy, knows people who play 14 hours at a time, so focused on the game that they...

Newborn Brains Don't Process Emotions Like Adults

Newborns don't have the brain circuitry to process emotions, a new study finds.

Brain scans of newborns found that the area of the brain that experiences emotions isn't connected in a mature way to areas that process visual or auditory stimuli, researchers say.

In adults, these connections enable us to feel fear when we watch a scary movie, or love when we see a spouse or family mem...

Fewer Painful Procedures Could Help Preemies' Brain Development: Study

Giving fewer needle sticks to premature newborns in the intensive care unit may improve growth of a key brain area, a new study suggests.

The thalamus relays sensory data from the body to the rest of the brain, where it registers as pain, touch or temperature.

For the study, researchers compared 86 premature infants who had a catheter placed in their central veins and cen...

Big Babies May Face Higher Lifelong A-Fib Risk

Parents are usually pleased when their newborn seems big and strong, but new research suggests that large babies may be at higher risk for the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation later in life.

Atrial fibrillation (a-fib) is the most common heart rhythm disorder, affecting more than 40 million people worldwide. People with a-fib have a five times increased risk of stroke.

...

Bringing the Forest to Kids' Daycare May Boost Young Immune Systems

Want to give your kids an immune system boost? Try letting them play in the dirt more often, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Finland found that when they brought nature into daycare playgrounds -- including forest soil and vegetation -- preschoolers' immune function showed a change for the better. In simple terms, it shifted to a less inflammatory state.

That immune sys...

Music Classes Strike a Chord in Kids' Brain Development: Study

Learning to play a musical instrument helps fine-tune kids' brains, researchers say.

In a new study, 40 children (aged 10 to 13) performed memory and attention tasks while their brain activity was monitored with functional MRI. This type of imaging scan detects small changes in blood flow within the brain.

Twenty of the children played an instrument, had completed at least t...

Depressed Teens May Struggle in School

By about age 16, teens diagnosed with depression have substantially lower educational attainment, a new British study finds.

Targeted educational support might be of particular benefit to teens from poor backgrounds and boys, but all children with depression can benefit from such help, the study authors suggested.

For the study, the researchers used British health and edu...

Early School Sports Reduce ADHD Symptoms Years Later for Girls

Girls who played after-school sports in elementary school seem to have fewer symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) once they reach middle school, a new study suggests.

The research included both boys and girls, but the effect of sports on attention and behavior symptoms was only significant in girls.

"Girls, in particular, benefit from participation i...

Genetics Might Explain Some Cases of Cerebral Palsy

Genetic problems cause about 14% of cerebral palsy cases, and many of the implicated genes control the wiring of brain circuits during early fetal development, new research shows.

The largest genetic study of cerebral palsy supports previous findings and provides "the strongest evidence to date that a significant portion of cerebral palsy cases can be linked to rare genetic mutati...

Diabetes During Pregnancy Could Raise Lifelong Heart Risks for Children

The foundation for early heart disease might begin not during childhood or in the years that follow, but in the womb.

Researchers studying nearly 30 years of data from families in Manitoba, Canada, found a strong connection between heart disease risk factors in teens and young adults and their mother's type 2 or gestational diabetes.

"I was surprised at the strength of the a...

For Kids With Hearing Issues, Early Intervention Crucial to School Readiness

When babies with hearing impairments get help very early in life, they are more likely to be "kindergarten-ready" when the time comes, a new study finds.

In the United States, all states have government-funded "early intervention" programs designed to assist parents whose babies are deaf or hard of hearing. Ideally, that intervention starts soon after hearing issues are diagnosed, as ...

Parent's Skin-to-Skin Hug Does Ease a Baby's Pain, Brain Study Suggests

Infants may feel less pain when held by a parent with skin-to-skin contact, a new U.K. study suggests.

"We have found when a baby is held by their parent with skin-on-skin contact, the higher-level brain processing in response to pain is somewhat dampened. The baby's brain is also using a different pathway to process its response to pain," said study co-author Lorenzo Fabrizi. He's wi...

Mom-to-Be's Pot Use Linked With Higher Odds for Kids' Mental Woes

Expectant mothers who smoke pot in pregnancy could increase their baby's risk for mental or emotional problems later in childhood, a new study finds.

Marijuana use during pregnancy was associated with a host of problems in the preteen years, researchers report.

Children exposed to pot in the womb were more likely to experience internalizing disorders such as depression and a...

Sleep Builds the Brain in the Early Years, Then Maintains It

For the very young, sleep builds and strengthens the brain, but it quickly switches to maintenance and repair before a child turns 3, new research shows.

Before about the age of 2½, the brain grows rapidly. And during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep a baby's brain builds and strengthens synapses, which connect neurons to each other so they can communicate.

After that, sl...

Baby's Heart Rate Reflects Mom's Mental Health

Babies of mothers with anxiety or depression can have significantly higher heart rates than normal, a new study finds.

And this might put them at risk for long-term problems, researchers say.

Mother-infant interaction plays a crucial role in children's healthy development, but moms with depression, anxiety or postnatal depression may be emotionally distant from their infants...

Children Use Both Sides of the Brain to Understand Language

Adults process language on one side of the brain, but kids use both hemispheres, a new study suggests.

The finding might explain why children recover more easily from brain injuries than adults, the study authors added.

"This is very good news for young children who experience a neural injury," said researcher Elissa Newport. She's a neurology professor at Georgetown Univer...

Cyberbullying Could Rise During Lockdown, But Parents Can Stop It

Cyberbullying is less common among teens who feel loved and supported by their parents, new research shows.

The findings could be especially relevant during the coronavirus pandemic, say a team from New York University.

"With remote learning replacing classroom instruction for many young people, and cellphones and social media standing in for face-to-face interaction with fr...

Time Spent in Nature Boosts Kids' Well-Being

Whether camping, hiking or gardening, connecting with nature has many benefits for children's well-being, a new study suggests.

"There is strong evidence that children are happier, healthier, function better, know more about the environment, and are more likely to take action to protect the natural world when they spend time in nature," said researcher Dr. Louise Chawla, professor em...

Texas Mother Transmitted COVID-19 to Unborn Baby: Study

A new case study adds to growing evidence that the new coronavirus can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

"It's very important to bring to the forefront this finding that mothers and infants can be affected by COVID-19, transmission can occur during pregnancy, and pregnant mothers need to protect themselves," said Dr. Amanda Evans, senior author of the report.

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There's No Safe Amount of Caffeine in Pregnancy: Report

Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant may need to forgo coffee, tea, sodas and other sources of caffeine. A new data analysis finds no safe level of the drug during this time.

"The cumulative scientific evidence supports pregnant women and women contemplating pregnancy being advised to avoid caffeine," concluded study author Jack James, a professor at Reykjavik University...

For Black Kids, Autism Caught Late in the Game

It takes close to three years for a Black preschooler with autism to get a definitive diagnosis, a new U.S. study finds.

That delay means that young Black Americans miss out on early intensive treatment that is essential to help children with autism be better able to deal with school and social life, the researchers said.

"It's not the parents who are delaying diagnosis, it...

Anorexia Often Stunts Girls' Growth, Study Finds

Girls with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa may have stunted growth, new research suggests.

People with anorexia nervosa believe they weigh too much, even if they're underweight. They may lose a dangerous amount of weight by dieting, exercising excessively, or binge-eating and purging.

"Our findings emphasize the importance of early and intensive intervention aiming at...

When Parents, Grandparents Don't Agree on Childrearing Choices

Disagreements between parents and grandparents over parenting choices like discipline, meals and TV time can strain family relationships, a new poll finds.

When kids stay with grandparents, relaxed rules can cause friction with the child's parents, child health experts noted.

According to the poll, nearly 50% of parents said they have disagreements with one or more gra...

Pot Use While Pregnant Tied to Higher Odds for Autism in Kids

Research has shown that pot use during pregnancy may increase the risk of stillborn birth, preterm birth and low birth weight.

Now, a new study adds another danger: children whose mothers used pot while pregnant could be at greater risk for autism.

And the increased danger wasn't slight: Using data on every birth in Ontario, Canada, between April 2007 and March 2012, the Uni...

U.S. Grandparents Are Raising Millions of Kids, and It's Tough

Nearly 3 million children in the United States are being raised by grandparents, and life has placed these kids on a rocky road toward adulthood, a new study reports.

These children are much more likely to have experienced traumatic events that will influence their development, according to the report published online Aug. 3 in the journal Pediatrics.

For example, chi...

Mastering the Violin Won't Help Your Child Master Math: Study

All the parents who force their children to play an instrument because it has been touted as a way to boost overall intelligence, take note.

New research now suggests that it may not help develop memory, math, reading and writing skills after all.

Earlier studies trying to pinpoint the value of music training on cognitive and academic performance have been conflicting, the r...

Lupus Drug Prevents Low Heartbeat in High-Risk Newborns: Study

A drug used to treat lupus and malaria -- hydroxychloroquine -- reduced by half the risk of a potentially fatal heart condition in newborns who were at high risk for it.

The condition -- known as congenital heart block (CHB) -- results in a dangerously low heart rate.

"Our study shows hydroxychloroquine as the first, safe, and highly effective drug for preventing pregnant wom...

Placenta May Help Shield Fetus From COVID-19

Some key molecules used by the new coronavirus to cause infection aren't found in the placenta, which may explain why the virus is rarely detected in fetuses or newborns of women with COVID-19.

U.S. government researchers found that placental membranes lack the messenger RNA (mRNA) molecule required to make the ACE2 receptor. SARS-CoV-2 -- the virus that causes COVID-19 -- uses that c...

Obesity in Childhood Quickly Harms Heart Health

In a finding that suggests the seeds for heart disease are sown early in life, researchers report they found evidence of stiff, thickened arteries in children who had been obese as toddlers.

"Public health efforts are needed in the very early years to prevent problems with obesity and being overweight, to avoid the risk of adolescent and adult cardiovascular disease," said study auth...