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Concept: Child


Disadvantaged social environments are associated with adverse health outcomes. This has been attributed, in part, to chronic stress. Telomere length (TL) has been used as a biomarker of chronic stress: TL is shorter in adults in a variety of contexts, including disadvantaged social standing and depression. We use data from 40, 9-y-old boys participating in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to extend this observation to African American children. We report that exposure to disadvantaged environments is associated with reduced TL by age 9 y. We document significant associations between low income, low maternal education, unstable family structure, and harsh parenting and TL. These effects were moderated by genetic variants in serotonergic and dopaminergic pathways. Consistent with the differential susceptibility hypothesis, subjects with the highest genetic sensitivity scores had the shortest TL when exposed to disadvantaged social environments and the longest TL when exposed to advantaged environments.

Concepts: Family, Scientific method, Sociology, Child, Telomere, Magnetic susceptibility, The Fragile, Highly sensitive person


Smoking is a major public health problem. As smokers age and die prematurely, the tobacco industry must continue to recruit new, young smokers. Survey data indicate that currently in the UK around 207 000 children aged 11-15 start smoking every year. We used local data on adult smoking rates to apportion national data on child smoking uptake to specific areas. The presentation of data for individual local authorities, which now have responsibility for public health, can be used to focus attention locally. For example, this analysis demonstrates that each day, 67 children, more than two classrooms full, start smoking in London.

Concepts: Age, Tobacco, Tobacco smoking, United Kingdom, Child, Ageing, Area, Local government


In Canada, 31.5 % of children are overweight or obese, putting them at an increased risk of chronic co-morbidities and premature mortality. Physical activity, healthy eating, and screen time are important behavioural determinants of childhood overweight and obesity that are influenced by the family environment, and particularly parents' support behaviours. However, there is currently a limited understanding of which types of these support behaviours have the greatest positive impact on healthy child behaviours. This study aims to determine the relative contribution of different types of parental support behaviours for predicting the likelihood that children meet established guidelines for daily physical activity, daily fruit and vegetable consumption, and recreational screen time.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Nutrition, Obesity, Physical exercise, Overweight, Child, Childhood, Dieting


To investigate the impact of prenatal antidepressant exposure on behavioural problems in children at 7 years of age.

Concepts: Child


Studies have suggested that number of siblings and birth order is associated with obesity. However, studies combining these exposures are needed. This study aimed at investigating obesity in children and young adults in regard to different combinations of family size and birth order.

Concepts: Family, Biology, Obesity, Child, Childhood, Cultural studies, Childhood obesity, Sibling


This study aimed to describe the long-term outcome and immunological status of children born to mothers with antiphospholipid syndrome, to determine the factors responsible for childhood abnormalities, and to correlate the child’s immunological profile with their mothers.

Concepts: Child, Childhood, Antiphospholipid syndrome, The Child


BACKGROUND: Chronic childhood malnutrition remains common in India. As part of an initiative to improve maternal and child health in urban slums, we collected anthropometric data from a sample of children followed up from birth. We described the proportions of underweight, stunting, and wasting in young children, and examined their relationships with age. METHODS: We used two linked datasets: one based on institutional birth weight records for 17 318 infants, collected prospectively, and one based on follow-up of a subsample of 1941 children under five, collected in early 2010. RESULTS: Mean birth weight was 2736 g (SD 530 g), with a low birth weight (<2500 g) proportion of 22%. 21% of infants had low weight for age standard deviation (z) scores at birth (<-2 SD). At follow-up, 35% of young children had low weight for age, 17% low weight for height, and 47% low height for age. Downward change in weight for age was greater in children who had been born with higher z scores. DISCUSSION: Our data support the idea that much of growth faltering was explained by faltering in height for age, rather than by wasting. Stunting appeared to be established early and the subsequent decline in height for age was limited. Our findings suggest a focus on a younger age-group than the children over the age of three who are prioritized by existing support systems.FundingThe trial during which the birth weight data were collected was funded by the ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth (Centre for Child Health and Nutrition), and The Wellcome Trust (081052/Z/06/Z). Subsequent collection, analysis and development of the manuscript was funded by a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award: Population Science of Maternal and Child Survival (085417ma/Z/08/Z). D Osrin is funded by The Wellcome Trust (091561/Z/10/Z).

Concepts: Nutrition, The Age, Anthropometry, Child, Childhood, Pediatrics, Standard deviation, Slum


Influential theories of imitation have proposed that humans inherit a neural mechanism - an “active intermodal matching ” (AIM) mechanism or a mirror neuron system - that functions from birth to automatically match sensory input from others' actions to motor programs for performing those same actions, and thus produces imitation. To test these proposals, 160 1- to 2½-year-old toddlers were asked to imitate two simple movements- bending the arm to make an elbow, and moving the bent elbow laterally. Both behaviors were almost certain to be in each child’s repertoire, and the lateral movement was goal-directed (used to hit a plastic cup). Thus, one or both behaviors should have been imitable by toddlers with a functioning AIM or mirror neuron system. Each child saw the two behaviors repeated 18 times, and was encouraged to imitate. Children were also asked to locate their own elbows. Almost no children below age 2 imitated either behavior. Instead, younger children gave clear evidence of a developmental progression, from reproducing only the outcome of the models' movements (hitting the object), through trying (but failing) to reproduce the model’s arm posture and/or the arm-cup relations they had seen, to accurate imitation of arm bending by age 2 and of both movements by age 2½. Across age levels, almost all children who knew the word ‘elbow’ imitated both behaviors: very few who did not know the word imitated either behavior. The evidence is most consistent with a view of early imitation as the product of a complex system of language, cognitive, social, and motor competencies that develop in infancy. The findings do not rule out a role for an inherited neural mechanism, but they suggest that such a system would not by itself be sufficient to explain imitation at any age.

Concepts: Psychology, Human, Reproduction, Humerus, Motor control, Child, Childhood, Mirror neuron


Childhood and adolescence are important developmental phases which influence health and well-being across the life span. Social relationships are fundamental to child and adolescent development; yet studies have been limited to children’s relationships with other humans. This paper provides an evidence review for the potential associations between pet ownership and emotional; behavioural; cognitive; educational and social developmental outcomes. As the field is in the early stages; a broad set of inclusion criteria was applied. A systematic search of databases and grey literature sources found twenty-two studies meeting selection criteria. The review found evidence for an association between pet ownership and a wide range of emotional health benefits from childhood pet ownership; particularly for self-esteem and loneliness. The findings regarding childhood anxiety and depression were inconclusive. Studies also showed evidence of an association between pet ownership and educational and cognitive benefits; for example, in perspective-taking abilities and intellectual development. Evidence on behavioural development was unclear due to a lack of high quality research. Studies on pet ownership and social development provided evidence for an association with increased social competence; social networks; social interaction and social play behaviour. Overall, pet ownership and the significance of children’s bonds with companion animals have been underexplored; there is a shortage of high quality and longitudinal studies in all outcomes. Prospective studies that control for a wide range of confounders are required.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Educational psychology, Child, Adolescence, Developmental psychology, Behavior, Social relation


Expanding behavioral and neurobiological evidence affirms benefits of shared (especially parent-child) reading on cognitive development during early childhood. However, the majority of this evidence involves factors under caregiver control, the influence of those intrinsic to the child, such as interest or engagement in reading, largely indirect or unclear. The cerebellum is increasingly recognized as playing a “smoothing” role in higher-level cognitive processing and learning, via feedback loops with language, limbic and association cortices. We utilized functional MRI to explore the relationship between child engagement during a mother-child reading observation and neural activation and connectivity during a story listening task, in a sample of 4-year old girls. Children exhibiting greater interest and engagement in the narrative showed increased activation in right-sided cerebellar association areas during the task, and greater functional connectivity between this activation cluster and language and executive function areas. Our findings suggest a potential cerebellar “boost” mechanism responsive to child engagement level that may contribute to emergent literacy development during early childhood, and synergy between caregiver and child factors during story sharing.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cognitive psychology, Neuroscience, Cerebral cortex, Cognitive science, Child, Childhood