Depressed teens need early detection and therapy. Is that all?

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A report from a government medical panel says that depression is so common among teenagers that they should all be checked out for symptoms once a year. Which government -- Bulgaria? Palestine? Zimbabwe? No, no and no. It’s the United States that has nearly two million teenagers affected by depression, according to the US Preventive Task Force. And an estimated six per cent of them are clinically depressed. Why? Well, the committee would say because the signs are not being picked up early enough and treatment provided. Their brief does not seem to reach beyond that to underlying causes.

So the remedy they recommend is screening -- routine administration of a questionnaire by a family doctor or paediatrician who can then follow up with treatment or referral. The questionnaires would focus on depression tip-offs relating to mood, anxiety, appetite and substance abuse. The task force does not want this to lead… click here to read whole article and make comments



Schools and the rise of parent power

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David Cameron and his wife SamanthaThe likelihood of a surge of parent power in British schooling under a future Conservative-led government has met with an ambivalent response in the current affairs magazine, Prospect. The possible adoption of the “Swedish model” allowing businesses, charities and parents to open schools funded by the government makes Prospect deputy editor James Crabtree slightly nervous.

In an essay entitled, “They run your school, your mum and dad”, Crabtree accepts the trend of greater parental involvement in schools but finds the idea of parents “actually starting schools” and “oddly challenging vision” because “we don’t, after all, imagine patients starting hospitals, or commuters building roads.” (A comparison that fails to appreciate the role of parents as the first educators of their children.) He quotes someone who says a parent-led system is “dangerously susceptible to enthusiasts” -- “enthusiast” being a euphemism for “painful… click here to read whole article and make comments



Is abortion a remedy for abuse of minors?

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After watching the story of the nine-year-old Brazilian girl pregnant with twins who were aborted unfold for several weeks, the New York Times has run an on-the-spot piece -- the spot being a Sao Paulo women’s health clinic specializing in treating victims of sexual violence. One of the “treatments” offered by the Perola Byington Hospital is abortion, which the doctors there say is often necessary to protect the lives of sexual-violence victims. Of the 47 abortions carried out in the hospital last year, 13 were on girls under 18, all victims of rape.

The Times purports to be concerned about sexual abuse. Unfortunately, it does not explain how aborting babies conceived through rape -- often within the home -- will reduce the incidence of sexual abuse of young girls. If it is so easy to dispose of the evidence, wouldn’t it encourage more abuse? The Times says the problem “may be… click here to read whole article and make comments



Newlyweds’ arguments can predict divorce

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What are the odds of a lasting marriage for newly-weds who argue angrily over money or other issues? Not very good, according to British mathematician James Murray, who has devised a formula that he claims can predict divorce 94 per cent of the time. “Some couples might as well get divorced right away,” he says after conducting a study with 700 newly married couples.

The Oxford University professor and his team filmed the couples discussing contentious issues for 15 minutes, and graded each statement made during their respective turns of speech. Statements with humour or affection were given positive scores, while those with defensiveness or anger were given negative ones. The scores were used to identify whether the marriage would stand the test of time, and the couples were followed up over a period of 12 years.

Murray says he was astonished at how easily the predictive power of such discussions… click here to read whole article and make comments



Finding their feet: children walk to school

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Mounting concern over carbon emissions from vehicles and the obesity epidemic are giving impetus to a retro trend: walking to school. Many communities around the world are organising walking buses, in which groups of children living within a mile or so of a school walk in crocodile with a couple of adults, often wearing yellow safety vests.

The Italian city of Lecco, at the southern tip of Lake Como, set up the first pedibus system in the country six years ago and now has 450 students travelling along 17 routes to 10 elementary schools. One route leads through a cemetery and is called -- what else? -- the “mortobus”. The town’s environment auditor estimates that the pedibuses have so far eliminated more than 100,000 miles of car travel and, “in principle, prevented thousands of tons of greenhouse gases from entering the air”, reports the New York Times. The children are encouraged… click here to read whole article and make comments



The downside of pets

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Pets bring all sorts of benefits to the home, but tripping over the cat or dog or their toys or water bowls sends thousands of Americans to the emergency room each year. In fact, pet-related falls account for no less than 86,629 ER visits a year, or 240 trips a day, and roughly 1 per cent of the 8 million visits for falls of all sorts.

The stats come from researchers at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (at 8 million a year, falls are definitely in the epidemic category) and represent the first known national estimate of falls caused by pets and their paraphernalia. About one-third of the falls broke bones, while others caused bruises, sprains or cuts. Most of the tumbles occurred at home.

Dogs were the main culprits, causing 88 per cent of falls, with cats a long way behind at 12 per cent.… click here to read whole article and make comments



Grandparents want to be paid for looking after the children

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British grandparents are making a bid to be paid for looking after their grandchildren while the parents go to work. One in four of all families, and half of single parents, rely on grandparents to provide childcare each week. The value of their work is estimated at £3.9 billion a year. A poll by the Grandparents Plus charity has found that 60 per cent of parents support some form of payment for grandparent child minders -- but only if the government pays them, it seems.

Grandparents Plus is calling for the government to allow grandparents to receive the child care tax credit, currently worth up to £300 a week, if they are helping parents return to work. Only parents using nurseries and registered child minders can claim the benefit under existing rules. Government is not keen, but it says it will explore other ways to help. Grandparents Plus is also calling… click here to read whole article and make comments



Unmarried women boost US birth rates

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The number of babies born in the United States reached a historic high in 2007, and new estimates for that year show that unmarried women in their 30s account for a large part of the baby boost.

The 2007 total of more than 4,317,000 births surpasses the peak of the post-war baby boom in 1957, says a new government report. Births to Asian and Pacific Island women and among American Indian teenagers showed the greatest increases.

Birth rates for most age groups were up about 1 per cent over 2006. The teenage birth rate rose by 1 per cent in 2007 after a 4 per cent increase from 2005 to 2006 -- rises that have interrupted a 34 per cent decline in teen births from a peak in 1991 to 2005.

But birth rates for women aged 25 to 29, and 30 to 34 increased by… click here to read whole article and make comments



Self-esteem fad has gone too far, psychologist tells teachers

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The lingering obsession with boosting children’s self esteem has been given the thumbs down by a Scottish psychologist, who says the idea has gone too far. “We are wrong in thinking we have to get the ‘I’ bigger,” said Dr Carol Craig, speaking at a British school and college leaders conference. “If we say to people the most important thing is how you feel about yourself, then if a child fails maths and feels bad, it is very tempting for them to blame it on others like teachers and parents. Parents no longer want to hear if their children have done anything wrong. This is the downside of the self esteem agenda.”

Dr Craig said the obsession with self esteem was breeding narcissism, and narcissists “make terrible relationship partners, parents and employees.” She urged teachers to reclaim their role as educators, not psychologists. They would be kidding themselves if they thought… click here to read whole article and make comments



‘Plan B for girls’ court decision hailed as triumph of science over politics

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With new bosses about to take over at the US Food and Drug Administration, a New York judge has ordered the federal drug regulator to make the morning after pill available to 17-year-olds and to review whether to make the emergency contraceptive available to all ages without a doctor’s order. Judge Edward R Korman’s 52-page decision is the outcome of a lawsuit by the Centre for Reproductive Rights against the FDA’s 2006 decision to deny girls younger than 18 access to the Plan B pill without a prescription.

The judge agrees with the lawsuit that the FDA’s handling of the issue was “arbitrary” and influenced by “political and ideological” considerations imposed by the Bush administration. By implication, the Centre for Reproductive Rights does not have any “ideological” bias and it is claiming to have “science” on its side in promoting use of the jumbo dose of hormones (in one brand of… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Family Edge looks at news and trends affecting the family in the light of human dignity. Our focus is the inspiring, creative, humorous, annoying, ridiculous, and dangerous ideas in the evening news. Send tips and brainwaves to the editor, Tamara Rajakariar, at tamara.rajakariar@

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