More research from Society for Research on Child Development

Up to the minute reporting.  This was first posted on the Society for Research in Adolescence’ website.

So much interesting research to report on.  Today was the day I presented at a symposium I organized that Brad Brown chaired called From Texting to Social Networking Sites to Virtual Worlds: Examining Youth Media Practices.  Many of my copresenters reported interesting work on adolescent media practices that I will discuss below.  In addition, another blogger on this site reported on our talk (love it!).  Click here to read her summary of some of this work.

Since my research focus is on media and adolescents, these were the talks that I attended for the most part, however, I did get a chance to attend a talk that examined longitudinal associations of valuing math early in high school to STEM academic and career interests later in high school.  The authors were Janet Shilby Hyde, Jennifer Petersen, Judith M. Harackiewicz, Carlie Marie Allison and Chris Rozek.  Their data came from a longitudinal study in Wisconsin of 570 participants in its 16th wave. They coded qualitative interviews looking for two measures regarding how parents discussed their values about different STEM interests with their children from 7th to 10th grade. One measure, called articlulation, related to how the parent was able to speak about the topic, and the other, called personalization, described if the parent related the school subject to their child’s interests.  These two measures were highly correlated at .43 but also distinct enough to examine both individually.

They found that:

  • Mothers use personalization more than fathers. 50% of fathers don’t do it.
  • All parents personalize more with their daughters than their sons.
  • However, parents value (utility) math and science more for their sons than their daughters.
  • The mother’s education level predicts articulation.
  • The mother’s values predict teen’s interest in STEM at the end of 10th grade, but in addition, a mother’s values along with high conversation interact, with a high correlation of .56 with teen’s interest.

Bottom line — mother’s values predict interest in STEM.  But it’s not only articulating what these kinds of courses are, the way one communicates — personalizing it, connecting it to the child — is very important.

Our panel was a paced presentation and it turned out to be lots of fun albeit a presentation that required a lot of practice!  Each presenter had 20 slides, 30 seconds each, and we all kept to our slides automatically transitioning.  Below are the highlights from the talks that had to do with adolecents, age 12 and older.

  • Hope Maylene Cummings from UMich presented on texting habits of 589 12-19 year olds from the Child Development Supplement Survey in 2007.  She reported that the average number of texts increase by a large amount for older teens, going from 179 for 12-14 year old girls to 651 for 15-18 year old girls.  Hope also reported on social, emotional and cognitive correlates with texting.  She reported that texting is negatively correlated with sleep.  For girls only, she found that texting is actually related to higher concentration, attention and memory.
  • Guadelupe Espinoza reported on work she did with Jaana Juvonen at UCLA on social networking sites habits of middle school children.  She found that most reported having a SNS, the majority reported that using a SNS intruded on their sleep or homework, and interestingly enough, those youth who did not have a SNS did not feel like they were out of the loop or ridiculed.  30% of her sample reported checking their SNS’ after 9pm. Girls reported spending more time than boys checking their profile page.
  • David Bickham from the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston reported on work he’s done with his colleagues on measuring adolescent media use, a rapidly changing and moving target. Researchers often rely on self report through time use diaries and memory recall and the concern is that this kind of reporting may not always be accurate.  He described a method they have developed called MYME that combines multiple methods to accurately capture the duration, content and context of media use. The good news time use diaries seemed to reliable and correlated with recall and the other methods used in the study to capture media use for everything EXCEPT cell phone use.

I also visited Melissa Chan from UCLA who presented a poster that examined marriage type differences (US marriages, Asian Indian “love” marriages or Asian Indian marriages of choise, and Asian Indian arranged marriages) on attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety.  She found that those in Asian Indian arranged marriages exhibisted the highest levles of both avoidance and anxiety, perhaps due to collectivistic values such as emotional restraint and social harmony, respectively.  The reason why she suspects this effect is due to collectivistic values is becaue there was no significant difference in those attachments when observing countries.  Although cultural values remain a contribute to the ways that individuals perceive and act in romantic relationships, her findings suggest that country of residence is not enough to predict attachment.



Can Video Games Transform Learning?

A lot of really smart people believe that video games are the key to engaging children in school. I find video games fascinating (but definitely not fascinating enough to play them!), because they often embed learning throughout game play. So many incredible games are out there — Zoo Tycoon, Sims City — these games truly do seem to teach our children things like math, environmental practices, and more. I am a bit embarrassed to admit it, but my son has played since he was 4, first on the computer, and then on the Wii. When he started kindergarten, I believe he may have done so well in Math, partly due to what he learned as he budgeted for the zoos and cities in the games he plays.
Continue reading “Can Video Games Transform Learning?”


Motivation 101 – Achievable Goals

We all want to motivate our kids to read… to do their homework… to eat well… to learn. But how ? Recently, I decided I would give my daughter a BIG reward if she read 10 books over the summer. My daughter enjoys reading, but it’s not something she gravitates to. She was very excited about the reward, so she eagerly started reading away.

Some parents, in fact one of my friends, might say 10 books is nothing. But not so for my daughter. After about 3 books, she told me that she didn’t think she could finish the 10 books and wouldn’t get the reward (ok, I will confess, it’s an Ipod touch). I couldn’t believe that she would give up so easily, especially since she has been begging me for an Ipod touch (which I got for free cuz I just bought a Mac) for several years!

Then, I realized I made one of the most basic mistakes anyone who is trying to motivate someone could make. I SET THE GOAL TOO HIGH!! I know this runs counter to everything we think we know, America is about big goals, big dreams, the desire to get it all. But guess what, when a goal is set too high, many people will give up, thinking there is no chance they will ever make it. It’s easier to never try than to try, fail and suffer the blow to the ego.

This actually makes intutive sense. Breaking down a goal into smaller achievable goals makes it easier to tackle. This goes for many kinds of goals, losing weight, organizing your house, writing a paper, reading 10 books in a summer. Although there may be an overarching goal, experts advise breaking it into steps — this week I will lose 2 pounds, I will organize one drawer and so forth. If the goal is too high, it may feel like one will never make it, and this goes doubly for children who are still learning who they are.

This is why video games can be so addictive to children. They have levels, a reward after reaching each level, and a culture where failure has little consequence. If we could only build that kind of goal structure into more of what we want our children to achieve! Reach the goal, but if you fail, it’s ok, just try again.

So guess what? I told my daughter if she got to five books, I would show her the ipod touch. At 6 books, she could show it to some friends. At 7, she could buy an app. And it worked! She read her little heart out and finished all 10 books within a month.

Of course now I had to worry that I had tried to motivate her with an extrinsic (external) reward. Would this hurt her intrinsic (internal) motivation? More on this in the extrinsic rewards.