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Recent studies reveals that early childhood years play a vital role in personality development, establishing that right kind of parenting can help raise intelligent as well as outgoing kids.

This set of studies was carried out by researchers in South Africa and Pakistan and was funded by the Government of Canada. This pair of studies has helped the scientists delve into the factors that help determine the personality traits in children and how modifying these factors can help raise smarter kids.

Higher IQ is Intricately Linked with Feeding Regime and Pre-Schooling

One of these studies included more than 1500 South African children. It was led by Dr. Ruth M. Bland of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow.

This study helped highlight the fact that children who were exclusively breastfed for the stipulated time period of 6 months were 50 times less likely to develop behavioral disorders between the ages of 7 and 11 as compared to the children who were breastfed for less than one month.

This study also demonstrated that mothers’ education level plays a crucial role in determining the behavior of a child.

Another important determinant is pre-schooling.

Children who attend the pre-school (crèche) for at least 1 year were 74% more likely to have better and enhanced cognitive and functional capabilities with stronger planning, focusing, memorizing and multitasking skills.

During the course of this study, it was found out that providing the children with adequate stimuli at home in the form of play, caused them to have 36% better executive functional scores. Right parenting played a major role in a child’s behavioral development.

Children of the mothers facing emotional and mental stress were shown to be 2.5 times as likely to suffer from behavioral problems as compared to other children.

According to the researchers, early-onset childhood behavioral problems can continue into the adolescent years. These problems can escalate into low self-esteem which can further lead to anti-social behavior, especially violence. Low academic performance and meager psychological health ensue, emphasizing that through adequate nutrition, better pre-schooling and mothers’ education, smarter and socially affable kids can be raised.

Play and Communication Work Wonders for Underprivileged Children in Rural Areas

The second study was headed by Dr. Aisha K. Yousafzai of Aga Khan University, Karachi with the idea being taken from UNICEF and the World Health Organization's 'Care for Child Development' plan. The basic aim of the study was to observe the effects of nutritive care and guided stimulation on the children’s cognitive and affective capabilities.

This follow-up study was carried out on 1,302 underprivileged rural kids at the average age of four years. The parents, especially mothers, of these children were guided about the concept of guided stimulation (through play and communication using everyday items like toys) and better nutrition during the early life years.

It was observed that children at the age of four were more likely to have higher intelligence quotient (IQ), improved academic performance, enhanced executive skills and more gregarious behavior through guided stimulation and better nutrition.

This study established that parents are better caregivers than any other person socially involved in the upbringing of children. Enhanced nutritive care and responsive stimulation by the parents can, therefore, result in better outcomes in terms of social and behavioral traits.

Acetaminophen Use during Pregnancy Can Give Rise to Behavioral Problems in Children

A recent study shows that unchecked use of acetaminophen by the expectant mothers may become the basis of early onset behavioral problems in the kids.

The study was carried out in England and was led by Evie Stergiakouli, a lecturer in genetic epidemiology and statistical genetics at the University of Bristol in England. The results of the study were subsequently published in JAMA Pediatrics.

During the course of this study, the scientists evaluated the data of about 8,000 women included in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Expectant mothers were probed for acetaminophen use during the 18th and 32nd week of pregnancy. The kids of these women were evaluated at the age of 5 and later, at the age of 7 years for any behavioral problems.

Acetaminophen and Behavioral Problems in Children

It was established that the use of this drug during these two periods of pregnancy was linked with a higher risk of behavioral problems in kids, especially attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In contrast, the risk of emotional and behavioral problems was quite low in children who had not been exposed to acetaminophen during the prenatal period, especially during the second and third trimester.

A whopping 42% risk of having a kid with conduct problems was found in women using acetaminophen for pain relief during the 18th and 32nd week of pregnancy.

The risk of having children with hyperactivity disorders was found to be 31%. There was 29% greater risk of having emotional problems in kids. The risk of having “total difficulties”, including conduct problems, behavioral difficulties as well as social issues, was substantiated at 46%.  

The exact correlation between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and conduct and behavioral problems in the kids is yet to be discovered. The scientists have hypothesized that acetaminophen might be able to cross the placental barrier and enter the uterus, ultimately reaching the baby’s system and causing changes in the part of the brain responsible for the control of behavior and conduct.

Recommendations

The strongest link of behavioral problems was established with the maternal use of acetaminophen during the third trimester since the human brain reaches its full maturity level during the last trimester. Since the brain is still under development, it is susceptible to the harmful effects of acetaminophen.

The researchers, therefore, recommended that acetaminophen use during the last trimester of pregnancy should be closely monitored, avoiding the use of this pain killer as much as possible so as to prevent the risk of emotional, behavioral and conduct problems in the kids.

According to Zeyan Liew, a post-doctoral scholar of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, Fielding School of Public Health, this study is not the first one to suggest a possible relationship between the prenatal acetaminophen use and behavioral problems in children. This study has, however, helped back up the existing data and rule out plenty of other determinants of behavioral problems like genetics and family history. It has, certainly, helped in formulation of recommendations that the acetaminophen use should be tightly regulated in pregnant women.

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