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The Top Parenting Findings of 2011: Interesting and Timely But Tops?

Posted Jan 04 2012 12:02pm

Top 2012 Parenting News: Sex During Pregnancy Deemed Safe
Photo from Getty Images via Time.com
What scientific studies offered the most valuable insights into children and parenting over the past year? 

Who knows!

But here's Time magazine's Top New Parenting Findings from their Top Ten Everything of 2011 ( 54 lists , be forewarned of  the time-sucking Time trap)
1. Striving to be SuperMom (i.e. seeking perfection at work and home)  makes women depressed. 


2.  Facebook ruins a kid's GPA. 


3.  Breast-feeding helps mothers "bond" with babies
    (i.e. one region of their brains shows more activity in response to child's cries).


4. Dads doing daily child care (bathing, feeding, etc) spat more with baby mamas.


5. Pregnancy sex isn't going to harm anyone
    (except those in high-risk pregnancies and the adult porn industry).


6. Parenthood makes women fat (except if you live in LA).


7. A healthy pregnancy diet prevents birth defects. 


8. Small babies are at higher risk of autism.


9. Being born before 39 weeks puts babies' lives at risk. 


10. Fatherhood lowers a guy's testosterone
     (and increases their tolerance of baby talk and breast pumps). 

Excuse my rather brief descriptions and confusion of causation and correlation.  Please note in fact all the studies are correlational in nature bearing the usual caveats and confouding factors. 

Now if I were to ask a wide swath of pediatricians, psychologists, neurologists, geneticists and other child health experts most likely we'd end up with a slew of different studies spanning and intersecting numerous disciplines.  Most of the research would be so terribly dry and specialized it would bore us to tears even if it miraculously landed on the cover of US Weekly right beneath Jessica Biel's engagement bling. 

Now that collection of signficant scientific evidence would be compelling.  There's a chance it might even still be viewed as such five, ten even twenty years from now.  Sure, the above list is interesting, timely and well-written but it's the opinion of one journalist, Bonnie Rochman* who was the parenting blogger for The News and Observer in Raleigh, NC and though I appreciate her clear and balanced reports of new studies not to mention funky eyewear, doesn't appear to be working in the trenches of child research nor have a background in science or a related field.

Not that a journalist must have a Ph.D. or M.D.,  but I'd love to have an insider's take on the most compelling studies, moreover, a variety of insider's opinions.  It's a perspective often absent in any meaningful way from the parenting media - by meaningful I don't mean comments by the expert who's just written a book or co-authored the featured study. 

True, it's reassuring to read that being Super Mom comes at a high cost (who rushes home from the salt mines to bake cookies from scratch anyhow?).  Or to learn your spouse's testosterone levels will be blessedly low in the first months of new baby.  Or that it's okay to have sexy times during pregnancy.  Or, sit down for this one, prego moms with health lifestyles (i.e. eat whole grains) have healthier babies.

Hardly earth-shattering news, especially to professionals. 

Even the link between autism and birth weight isn't probably that surprising or valuable to the experts.  It's not new news in therapist circles and school car lines but it's good to have the evidence in the literature I suppose, just another study filling in the epidemiological holes. 

I do wonder how many autism experts would consider it the most critical autism finding of 2011.  Dear readers, anyone see any "best of autism research" lists out there?  Probably not but those of you who keep up on the lit can probably name a few, eh?  The 39 weeks may be one of the more valuable pieces of evidence as it has the potential to impact decisions and behavior in labor and delivery. 

If I were cynical I'd say the 39 weeks optimal delivery and the autism findings are the only valuable findings in terms of furthering scientific progress and ultimately, bettering the health and lives of children.  The rest more fodder for dinner conversations and parenting sites keen on new content. 

What does everyone think?

Anyhow,  happy new year.  My resolution?  Being grateful for good parenting media.  Cheers.

*I intitially confused Bonnie Rochman, the journalist above with Bonnie Rachman, M.D., an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at UCLA.  Orginally thought the list was compiled by Dr. Rachman.  Oh well.
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