Roundup: After Penn State, NJ abuse hot line busy; severe child trauma ups risk of schizophrenia 50x; police agencies say family violence on rise

Pinwheel for Prevention child abuse awareness event, outside the Brown County Courthouse lawn in downtown Green Bay on Friday, April 20, 2012. Photo by Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

Since the Penn State child abuse tragedy last year, the hot lines in New Jersey have been ringing off the hook, according to NJ.com reporter Susan Livio.

The number of calls soared to as many as 750 a day in November, when a Pennsylvania grand jury indicted former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, said Kristine Brown, spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Families. It rarely topped 400 a day in the two months before the scandal broke out, she added.

From November 2011  to March 2012, 80,543 calls were answered by the hotline— 6,815 more than the same time one year ago. Greenbaypressgazette.com reporter Doug Schneider reported that abuse and neglect reports in Brown County, Wisconsin,

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The Shame of It All

IN THE WEST, our introduction to power and dominance comes early. Starting with our first moves towards independence, we learn our desire for freedom can be squelched by someone bigger, more powerful, even Goddess-like. Mom. She is the order of things, purveyor of “No”,  steadfast in her exertion of Mother’s nature. She is the Queen of Toddlerdom.

Of course, a good mother doesn’t start out harsh. (And a “mother” can have any gender–it’s the role played that is essential.) She is initially affectionate, swaddling the infant in care and unconditional love. Even cleaning up poop seems to bring her delight. (See how she coos while changing a diaper.)

But around 9 to 16 months of age, when the infant morphs into a toddler, becoming ambulatory and indiscriminate in curiosity, Mother, the ultimate Transformer, shape shifts into her steely exterior.

No! Don’t color on the walls. No! Stay away from the socket. No! Don’t hit your sister. No! Don’t eat the cat’s tail. NO! NO! NO! NO!

According to one study, toddlers in the US hear a prohibiting “no” (or derivative) every 9 minutes–this after a lifetime of basic body functions causing celebratory attention. With a cascade of “no’s” comes the introduction of shame into the emotional lexicon, inhibiting actions and self-expression, teaching submission to forces more powerful than one’s own. Granted, the role of these “no’s” is to distinguish right from wrong, safe from dangerous, but really, who knows what’s going on in the youngster’s head.

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Roundup: MT adds Nurse-Family Partnership; how to prevent kids’ trauma in airport; Family Safety Center opens in Memphis

The effects of the Nurse-Family Partnership program.

“The core belief is, child abuse prevention is crime prevention,” said Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito at a meeting announcing the adoption of the Nurse-Family Partnership in 15 Montana counties. The story was reported by Greg Tuttle on BillingsGazette.com.

The program is supported by a one-year, $3.2 million federal grant, and local officials urged the federal government to provide ongoing support. The program, which has been shown to cut child abuse and neglect in half, sends a team of nurses, dietitians and social workers into homes to assist the family until the child’s second birthday. It’s currently in 426 counties in 37 states. There are 3,033 counties (or county equivalents) in the U.S.

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ACE Study co-founders tell story on DVD — here’s an intro

It’s interesting how long it takes for solid research to be integrated into daily life, especially research that produces results that shock us, but that we have somehow understood at some deep level all along. The CDC’s ACE Study — which linked childhood trauma with the adult onset of chronic disease, including mental illness, and violence or being a victim of violence — is one of those research studies.

Tuesday’s roundup featured a story about how exposure to child abuse and bullying affected our DNA, showing that stress leads to accelerated biological aging. Stephanie Pappas did a good story about the research in LiveScience, in which she quoted Dr. Elissa Epel, a University of California, San Francisco, health psychologist who studies stress and cell aging.

“Now we have some evidence that indeed children’s immune-system aging can be adversely affected by severe stress early in childhood, a scar that could last possibly decades later,” Epel told LiveScience. “This study underscores the vital importance of reducing violent exposures for children — both serious bullying and abuse in the family.”

The researchers pointed out that the violence doesn’t have to affect the child physically — it’s the cumulative stress that’s affecting the DNA.

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Roundup: Media’s role in over-anxious parenting? GOP writing own anti-domestic violence bill; studies question food deserts’ link to obesity

Erika Christakis, a Harvard College administrator who blogs at ErikaChristakis.com, posted a fascinating op-ed on Time.com — “Did Etan Patz Mark the End of Carefree Parenting?” She’s referring to Etan Patz, the six-year-old boy who disappeared in New York City in 1979, and was the first missing child to appear on milk cartons. She points out that of the 800,000 reported annual cases of missing or kidnapped children, most are found within hours.

The stereotypical kidnapping of parental nightmares and blaring headlines (with a child held overnight by a stranger, involving ransom, harm or intent to keep the child) occurs approximately 115 times per year, with a nearly 60% survival rate (and just 4% unsolved).

The number has not increased since the 1980s, she says, and though it’s still 115 too many, “the disproportionate fear generated by these cases has altered the landscape of childhood in complex ways that obscure the fact that this is probably the safest

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Roundup: 5S’s de-stress infants; toxic stress shortens genes; trauma triggers eating disorders

Here’s a sure-fire way to calm screaming babies, according to this story by NPR’s Patti Neighmond.

John Harrington, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, VA, did a study, published in the journal Pediatrics, that proves Los Angeles pediatrician Harvey Karp’s calming system works. Karp calls it the five S’s: swaddle, put on stomach, swing, shush (LOUD shhhh), and offer the baby a pacifier to suck on (although the video shows that’s not always necessary). Essentially, Karp’s mimicking the environment of the womb. The bad news: this method stops working when a baby’s around 4 months old.

TO THE LIST OF TOXIC STRESSORS that shorten our genes to age us prematurely  — smoking, radiation, and taking care of a chronically ill person — add violence, says Liz Szabo in today’s USA Today. Research published in Molecular Psychiatry found more evidence that our social environment alters genes. The genes of children who were exposed to two or more types of violence — witnessing domestic violence between the mother and her partner, experiencing physical abuse or bullying — shorten faster. This can lead to early onset of aging diseases, such as heart disease or memory loss.

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