April 6, 2023
By Courtney Wise and Diana Hembree
Hello, MindSite News readers! In today’s parenting newsletter, you’ll find a new study that links harsh parenting – including physical discipline – to a significant risk of mental health disorders in children. We also look at two troubling stories by the Hechinger Report, which reports that California’s “hidden expulsions” – forced transfers that kick out students as early as preschool – skirt due process and can undermine students’ mental and academic health.
Plus: What one teen learned about his breakup with TikTok; a Colorado high school for kids in recovery; and the mental health benefits of spring cleaning.
Study: How parenting style can affect children’s mental health
A new study published in the journal Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences found parents who are regularly harsh, over-controlling, and tend to use physical punishment – a style known as “hostile parenting” – may significantly increase the risk of their children developing mental health disorders, according to Science Daily.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge followed 7,500 children in Ireland from age 9 months to 9 years old. Children exposed to hostile parenting at age 3 were 1.5 times likelier than their peers to have mental health symptoms which qualified as “high-risk” by age 9.
Researchers also found that children exposed to “warm parenting” – in which parents show affection and are responsive to their children’s needs – did not have an increased risk of mild- or high-risk mental health problems. “Consistent parenting” – marked by consistent expectations and rules – was found to be a protective factor in cases of mild risk.
“We found that children in the high-risk class had parents with greater stress and greater likelihood of ongoing physical and mental health problems,” said lead author Ioannis Katsantonis. “These parents might need additional support and resources to address their own needs and enhance their parenting skills.”
Hidden expulsions undermine children across all grade levels
Hidden expulsions? That’s the word from two riveting investigations from the Hechinger Report. The articles take a close look at schools in California, where some districts push students toward involuntary transfer for behavior issues rather than expulsion. It’s a tactic used to keep formal expulsion numbers low. Transfers have to be reported, too, but according to the Hechinger Report, why a student changes schools barring expulsion is often unclear due to vague and inconsistent transfer policies across districts.
“Transfers are being used as a back-door way of removing kids from school,” Chelsea Helena, an education attorney for Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, told the Hechinger Report. “And it’s impacting Black and brown kids more.”
Whether a change in school is due to expulsion or transfer, tracking the data matters. Expulsions and forced transfers disrupt student learning and can have tough consequences, especially for kids already struggling. They can harm a child’s development, sever important relationships, and affect their likelihood of graduation. In addition, “alternative” schools, where students are often transferred, are sometimes places in which students only see a teacher on Zoom 20 minutes a week and spend the rest of their time doing schoolwork at home. “It’s really lonely,” said one student forced to transfer.
The problems begin as early as preschool. J. Luke Wood, a researcher at San Diego State University, found that preschoolers are included in involuntary transfers. Families he interviewed were told it would be better for their preschoolers to change schools than get expelled and earn a negative behavior mark on their permanent record. “It seemed like they were using voluntary strategies to make families think [the schools] were doing them a favor, when really they were doing the exact opposite,” Wood said. That’s because expulsions come with due process and appeals rights, according to Victor Leung of the ACLU of Southern California. They also require school board approval.
In other news…
Escaping the TikTok Trap. In this article co-published by Slate and Zócalo Public Square, Vishal Karuppasamy recounts his obsession with TikTok, which he began using in junior high school. During the pandemic, he found himself scrolling through TikTok 6 hours a day – a discovery that prompted his breakup with the app. “It’s easy to blame TikTok for teen mental health issues,” he says. “But when I deleted it, I discovered a bigger problem.” This is what he thinks every parent should know.
Reading, writing, and recovery. What’s different about 5280 High School in Denver? The roughly 100 students are all in recovery from substance use disorder, according to NPR. Each day, in addition to their academic classes, they participate in wellness meetings supporting sobriety and stable mental health. Founded in 2018, 5280 is a public charter school and one of 43 recovery high schools in the country, which, according to one study, have higher attendance and graduation rates than those of peers at regular schools who have received treatment. “The No. 1 step is just letting them know out of the gate, no matter what’s going on, that we love them,” Brittany Kitchens, the school’s recovery coach, told NPR. “We are here for them.”
Parents considering spring cleaning may be tempted to put it off, but experts say de-cluttering may boost your mood. “When things are feeling out of control, people often like to take back control in ways they can – like cleaning up their environment,” psychologist Dawn Potter told News 4 Jax in Jacksonville, Florida. “It can also be beneficial because many people find clutter distracting, so engaging in spring cleaning can help you refocus on your other goals.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.
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