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

Top 2012 Parenting News: Sex During Pregnancy Deemed Safe
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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 I'd love to have a child development expert'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.


Becca said...

The 39 week one is a bit of an eye-opener. It explains why they were so insistent that I be admitted when my hind waters broke at 37 weeks.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Hi Becca! Mystery solved! And when did you deliver, if I may ask and how did it go?

I was induced twice, each time a couple days before my due date with a wink-wink from my doc. That was almost 10 years ago and the hospital did not look kindly on inductions before the due date, which would 39 weeks, no?

Awesome Mom said...

I think that breastfeeding study is pure bunk. The sample size is so small for starters. I formula feed and I am super sensitive to babies crying. I hate it when such a small study is trumpeted as fact.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Hi Awesome! Ohhh, yes, I like your thinking. In fact I wrote down the sample size when I first read it bc it was so tiny as to be a pilot study that shouldn't have seen the light of major media. Drum roll......9 breast-feeding mommas and 8 "formula-feeders"....I'd say it's down right irresponsible to spread this kind of speculative "evidence."

Mucho thanks for pointing it out, Awesome!

Jenny @ Anything Pretty said...

Here is some more interesting autism research of the year...

I have not read it all extensively, but as a parent I thought the 12 month screener was very interesting.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Hi Jenny AP! Thanks for the good catch, the top science findings from Autism Speaks. Yes, very interesting. Will read it more later today. Knew there had to be a list somewhere...