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Research parents can use

May 12, 2016

Are you turning your son into a narcissist? Can you help your young daughter improve her memory? Ohio State gives parents research-based answers about raising children.

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Parents often seek out advice on best practices for raising their children. They may reach out to friends and family for feedback — and in return get conflicting messages.

While ideas about parenting are ever-changing, Ohio State researchers have good news: Their studies about parenting and childhood can help give parents solid, research-based knowledge about how to best navigate the childrearing years.

Here, we take a closer look at four recent studies. 


You play a major role in whether or not your child is self-centered.

Parents need to be aware of thinking their children are “more special” than others. The result can be narcissistic tendencies later in life.

Researchers surveyed parents and their children four times over a year and a half. Children were measured for levels of both narcissism and self-esteem, which develop in different ways.

Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology, says the results show that “overvaluation predicted narcissism, not self-esteem, whereas parental warmth predicted self-esteem, not narcissism.”

Children believe it when their parents tell them they are more special than others, he says, adding, “That may not be good for them or for society.”

Read more.


If your young children don’t remember what they learned today, ask again in a day or two.

While adult memories tend to fade over time, small children seem to remember a piece of information better days later. This was seen in 4- and 5-year-olds who played a video game, then either repeated the game the same day or two days later. Those playing after a time delay had 20 percent higher scores.

This study is the first to document two different but related cognitive phenomena simultaneously: extreme forgetting — learning two similar ideas close together and forgetting the first thing — and delayed remembering. It involved 82 children from central Ohio preschools who played a picture association game on a computer three separate times.

The findings provide a window into understanding memory and, in particular, the issue of encoding new information into memory.

“The takeaway message is that kids can experience extreme forgetting, and the counter-intuitive way to fight it is to let time pass,” says lead study author Vladimir Slultsky, professor of psychology and director of the Cognitive Development Lab.

Read more.


Having a baby can affect your distribution of household labor (and not in the way you may think!).

When educated, dual-career couples add a baby to the mix, they tend to see themselves as equals in terms of division of new labor. An Ohio State study suggests this is not true

In the study, men and women kept detailed time diaries and found both genders overestimated the time devoted to their increased workload. While both estimated four additional hours went into housework per day, women actually put in two extra hours and men only about 40 minutes. Surprisingly, these couples had a relatively equal division of labor before having a child.

“These are the couples you would expect to have the most egalitarian relationships,” says Claire Kamp Dush, co-author of the study and associate professor of human sciences.

Read more.


Frequent reading probably isn’t going to cause nearsightedness (myopia).

For more than 100 years, people have believed “near work” has been a cause of nearsightedness or myopia, or at least a risk factor. Now a 20-year study of 4,500 children in the United States is countering this belief.

A single test — a measure of current refractive error, or eyeglass prescription — can predict which children will become nearsighted by the eighth grade. It’s been found that kids who will grow up to have normal vision are actually slightly farsighted when they are in first grade. The eyeball in those with normal vision is programmed to stop growing at a point that sustains clear vision. With myopia, the typically spherical eyeball becomes elongated, resembling the shape of a grape or an olive.

Karla Zadnik, lead author of the study and dean of the College of the Optometry, and colleagues assessed 13 potential risk factors for nearsightedness and were surprised to find that near work was not a contributor. Having two nearsighted parents was the most important risk factor.

“These findings apply across ethnicities,” she says. “The prevalence of nearsightedness differs among ethnicities, but the mechanism is the same.

Read more.