Childhood innocence

Kevin Lewis

February 15, 2018

The differential influence of absent and harsh fathers on juvenile delinquency
Cortney Simmons et al.
Journal of Adolescence, January 2018, Pages 9-17


Researchers have identified father absence as a contributor to juvenile delinquency. Consequently, politicians and community leaders are making efforts to re-engage fathers. However, it is possible that the presence of fathers is not, in itself, a substantial protective factor and, in some cases, can even be more detrimental than father absence. Employing a diverse sample of male juvenile offenders in the U.S. (ages 13–17), the present study examined the differential effects of absent fathers and harsh fathers on delinquency. Results indicated that youth in the harsh-father group engaged in more offending behaviors and used more substances than youth in the absent-father group. This difference remained even after controlling for the mother-child relationship. Implications of these findings for future research and delinquency prevention programs are discussed.

Are newborns' faces less appealing?
Prarthana Franklin, Anthony Volk & Irisa Wong
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

"The goal of our study was to explore how adults perceived newborn infant facial cues given the inherent conflict between the needs of the child and the cost-benefit to the adult. Trivers (1974) suggested that when there is parent-child conflict, the advantage generally lies with the parent. Therefore, we hypothesized that adults would perceive newborns as having lower levels of infant facial cues compared to older infants as a mechanism to reduce or terminate investment in children at an age when the child is less likely to survive. Consistent with our prediction, we found that newborns received lower hypothetical adoption and infant facial cue ratings of cuteness, health, happiness, and self-resemblance compared to 3- and 6-month-olds. Interestingly, 3-month-olds were also rated as having lower health, happiness, cuteness, and self-resemblance than 6-month-olds."

Can an Unpredictable Childhood Environment Enhance Working Memory? Testing the Sensitized-Specialization Hypothesis
Ethan Young et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Although growing up in an adverse childhood environment tends to impair cognitive functions, evolutionary-developmental theory suggests that this might be only one part of the story. A person’s mind may instead become developmentally specialized and potentially enhanced for solving problems in the types of environments in which the person grew up. In the current research, we tested whether these specialized advantages in cognitive function might be sensitized to emerge in currently uncertain contexts. We refer to this as the sensitized-specialization hypothesis. We conducted experimental tests of this hypothesis in the domain of working memory, examining how growing up in unpredictable versus predictable environments affects different facets of working memory. Although growing up in an unpredictable environment is typically associated with impairments in working memory, we show that this type of environment is positively associated with those aspects of working memory that are useful in rapidly changing environments. Importantly, these effects emerged only when the current context was uncertain. These theoretically derived findings suggest that childhood environments shape, rather than uniformly impair, cognitive functions.

The nature of nurture: Effects of parental genotypes
Augustine Kong et al.
Science, 26 January 2018, Pages 424-428


Sequence variants in the parental genomes that are not transmitted to a child (the proband) are often ignored in genetic studies. Here we show that nontransmitted alleles can affect a child through their impacts on the parents and other relatives, a phenomenon we call “genetic nurture.” Using results from a meta-analysis of educational attainment, we find that the polygenic score computed for the nontransmitted alleles of 21,637 probands with at least one parent genotyped has an estimated effect on the educational attainment of the proband that is 29.9% (P = 1.6 × 10−14) of that of the transmitted polygenic score. Genetic nurturing effects of this polygenic score extend to other traits. Paternal and maternal polygenic scores have similar effects on educational attainment, but mothers contribute more than fathers to nutrition- and heath-related traits.

Parenting Predicts Strange Situation Cortisol Reactivity Among Children Adopted Internationally
Carrie DePasquale et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, March 2018, Pages 86-91


The functioning of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis can be altered by adverse early experiences. Recent studies indicate that children who were adopted internationally after experiencing early institutional rearing and unstable caregiving exhibit blunted HPA reactivity to stressful situations. The present study examined whether caregiving experiences post-adoption further modulate children’s HPA responses to stress. Parental sensitivity during naturalistic parent-child play interactions was assessed for 66 children (M age = 17.3 months, SD = 4.6) within a year of being adopted internationally. Approximately 8 months later, children’s salivary cortisol levels were measured immediately before as well as 15 and 30 minutes after a series of brief separations from the mother in an unfamiliar laboratory setting. Latent growth curve modeling indicated that experiencing more parental sensitivity predicted increased cortisol reactivity to the stressor. Although half the families received an intervention designed to improve parental sensitivity, the intervention did not significantly alter children’s cortisol outcomes. These findings suggest that post-adoption parental sensitivity may help normalize the HPA response to stress among children adopted internationally.

Child maltreatment risk as a function of poverty and race/ethnicity in the USA
Hyunil Kim & Brett Drake
International Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming

Methods: National official maltreatment data (2009–13) were linked to census data. We used additive mixed models to estimate race/ethnicity-specific rates of official maltreatment (total and subtypes) as a function of county-level child poverty rates. The additive model coupled with the multilevel design provided empirically sound estimates while handling both curvilinearity and the nested data structure.

Results: With increasing county child poverty rates, total and type-specific official maltreatment rates increased in all race/ethnicity groups. At similar poverty levels, White maltreatment rates trended higher than Blacks and Hispanics showed lower rates, especially where the data were most sufficient. For example, at the 25% poverty level, total maltreatment report rates were 6.91% [95% confidence interval (CI): 6.43%–7.40%] for Whites, 6.30% (5.50%–7.11%) for Blacks and 3.32% (2.88%–3.76%) for Hispanics.

Flexibility or Constraint? The Implications of Mothers’ and Fathers’ Nonstandard Schedules for Children’s Behavioral Outcomes
Christine Leibbrand
Journal of Family Issues, forthcoming


Approximately 17.7% of the U.S. workforce is employed in a nonstandard schedule. Research thus far indicates that these schedules negatively influence children’s behavioral development. However, few studies examine the roles of the child’s gender and age. To broaden understanding of the relationships between nonstandard schedules and child behavior, and how these relationships may depend on the gender and age of the child, I analyze data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-1979 and its Child Supplement from 1992 to 2006. My findings show that some types of parental nonstandard shifts, such as evening and night shifts, are associated with fewer behavioral problems among children, though these results depend on the gender and age of the child. In contrast, parents’ rotating and split shifts are associated with more behavior problems among children, indicating that it is relatively unstable and unpredictable work schedules that may have the most harmful associations with children’s outcomes.

Cues to paternity: Do partner fidelity and offspring resemblance predict daughter-directed sexual aversions?
Joseph Billingsley et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming


Despite the profound influence of relatedness on mating and cooperative behavior in humans, the cues men use to assess paternity and guide offspring-directed behavior have yet to be fully resolved. According to leading theories of kin detection, kinship cues should influence both sexual and altruistic motivations because of fitness consequences associated with inbreeding and welfare tradeoff decisions, respectively. Prior work with paternity assessment, however, has generally evaluated candidate cues solely by demonstrating associations with altruism. Here we (i) replicate past work that found effects of phenotypic resemblance and perceived partner fidelity on offspring investment; and (ii) evaluate whether both phenotypic resemblance and perceived partner fidelity meet the more stringent criteria suggested by theory — that is, whether they also predict inbreeding aversions. We report on two studies, one from a population-based sample of Finnish fathers (N = 390), the other from a Mechanical Turk sample (N = 700), and furnish evidence in strong support of perceived partner fidelity as a cue to paternity. Support for resemblance as a cue to paternity was decidedly weaker. We discuss a non-kin-based role that resemblance might play in altruistic decision-making, consider whether men might use additional kinship cues to meet the computational challenges associated with paternity assessment, and provide suggestions for future research.

Returning to the Nest: Debt and Parental Co-residence among Young Adults
Lisa Dettling & Joanne Hsu
Labour Economics, forthcoming


In standard life-cycle models, borrowing enables young adults to smooth consumption, but for those who are indebted and face high borrowing costs, parental co-residence could serve as an alternative smoothing mechanism. Using panel data derived from credit reports, we begin by documenting an association between debt characteristics – including credit risk, delinquency and loan balances on student loans, auto loans and credit cards – and subsequent entry into, and durations in parental co-residence. We find relationships consistent with parental co-residence as a smoothing mechanism for young adults facing borrowing constraints. We then formally test the hypothesis that credit accessibility effects co-residence choice by analyzing plausibly exogenous reductions in credit card limits initiated by banks during the Great Recession. We find that young adults who experienced limit reductions were 5 percent more likely to enter co-residence, and stayed 4 percent longer in co-residence. The effects of credit limit reductions were larger for young adult borrowers who were closer to their credit limit before the reduction.

Parental Proximity and Earnings after Job Displacements
Patrick Coate, Pawel Michal Krolikowski & Mike Zabek
Federal Reserve Working Paper, November 2017


Young adults, ages 25 to 35, who live in the same neighborhoods as their parents experience stronger earnings recoveries after a job displacement than those who live farther away. This result is driven by smaller on-impact wage reductions and sharper recoveries in both hours and wages. We show that geographic mobility, different job search durations, housing transfers, and ex-ante differences between individuals are unlikely explanations. Our findings are consistent with a framework in which some individuals living near their parents face a better wage-offer distribution, though we find no direct evidence of parental network effects.

Missing time with parents: Son preference among Asians in the USA
Neeraj Kaushal & Felix Muchomba
Journal of Population Economics, April 2018, Pages 397–427


We study prevalence of son preference in families of East and South Asian origin living in the USA by investigating parental time investments in children using American Time Use Surveys. Estimates show that East and South Asian mothers spend an additional hour of quality time per day with their young (aged 0–2 years) sons than with young daughters; son preference in mothers’ time allocation declines as children get older. East and South Asian fathers’ time with young children is gender neutral. We find gender specialization in time with children aged 6–17 with fathers spending more time with sons and mothers spending more time with daughters.

Attachment Security Priming Decreases Children's Physiological Response to Threat
Brandi Stupica et al.
Child Development, forthcoming


Ninety 6- and 7-year-olds (49.3% White, mostly middle class) from greater Washington, DC were randomly assigned to a subliminal priming condition (secure, happy, or neutral) to determine if attachment security priming decreases physiological, expressive, and self-reported fear reactions to threatening stimuli. Dispositional attachment security was also assessed. Secure priming and attachment security each decreased electrodermal reactivity, increased vagal augmentation, and decreased fearful facial expressions compared to control conditions. Examination of a statistical interaction between security priming and child attachment indicated that, although secure children had increased vagal augmentation and fewer fearful expressions than insecure children, the effects of priming were constant across secure and insecure children. There were no priming or attachment effects associated with children's self-reported fear.

Family size effects on childhood obesity: Evidence on the quantity-quality trade-off using the NLSY
Kabir Dasgupta & Keisha Solomon
Economics & Human Biology, May 2018, Pages 42–55


In this study, we use matched mother-child data from the National Longitudinal Surveys to study the effects of family size on child health. Focusing on excess body weight indicators as children’s health outcome of interest, we examine the effects of exogenous variations in family size generated by twin births and parental preference for mixed sex composition of their children. We find no significant empirical support in favor of the quantity-quality trade-off theory in instrumental variable regression analysis. This result is further substantiated when we make use of the panel aspects of the data to study child health outcomes of arrival of younger siblings at later parities. Specifically, when we employ child fixed effects analysis, results suggest that birth of a younger sibling is related to a decline in the likelihood of being overweight by 4 percentage points and a drop in the probability of illness by approximately 5 percentage points.


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