How has Children’s Growth Changed over Time?

The past 150 years have seen a massive improvement in the health of populations in Europe and North America. People live longer, eat larger quantities of more nutritious food, get sick less often and have better access to healthcare and medical technology. These general improvements have led to a large increase in the average height of the population: 11 cm in Britain. This large increase in height made me wonder a couple of years ago whether and how children’s growth has changed over time as well. This blog post explains what we currently know about the differences between child growth today and in the past, and why it is important to study changes in children’s growth over time.

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The Global Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders

With an estimated 1 out of every 68 children in the US (CDC, 2014) and 1 out of every 100 children in the UK (NAS, 2014) diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), it is clear that ASD now poses a substantial health burden. Although these statistics are striking, they are taken from the top two countries producing ASD research publications. The US and the UK are two countries of many, and both are prominent developed nations—what is the global prevalence of ASD beyond the US and the UK?  As of 2012, only a few studies have investigated prevalence in middle-income countries and no prevalence estimates have been reported for low-income countries, resulting in an incomplete global prevalence figure. Continue reading

Are Suicidal Behaviors Contagious in Adolescents?

It has become increasingly obvious that suicide attempts and deaths have both social and psychological causes. Though people in general are more familiar with the idea that psychological problems, such as depression, can put someone at risk of suicide, exposure to messages about suicide through our personal relationships or through the media also can increase an individual’s vulnerability to attempting suicide by making suicide seem like more of an option. Comedian Robin Williams’ suicide – and comments made online about his tragic passing and amazing life - illustrated the tension between our seemingly-innate desire to talk about and make sense of why people take their own life and the danger that irresponsible reporting or romanticizing comments may pose. Continue reading

Grasping the Diversity of Cohabitation: Fertility Intentions Among Cohabiters Across Europe

The rising importance of unmarried cohabitation in the demographic landscape is part of a whole array of ongoing changes in families and relationships in contemporary Europe; for example fewer people marry, more marriages end in divorce and fewer children are born than in the past. The diversity in the ways in which cohabiters view their relationship has consequences for the plans and behaviour of cohabiters in these relationships. In our recently published paper, we examine the association between different meanings of cohabitation and plans to have children.

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Missing Out on College: The Role of Family Instability in Educational Attainment in the United States

The value and meaning of a college education in the United States has perhaps never been more contentious than it is today. Media and political attention highlight rising tuition rates, soaring student debt, and an anemic entry-level job market for recent college graduates. Fewer than 60 percent of students who begin post-secondary education earn a Bachelor’s degree within six years. At the same time, scholars and activists have argued that increased access to college education and improved retention to graduation may be the most effective pair of strategies available to increase social mobility and ameliorate economic inequality while expanding economic growth.

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Minimalists, Gamblers, and Pioneers: How Future Aspirations Offer Insight in to Current Complexities

Studies of contraceptive use reveal intersecting, and often competing, life realms that individuals navigate when making fertility decisions. The decision of whether or not to use contraception is only in part a decision about one’s desire for a child; it is also a consideration of potential career tradeoffs, social network repercussions, financial resources, and the development of one’s identity as an adult – man or woman. Alternatively, a laissez faire approach to pregnancy prevention can be equally revealing of an individual’s or couple’s negotiations through other important life goals.

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The Changing Meaning of Cohabitation in Europe and North America. Signs of Convergence?

The diffusion of cohabitation during the last decades is one of the most striking aspects of wider social changes that have taken place throughout the industrialized world. Over time, the meaning of cohabitation has changed from being a deviant behavior to an almost fully accepted one. However, cohabitation has not spread uniformly across countries and the speed of change in the meaning of cohabitation can be very different. Is cohabitation becoming an alternative to marriage, as predicted by the Second Demographic Transition (SDT), or are there some persistent differences between countries?

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How Mexico’s Investments in Education Will Change North American Agriculture

Worldwide, as income per capita rises, the share of the population working in agriculture diminishes. At present, there is little research investigating the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. In a new paper, I examine the role of human capital investments in the transition off the farm, using household panel data that is nationally representative of rural Mexico. Does improved access to schools reduce the probability that individuals do farm work?

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Do Grandparents Benefit from Grandparenting?

Grandparental child care is traditionally considered an altruistic act. Therefore, research on this intergenerational exchange has focused on its effects on the younger generations, e.g., grandchildren’s developmental outcomes, cognitive stimulation, and educational attainment; but also middle generation’s benefits deriving from grandparents’ help. The unpaid child care provided by grandparents, by favouring mothers’ labour force participation, is also likely to produce benefits for the welfare system, especially when the child care services offered by the market are costly and public provision is scarce.

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Pauperia and Tycoonia: Population and Sustainability

Once upon a time, population was a central issue in the international debate on the future of the planet. Despite profound ideological and political differences among the major players of the global scene, there was consensus that population growth and change were major factors affecting social and economic development. This common awareness reached a climax between the early 1970s and early 1990s, marked by three UN-sponsored Conferences in Bucharest (1974), Mexico (1984) and Cairo (1994). The latter Conference (ICPD, or International Conference on Population and Development) approved a major declaration (Programme of Action) containing a summa of all desirable actions to be initiated, implemented or sustained, concerning all facets of population dynamics, in the full respect of human rights, and oriented to achieve sustainable development [1]. Continue reading