Could studying children teach about ageing?

Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi on connecting mental health in young people with their physical health in later life.

If we want to help children succeed and thrive so that they can reach their full potential, we need to understand their mental, biological, and emotional needs.

Join Sean Sanders, Director and Senior Editor for Custom Publishing at Science, as he interviews outstanding researchers in a broad range of fields whose work either directly involves the study of children and adolescents or has a significant impact on their lives. Each interviewee is also the recipient of the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize, awarded by the Jacobs Foundation, which recognizes exceptional achievements in the field of child and youth development.

Episode 2: Could studying children teach us about aging? With Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi

What can study children and adolescents teach us about aging? Is there a connection between mental health in young people and physical health in later life? What changes could we encourage in our children’s lives to reduce the chance of future psychological and physical illness, as well as improve their well-being?

Listen in as Sean talks to husband-and-wife research team Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi about these questions and more.

Terrie Moffitt is a Professor of Psychology at Duke University and a Professor of Social Development at King’s College London. She studies the consequences of a lifetime of mental and behavioral disorders on the processes of aging.

Avshalom Caspi is a Professor of Psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and a Professor of Personality Development at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, & Neuroscience at King’s College London. His research interests include how childhood experiences shape aging and how genetic differences between people shape the way they respond to their environments.

It is easy to misconstrue symptoms of DCD – pushing, struggling to line up properly for lunch, or refusing to participate in team sports, for example – as bad behavior. It is important to be sensitive to the varying ways difficulties might present themselves. Early years team leader and reception teacher Catherine Finniear tells me that talking to parents is crucial when planning support: “They know their children more than anyone and can give expert advice on how to help them.” Together, parents and teachers can identify issues and devise strategies that best suit a specific child.

“Together, parents and teachers can identify issues and devise strategies that might best suit a specific child.”

These practical suggestions for teachers are useful, but truly supporting young people with DCD requires greater recognition and more formal support for parents and children. Research conducted in the UK highlights just how limited license currently is. One study found that 43% of parents whose children were diagnosed with DCD were offered no practical support at all, and an analysis of adolescents with DCD found that 37% were not receiving formal education support in school. Traditional measures, such as developing a support plan led by the school special educational needs coordinator or occupational psychologist to devise strategies and make classroom adjustments, are imperative since the difficulties children experience may well snowball over time. As pointed out in the latter study, the secondary problems that often occur in DCD, including reduced participation in activities and less supportive friendships, can contribute to a vicious circle of less engagement in school and poorer academic outcomes.

Ultimately, one of the most prominent barriers to learning for children with DCD is a limited awareness of the implications this disorder can have for their ability to succeed. Teachers can work with parents and children to find manageable tasks that help engage children in learning activities. However, without appropriate formal support from educational settings, young people with DCD are likely to fall behind.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *