Could studying children teach us about ageing?

Terrie Moffitt, Avshalom Kaspi and their connection between mental health of young people and physical health later in life.

Understanding the mental, emotional, and biological needs of children is essential if we are to help them succeed.

Sean Sanders, Senior Editor and Director of Custom Publishing for Science, will interview outstanding researchers from a wide range of fields whose work directly impacts children and adolescents’ lives or is devoted to the study them. Each interviewee also received the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize from the Jacobs Foundation. This prize recognizes outstanding achievements in the area of child and youth growth.

Can we learn about aging from children? Terrie Moffitt, Avshalom Kaspi

What can we learn about aging by studying children and teenagers? Does there exist a link between the mental health of young people and their physical health later in life? What are some changes we can make in the lives of our children to improve their health and reduce the risk of mental or physical illness?

Sean speaks to Terrie Moffitt, Avshalom Kaspi, and their husband-and-wife research team about these and other questions.

Terrie Moffitt teaches Psychology and Social Development both at Duke University. She is interested in the effects of mental and behavioral disorders on aging processes.

Avshalom is a Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience and Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University. He also holds the position of Professor of Psychology and neuroscience at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, & Neuroscience. His research includes how childhood experiences influence aging and how genetic differences among people affect the way they react to their environment.

It’s easy to mistake symptoms of DCD, such as pushing, having difficulty lining up for lunch re, fusing team sports, etc., for bad behavior. It’s important to understand the different ways that problems can present themselves. Catherine Finniear, the Early Years Team Leader and Reception Teacher at my school, told me that it is important to talk to parents when planning support. “They know their child better than anyone else and can offer expert advice on how best to help them.” Together, teachers and parents can identify problems and develop strategies that are best suited to a particular child.

Together, parents and educators can identify issues and develop strategies that may best suit a particular child.

The practical suggestions are helpful, but to truly support young people with DCD, parents, and children need more formalized support. The UK research shows how little help is available. A study found that 43% of parents who had children diagnosed with DCD received no support whatsoever. In a survey of adolescents with DCD, 37% did not receive formal education support at school. It is important to take legal measures such as a support program led by a special education coordinator or an occupational psychologist, who can devise strategies and adjust classrooms. The difficulties that children face may snowball with time. The study explains that secondary problems, such as reduced participation in activities or less supportive friends, are common in DCD. These can lead to a downward spiral of poorer academic results and decreased engagement at school.

One of the biggest barriers to learning is the lack of awareness that DCD can affect a child’s ability to learn. Teachers and parents can collaborate to create manageable tasks for children that will engage them in learning activities. Without formal support in educational settings for young people with DCD, they are likely to fall further behind.


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