North Dakota State University
NDSU Extension Service

Child & Adolescent Review

Research & Resources for Educators
Winter 1995-96

In This Issue

Why a Newsletter?

It can be time consuming to keep up to date with the latest information or research in professional fields. That's why the Extension Service specialists and faculty in the College of Human Development and Education at North Dakota State University have developed and contributed to this newsletter.

The goal of this newsletter is to provide a brief review of current research and resources as well as summarize emerging knowledge related to key issues concerning children and adolescents. It's for teachers and other interested professionals working directly with children and adolescents.

The NDSU Extension Service is committed to bringing the resources of the university to you. If you have questions about any of the information, please call your county office of the NDSU Extension Service for assistance.

Sharon D. Anderson, Director of Extension and University Outreach

Research at North Dakota State University

Laura De Haan, assistant professor of child and adolescent development at NDSU, surveyed eighth graders in two rural Red River Valley communities and analyzed psychological and behavioral outcomes. The focus was on economic circumstances, relationships with parents and how adolescents choose to spend their time.

A surprising finding was eighth graders surveyed reported using drugs and alcohol at much higher levels than the national average; 55 percent had consumed alcohol or other drugs compared to 23 percent nationally.

"This could be related to the lack of things to do and the availability of products," De Haan says. "Unstructured time can be very risky."

The study revealed that rural eighth graders have a lot of unstructured time and that this time is typically filled with watching TV or hanging out with friends.

"Surprisingly, the more time the eighth graders reported spending with friends, the higher the likelihood that they were also reporting trouble with drugs, low self-esteem, depression and poor grades," De Haan says. "Even though they're with friends, many adolescents reported an increase in loneliness.

"We need to know more about how rural adolescents spend their time, why they make the choices they do, whether or not these are active choices or are they simply choosing the activities because they have nothing else to do. Gaining insight into these questions can help us prevent future problems."

A positive relationship with parents was found to be an important protective factor for adolescents; those who reported feeling supported by their parents felt less lonely or depressed.

De Haan thinks the points to be gained from the research are that active parental involvement, not just being in the same room watching TV, in their children's lives is an important deterrent. Also, parents and communities need to provide productive ways for adolescents to spend their time. Unstructured time at this age can lead to full-blown problems in later years.

Source: Laura De Haan, child development and family science at NDSU, 231-8270. More information on the study will be appearing in a new ,journal entitled "North Dakota Human Services Journal."


Tracking Systems Need Fine-tuning

Theory has it that "tracking" at-risk first graders into homogeneous, smaller-than-average classes would enable teachers to take advantage of new techniques for helping them master the basics.

After observing 40 first-grade teachers in 20 urban schools in a large Tennessee school system -- 20 teaching "tracked" remedial classes and 20 in regular classes -- the investigators uncovered few if any "substantive differences in class structure and environment, instructional methods, teacher attitudes, teacher effectiveness or time usage."

For tracking to succeed, remedial teachers must make more efficient use of class time and incorporate new instructional methods already shown to be effective with at-risk children.

As they are, tracking systems may also maintain such inherent disadvantages as isolation of low-achievers from high-achievers, reduced student self-esteem and less cognitive stimulation.

Source: Growing Child Research Review, May 1995.

Children Go Through Stages of Teasing

Anyone who's ever been to a school playground during recess knows how mean children can be. But the concept of "mean" changes as children get older and by adolescence teasing turns into more symbolic forms that can be rejected by the victim.

First graders for the most part engage in physically hurtful teasing, such as tying a classmate's shoelaces together. Actions speak louder than words. It's difficult to use verbal teasing at this age.

By sixth grade, hurtful teasing is replaced by mean teasing -- calling a burn victim ugly, for example. But as young people move into adolescence, their teasing gets more sophisticated and symbolic. Words are as good as actions.

By 11th grade, symbolic teasing accounts for about 80 percent of teasing. They start to realize that the words are only symbols of harassment, and if they don't accept that symbol as having authenticity, they can then overlook it and not get upset.

Most young people cope with being teased on their own, usually by retaliating against or ignoring the teaser.

Teasing is an inevitable part of growing up, and it seems that kids are adept at handling it on their own, but when teasing gets out of hand, it can lead to problems. It is sometimes appropriate for adults to intervene, particularly among prepubertal children.

When other children use a cruel, symbolic teasing, an older person is capable of seeing through it. But for children, their cognitive capacities haven't matured enough so that they can understand the symbolism of it. The word is the same thing as having it. If someone is called fat, it's the same as being fat.

Source: The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, January 1995, Vol. 11, No. 1.

Antismoking Programs Should Begin Before Fifth Grade

Fifth graders who picture smokers as "cool," "healthy" and "good at sports" -- attributes highlighted in many tobacco ads -- are the children most likely to become regular smokers by ninth grade, according to a large longitudinal study.

Researchers are recommending that antismoking programs be started before fifth grade and "target particular high-risk youth rather than the mainstream children who are unlikely to be tempted to use tobacco products."

There's a shift in children's feelings toward smokers that occurs between fifth and seventh grades. The shift to a positive image of smoking corresponds with the image of smokers pushed by tobacco ads -- mature, daring, independent, glamorous. For this reason, researchers urge that interventions target children before they reach fifth grade and arm them with the ability to analyze tobacco ads and examine the underlying motives in the message.

Interventions presented in non-classroom settings should complement school-based antismoking efforts.

Source: Growing Child Research Review, July 1995.


MI Theory Advocates Personalized Education

Rather than teaching children through one traditional prototype, educators are turning toward understanding each child in depth and addressing his or her educational needs accordingly. This concept of personalizing education is the basis for the multiple intelligence (MI) theory founded by Howard Gardner.

The MI theory presents seven distinct intelligences, each of which must be considered if the educational environment is to be effective:

The MI theory also takes into account the environ-mental situation in which a student lives. As a result, this concept of more than one intelligence focuses on personalizing education. The purpose of education should not be to give students a thousand facts, but rather to tell them how to go out and find out about things.

Teachers are encouraged to respect each student's strengths and use a variety of teaching techniques that incorporate these different individual styles.

Source: The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, July 1994, Vol. 10, No. 6.

To learn more about how to use the Multiple Intelligence information, read one of the following:

Lazear, D. (1991). Seven Ways of Knowing: Teaching for Multiple Intelligence (2nd ed.). Skylight Publishing.

Lazear, D. (1991). Seven Ways of Teaching: The Artistry of Teaching with Multiple Intelligences. Skylight Publishing.

Teen Gambling: More than Fun and Games

Many adolescents across the U.S. gamble long before entering high school. More than a third report their first experience with gambling for money before age 11 and up to 88 percent say they first gambled before age 15. The fact is that the majority of teenagers who ever gamble do so long before they reach the legal age.

A series of independent surveys suggest that nationally more than 7 million juveniles are gambling for money with or without adult awareness or approval, and more than 1 million of these are experiencing serious gambling-related problems. The prevalence of probable compulsive gambling among juveniles appears to be more than three times that reported for adults.

The four favorite games teenagers play for money are cards with friends and family; the lottery; games of skill such as golf, bowling and pool played with friends and associates; and sports betting on football and baseball pools, and off-track betting.

Over the past decade, the social climate has greatly increased availability, promotion, glamorization and inflated payoffs associated with commercial gambling. Public understanding of gambling problems is where the understanding of alcoholism was 40 or 50 years ago.

Public education is the prime vehicle for generating widespread consciousness of the extent and potential negative consequences of juvenile gambling. Greater awareness at governmental levels regarding the large numbers of underage youth who gamble and the potential harm associated with their gambling should lead to firmer enforcement of existing laws that set statutory age limits for gambling and thereby reduce the accessibility of this activity to those who are more vulnerable to its impact. The gambling industry must itself generate more vigorous and effective methods for discouraging play by underage youth.

The scientific literature consistently indicates that adolescents are most at risk for developing addictive patterns of behavior, including pathological gambling. The high rates of problem gambling behaviors already documented among high school students clearly indicate the urgent need for early identification and preventive interventions for this high-risk group.

Source: The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, January 1995, Vol. 11, No. 1.

Share this self-test with your students

Self-test for teens

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do your friends gamble a lot? ___ Yes ___ No
  2. Do you gamble at school? ___ Yes ___ No
  3. Have you ever stayed away from school or work to gamble? ___ Yes ___ No
  4. Is gambling more important than school or work? ___ Yes ___ No
  5. Do you often spend your free time involved in gambling activities such as poker, sports betting, dice? ___ Yes ___ No
  6. Do you find gambling to be the most exciting activity you do? ___ Yes ___ No
  7. When you are gambling, do you tend to lose track of time and forget about everything else? q ___ Yes ___ No
  8. Do you often daydream about gambling? ___ Yes ___ No
  9. Do you feel your friends are envious of you when you win money at gambling and that you get extra attention because of gambling? ___ Yes ___ No
  10. When you do win, do you want to return to gamble as soon as possible because you believe that you will continue winning? ___ Yes ___ No
  11. When you lose, do you feel you must bet as soon as possible to win back your losses? ___ Yes ___ No
  12. Do you often gamble with money you originally intended to use for other things such as lunch, clothing, CDs? ___ Yes ___ No
  13. Do you ever borrow money to gamble? ___ Yes ___ No
  14. Have you ever sold a favorite possession or something very special to you to get money to gamble or pay a gambling debt? ___ Yes ___ No
  15. Do you try to prevent your family and friends from knowing how much and how often you gamble? ___ Yes ___ No
  16. Do you ever lie about your gambling? For example, do you ever tell people that you did not gamble or that you won money gambling when in fact you had lost money or possessions? ___ Yes ___ No
  17. Do you get into arguments with your parents because of gambling or with your friends over a gambling activity?___ Yes ___ No
  18. Do you feel depressed or lose sleep or feel guilty because you lost money gambling? ___ Yes ___ No
  19. Have you ever thought of suicide as a way of solving your problems? ___ Yes ___ No
  20. Does one or both of your parents do a lot of gambling? ___ Yes ___ No

Scoring guide:
3-4 yes: Time to wonder if your gambling is getting out of hand.
5-7 yes: You are losing control over your gambling.
More than 7 yes: Seek appropriate help for what is clearly a problem.

Source: The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, January 1995, Vol. 11, No. 1.

North Dakota Resources on Gambling

HELP-LINE 800-472-2911

Council on Compulsive Gambling of North Dakota, P.O. Box 10292, Fargo, N.D. 58106

The following resources are available from your county office of the NDSU Extension Service:

Gambling: A Challenge for Youth. This curriculum is for students in grades 6-9. It has seven lessons that progress from the history of gambling to a decision-making model that can be employed by students as they consider their involvement in gambling activities.

Gambling: Its Effect on Families and Communities in North Dakota. This publication takes a look at gambling in North Dakota and outlines how to recognize the impact gambling has on ourselves, our families and our communities.

The Hidden Avalanche: Problem Gambling. This 15-minute videotape provides guidelines that people can follow when considering whether or not to gamble and how to gamble in a low-risk, appropriate and legal manner if they decide to gamble.

Resource Review

National Association of Social Workers, 750 First Street, NE, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20002-4241 (202-408-8600). NASW's public service campaign "Stopping Violence Starts with Me... And Ends with Us!" helps children understand the causes of violence and offers suggestions for individual action.

American Bar Association's National Law-Related Education Resource Center, ABA Publications (312-988-5522). A new classroom guide, "On Trial in California: The O.J. Simpson Case," covers topics such as jury selection, direct and circumstantial evidence, the role of witnesses and the meaning of "beyond reasonable doubt."

Citing a resource in this newsletter does not indicate an endorsement of any one professional resource. All sources cited with permission/fee paid.

Winter 1995-96

NDSU Extension Service, North Dakota State University of Agriculture and Applied Science, and U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Sharon D. Anderson, Director, Fargo, North Dakota. Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. We offer our programs and facilities to all persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, Vietnam era veterans status, or sexual orientation; and are an equal opportunity employer.
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