ADHD and mom's love
THERE'S NOTHING like a correlation to unearth investigator bias ("ADHD may be moderated by mom's love, study finds," May Monitor). Kersting summarized a study by Moffitt and colleagues in which an association was found between greater maternal affection and lower rates of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Though Moffitt states this is "a correlational finding" she further suggests "emphasizing warmth might be a useful addition to parent education curricula." What an exceptionally one-sided causal interpretation--it's the parent's fault.
An alternative is that children having higher levels of ADHD symptoms result in mothers expressing less maternal warmth in conversations about them. Substantial research on the parent-child interactions of hyperactive (now ADHD) children demonstrated that parents of ADHD children were less rewarding, more critical, more commanding and less responsive to the interactions of their children (Danforth, Barkley & Stokes, 1991). But studies also found that when ADHD children were placed on methylphenidate and placebos while parents and observers remained blinded, the mother's behavior toward her ADHD child improved markedly as the symptoms of her child were improved via this medication.
Another explanation is that parents of children with higher levels of ADHD symptoms are also more likely to have symptoms of ADHD themselves. High heritability is found reliably in studies examining ADHD symptoms (Levy & Hay, 2001). Yet Moffitt blames the mother, though her results can not distinguish among these three explanations.
RUSSELL A. BARKLEY, PHD
Medical University of South Carolina
Evolutionary theory of anorexia
WE ARE WRITING IN RESPONSE to Karen Kersting's article "An evolutionary explanation for anorexia?" in the April issue of the Monitor. As a scientist-practitioner with a specialization in eating disorders and a research-scientist with a specialization in evolutionary psychology, respectively, we were surprised to see Dr. Guisinger's evolutionary explanation for anorexia nervosa featured as "a recently proposed theory." This is a clear example of the research-practice gap. Were Dr. Guisinger to consult the existing empirical literature, she would learn that there already exists a body of literature that offers an evolutionary explanation of anorexia nervosa.
One such example is a text written by two of our colleagues, Drs. W.F. Epling and W.D. Pierce (and co-authored with Dr. P.J.V. Beaumont) titled "Solving the Anorexia Puzzle: A Scientific Approach" (1992, 2nd ed., Hogrefe & Huber Publishers). Using an empirical, physiological and social psychological framework, they have proposed and tested a foraging- and exercise-based theory that can assist practitioners in better understanding the clinical presentation of anorexic symptomatology akin to that which Dr. Guisinger observed.
JENNIFER A. BOISVERT
W. ANDREW HARRELL, PHD
University of Alberta Center for Experimental Sociology
WE WERE APPRECIATIVE OF the articles on behavioral genetics in the April 2004 Monitor. There was a clear recognition that behavior and genetics work together in the latest research. Perhaps now we may begin a thoughtful discussion around the environmental influences during pregnancy and birth, which has been noticeably absent in twin study articles to date.
As educators and therapists who work with psychological issues originating in the earliest stages of human development, we would say that many personality and behavioral traits found in children and adults have more to do with the intrauterine environment than genetic determinism.
Now that we have visual access to the womb, it is even more difficult to argue that heredity is the sole, or even primary, influencing factor in behavior. With intrauterine photography and 4-D sonography, we see remarkable activity where fetuses are moving and jumping, sleeping and waking, sucking their thumbs, and, in the case of twins, touching and playing with each other. These films are rapidly changing lay and professionals' perspectives alike on this formative time. The pioneering research of Alessandra Pionetllie ("Twins: From Fetus to Child," Routledge, 2002) is particularly compelling work in support of this premise: She documents how activities of twins in the womb continue into early childhood.
In short, genetics, albeit a critical factor in understanding human behavior, clearly needs to leave room for a further paradigm shift that includes the first nine months and birth events if understanding the origin of behaviors is the goal.
BOBBI JO LYMAN, PHD
MARTI GLENN, PHD
Santa Barbara Graduate Institute
Psychology in the schools
IT IS GRATIFYING TO READ that psychologists are working along side of educators "to improve teacher quality in K-12 schools" ("Improving teacher quality," April Monitor). And yet, integration of the subject matter of psychology per se into the K-12 curricula at presecondary grades is missing.
Having taught psychology at the college level for 36 years, I was frustrated often by the realization that college students could have benefited personally by having an initial understanding of learning theory or developmental, physiological, perception or abnormal psychology at the presecondary level. Time and again students would say, "I wish I had known about that information when I was in elementary school, middle school, etc. I would have made much better decisions!"
The argument that even fifth-grade students, for example, are not "ready" to assimilate psychological information needs to be revisited. Today's elementary school students are taught complex material in biology, math, chemistry, physics, etc., in a way that is adjusted appropriately to their grade level. Why not teach similarly the science of behavior? Currently, psychology as such may not be offered until high school (if at all) for the first time. And if psychology is taught in high school, it is offered typically as an elective course.
The writing of presecondary textbooks containing psychological information would challenge psychologists to present age-appropriate material and to coordinate this integration with writers in the field of education. The rewards for these efforts would be enormous to parents and their children.
WILLIAM VITULLI, PHD
University of South Alabama