Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why children do best with strict parents

British findings

Children are more likely to grow into well-adjusted adults if their parents are firm disciplinarians, academics claimed yesterday. Traditional 'authoritative' parenting, combining high expectations of behaviour with warmth and sensitivity, leads to more 'competent' children. It is particularly important for girls, who can suffer from a lack of confidence and may turn to drugs if care is merely adequate, said researchers from London's Institute of Education, a body widely viewed as Left-wing.

The findings, from a Government-funded study into parenting qualities, raise questions about whether parents leading hectic lifestyles need only be 'good enough'. 'Contrary to the notions of "good enough" parenting, a wealth of research indicates that better parenting leads to better-adjusted, more competent children,' the report said. 'The notion of "good enough" parenting may seem ideal in today's hectic world, yet the realityis that "good enough" parents will most likely produce "good enough" children at best. 'Considering this, we need to provide support to parents to be more than just "good enough" to ensure that children are not at risk.'

The best parenting was characterised by high expectations that children would act with the maturity befitting their age. Supervision and discipline was also key, as was responsiveness to children's needs. 'Multiple studies have documented that children who have authoritative parents - that is, both firm disciplinarians and warm, receptive caregivers - are more competent than their peers at developmental periods, including pre-school, school age and adolescence,' said the report.

It drew from studies which had shown that girls whose parents were 'mediocre' were more likely to experience 'significantly more internalising problems such as low self-esteem or the use of illicit drugs'.

Principal author Dr Leslie Gutman is research director of the Institute's Centre for Research On The Wider Benefits of Learning.

The findings, which will fuel parental angst over the best way of bringing up children, were handed to Children's Minister Beverley Hughes yesterday. The conclusions, based on a review of studies on parenting, were reinforced by the centre's own study. This involved observing more than 1,000 mothers reading to their children at age one, and again at five. It found that mothers who breast-fed, had strong mental health and well-developed social networks were more likely to score highly on the task. These mothers were also more likely to show warmth towards their children, and communicate effectively with them.

'We would therefore recommend that maternal mental health, breastfeeding and social networks form the focus of intervention efforts to boost parenting capabilities,' the report added. 'Both who you are and what you do are important in terms of parenting - personal characteristics such as interpersonal sensitivity and education and behaviours such as breastfeeding are significant predictors.'

The claims are the latest salvo in the fiery debate over child-rearing. The Good Childhood Inquiry recently claimed a culture of 'excessive individualism' among adults was to blame for many of children's problems. It said 30 per cent of adults in the UK disagreed with the statement that 'parents' duty is to do their best for their children even at the expense of their own well-being'.


More tedious BBC political correctness -- at the expense of historical accuracy

Friar Tuck has been viewed for centuries as a roly-poly, comic addition to Robin of Sherwood's band of merry men. But in the latest BBC series of Robin Hood, which begins tonight, he has been reinvented as a black martial arts expert, to the fury of historians. David Harewood, the new Friar Tuck, who starred in the BBC thriller Criminal Justice, admitted that this reincarnation of the character had seemed ridiculous to him at first. “I actually laughed,” he said.

Historians are less amused about the casting of Friar Tuck, who is usually played by short, fat, balding white men. There had been rumours that Matt Lucas, the star of Little Britain, would get the role. Helen Phillips, Professor of English at Cardiff University and an expert in medieval literature, said: “Sub-Saharan Africans wouldn't have been converted by that point, they would have had other religions. North Africans would have mostly been Muslims. “Also, friars came from upper-class families, as did monks. The kind of families from which friars were drawn wouldn't have been in any sense African.”

Harewood, who was the first black actor to play Othello at the National Theatre, said that he had been persuaded of the merits of the radical interpretation of the character. “They sent me the character breakdown and it was very different from what I expected. It was a welcome change and something I really felt was going to be exciting,” he said. “Funnily enough, when I first saw Robin Hood when it started three years ago, I thought they'd missed a trick and that they should have had a black character in it. It turns out that I am the black character, so I think it adds a modern dimension to it, as well. I think viewers will really take to it: at least I hope they will.”

In the first episode of the new series, at 6.50pm on BBC One, Tuck has abandoned his mission to the Holy Land and returns to England with the hope of resurrecting the legend of Robin Hood. However, he finds the country a different place. Harewood said: “He wants England to be a place of hope but he comes back to find that the people are slightly broken, much like they are now with the credit crunch. “The people need a hero, and that's what Tuck very much wants: to stand behind a symbol of good.”

But viewers will at first be led to believe that the friar is a tricksy, brooding character with more on his mind than simply helping the battle against the Sheriff of Nottingham. “If he did have an ulterior motive, I think it would be to make the country a republic,” Harewood said. “He's not necessarily in love with the country at all. He's very much for the people, by the people, and, if it was up to him, he'd get rid of the monarchy and make it a republic. He wants the people to govern and the people to be happy.

“Tuck is very much his own person. Many times he will go against Robin, argue with Robin and talk Robin into doing things he doesn't want to do. I think he's going to be a challenge to the whole group.”

The actor underwent gruelling fighting lessons for the role, in line with historic interpretations of Friar Tuck as being proficient with “clubbes and staves”. He said: “My stunt double was a kind of a capoeira [a Brazilian combination of martial arts and dance] champion, and there's quite a lot of martial arts that my character does later on in the series, which was really, really fun to do and very physical.”


NHS bosses award themselves inflation-busting 7.5pc rises (but nurses get just 1.9pc)

The socialist version of Wall St.?

Top NHS managers awarded themselves inflation-busting pay rises last year, as private sector staff faced a pay freeze. Average pay for trust chief executives soared by 7.5 per cent in just one year to £142,450, while nurses are having to make do with just 1.9 per cent. And this was despite guidance from the Department of Health that raises for senior managers should be no higher than 1.3 per cent.

The best-paid hospital boss is on £230,000 - enough to pay for more than ten nurses, while two saw their pay rise by more than 30 per cent. Since Labour came to power, Health Service chief executive pay has almost doubled (up 98 per cent).

The shocking details of pay hikes given to senior bureaucrats in the NHS between 2007 and 2008 comes a day after it was revealed that the number of managers has soared quicker than the number of nurses. There are now 39,900 managers in the NHS - up 9.4 per cent in one year. But there are 6,000 fewer GPs and 15,00 fewer midwives than managers. Meanwhile the number of health visitors and nursing assistants also fell.

Michael Summers, of the Patients Association, said: 'The news keeps getting worse. Yesterday we found out there are an ever increasing number of managers and today we find out their pay is climbing. The NHS needs pay increases for nurses, not managers.'

Conservative health spokesman Stephen O'Brien said: 'Why is it that NHS bosses think it is acceptable to award themselves generous perks and inflation-busting pay rises while hard-working nurses are being forced to take what is effectively a pay cut?' 'Labour needs to think again whether now is really an appropriate time for them to be playing fast and loose with taxpayers' money.'

LibDem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'Those at the top who have benefited in the past have got to lead from the front. There has to be a sharing of the pain.'

The salaries were revealed in the NHS Boardroom Pay report from research group Incomes Data Services. Average chief executive pay is £142,450, up from £132,500 the year before and £72,000 in 1997. Elite foundation trust chief executives earn even more - £157,000 on average. Other directors on NHS trust boards have seen their pay go up by 6.4 per cent. Finance directors earned £102,850 on average, while medical directors were on £165,000.

The report also found that pay increases in England were much higher than in Scotland or Wales. The highest paid chief executive was Robert Naylor at University College Hospital trust in London. His pay soared to £230,000 - a rise of 30 per cent in a year. Other high earners were the chief executives of the Heart of England trust's Birmingham hospital and Newcastle upon Tyne hospital, on £227,500 and £222,500 respectively. The biggest rise was seen at the Airedale trust in West Yorkshire, where chief executive Adam Cairns' pay soared 33 per cent to £137,000.

Steve Tatton, editor of the report, said: 'The earnings of NHS trust directors are continuing to move ahead at a faster pace than the rest of the economy. 'In the current climate the remuneration of NHS directors, like any top executives working in the public sector, is subject to intense public scrutiny, particularly when unease about the widening gap between senior executives and the rest of the workforce is growing in both the public and private sector.'


Very hot tea and coffee linked to raised oesophagus cancer

This seems entirely reasonable. Note that, unlike most epidemiological studies, the effect found was large: An 800% rise versus the 30% that seems to be the average for the studies I see

You may be gasping for that freshly brewed cup of tea or coffee, but waiting five minutes before drinking it could save your life. Researchers have found that a taste for very hot drinks may be linked to cancer of the oesophagus and that the risk of contracting the disease may increase eightfold as a result of drinking tea hotter than 70C (158F).

The oesophagus is the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach and such cancers kill more than half a million people around the world every year.

In Europe and America it is usually caused by smoking or alcohol, but a study published in the British Medical Journal found that there was a particularly high incidence of the disease in northern Iran, where smoking and alcohol consumption is low. The people of Golestan province do, however, drink large amounts of very hot tea - at least 70C.

Researchers studied the tea-drinking habits of 300 people with the cancer and a group of 571 healthy people from the same area. Compared with drinking warm or lukewarm tea (65C or less), drinking it at 65-69C doubled the risk of oesophageal cancer, while drinking it at 70C or more was associated with an eightfold increased risk.

Drinking tea less than two minutes after pouring, rather than waiting four or five minutes, led to a fivefold increase in the risk. There was no correlation between the amount of tea — after water the most widely consumed drink in the world — and the risk.

In an accompanying editorial, David Whiteman, from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia, said: “We should follow the advice of Mrs Beeton, who prescribes a 5-10 minute interval between making and pouring tea, by which time the tea will be sufficiently flavoursome and unlikely to cause thermal injury.”

Britons may also take comfort from the fact that most of us prefer our tea at between 56 and 60C.


Dodgy British crime statistics again: "Ministers were last night caught up in an embarrassing new row over crime figures. The Ministry of Justice was forced to withdraw a set of already delayed sentencing statistics because of errors. They contained a series of mistakes over how many criminals were being sent to jail, rather than escaping with a fine or community punishment. For some crimes, the figures showed the number being jailed had fallen as low as 10 per cent, when in fact it had remained steady at around 40 per cent."

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