Dr. Shahal Rozenblatt, Clinical Neuropsychologist, New York

MDConsult- How the Environment Changes Youths

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How the Environment Changes Youths
The long-term effects of outside influences on children and adolescents were spotlighted on MD Consult this week.

In one of the first studies of its kind, Growing Up With Media surveyed adolescents about violence in the media and revealed that “nine percent of adolescents participating…report[ed] that they had perpetrated some type of sexual violence in their lifetimes.”

One hundred and eight males and females, age 14 to 21, out of 1,058 participants stated they had forced sexual contact (84), coerced someone into sex (33), attempted rape (43), and/or had completed rape (18).

“Perpetrators of any type of sexual violence were significantly more likely than were nonperpetrators to consume X-rated material via television, music, video games, and the Internet. In particular, they were significantly more likely to view depictions of one person physically hurting another while doing something sexual, said Michele L. Ybarra, Ph.D., of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, San Clemente, Calif., and Kimberly J. Mitchell, Ph.D., of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham.”

Researchers suggest this behavior is due to “frequent consumption of sexual and violent material.”

Growing Up With Media began in 2006, but they did not begin including data on sexual perpetration until 2010. “A total of 49 adolescents – 39 males and 10 females – reported that they attempted or completed rape. In 60% of these episodes, vaginal sex was attempted or completed, and in 48%, oral sex was attempted or completed,” the article stated.

They stress the need to educate children on healthy sexual relationships before the age of 16, as that was the most common age of perpetration. “Approximately three-fourths of the victims were ‘romantic partners’ of the perpetrator, and the remaining one-fourth of victims had some form of a relationship with the perpetrator. This finding is consistent with the literature, which demonstrates that adolescent victims are overwhelmingly more likely to be abused by someone they know than by a stranger.”

The second article noted the “intergenerational consequences of drug and alcohol addiction.” They found that adults had a higher risk of depression if their parents struggled with drug or alcohol addictions that caused problems for the household. Once factors such as age/sex/socioeconomic status as adults were added in, their risk of depression was set at 1.69 greater odds than peers who did not have addiction present with their parents.

“These findings underscore the intergenerational consequences of drug and alcohol addiction and reinforce the need to develop interventions that support healthy childhood development to prevent ongoing patterns of addiction and prevention,” Esme Fuller-Thomson, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the University of Toronto wrote in Psychiatry Research (2013 [doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2013.02.024).

“Moreover, the number of adversities experienced in childhood was independently associated with the increased odds of depression,” Dr. Fuller-Thomson and colleagues reported.

There was no data available on whether or not the parents also suffered from depression.