Monthly Archives: January 2012

Facebook might not benefit those with low self-esteem

Heather Rudow January 31, 2012

(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

Despite the fact that some studies are reporting that blogging could be a useful tool for teens to overcome feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem and to help them better connect with friends, new research indicates that for people with low self-esteem, spending time on Facebook can actually be counterproductive in helping them feel better.

“We had this idea that Facebook could be a really fantastic place for people to strengthen their relationships,” said co-author Amanda Forest.

In one study, the researchers asked students for their feelings about Facebook and found that participants who had low self-esteem “were more likely to think that Facebook provided an opportunity to connect with other people and to perceive it as a safe place that reduces the risk of awkward social situations.”

However, in another study, the researchers looked into what students actually wrote on Facebook, which revealed something else:

“They asked the students for their last 10 status updates, sentences like, ‘[Name] is lucky to have such terrific friends and is looking forward to a great day tomorrow!’ and ‘[Name] is upset b/c her phone got stolen :@.’ These are visible to their Facebook friends, the people in their network. Each set of status updates was rated for how positive or negative it was. For each set of statements, a coder — an undergraduate Facebook user — rated how much they liked the person who wrote them. People with low self-esteem were more negative than people with high self-esteem — and the coders liked them less. The coders were strangers, but that’s realistic, Forest said.”

The researchers also found that when people with low self-esteem post positive Facebook updates, they get more responses from their Facebook friends than when they post more negative ones. The opposite is the case for people with high self-esteem who post negative updates, however; possibly because negative updates are so infrequent.

“If you’re talking to somebody in person and you say something, you might get some indication that they don’t like it, that they’re sick of hearing your negativity,” Forest said. “On Facebook, you don’t see most of the reactions.”

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Divorcing at a young age negatively impacts health, study finds

Heather Rudow

(Photo:Flickr/ orionpozo)

The rising divorce rate in America may be a cause for concern — estimates indicate that anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of all marriages will eventually end in divorce — but a Michigan State University study found that those who should be most worried are younger divorcing couples. The results revealed that divorcing earlier in life is more detrimental to a person’s health.

The findings suggest that older couples have better developed the coping skills necessary to handle the emotional stress of a divorce.

“It’s clear to me that we need more social and family support for the younger divorced groups,” said researcher Hui Liu. “This could include divorce counseling to help people handle the stress or offering marital therapy or prevention programs to maintain marital satisfaction.”

The study consisted of 1,282 participants, who reported their own health for a long-term survey called Americans’ Changing Lives. Liu “measured the gap in health status between those who remained married during the 15-year study period and those who transitioned from marriage to divorce, at certain ages and among different birth cohorts, or generations.”

The data revealed that the gap was wider at younger ages:

“For example, among people born in the 1950s, those who got divorced between the ages of 35 and 41 reported more health problems in relation to their continuously married counterparts than those who got divorced in the 44 to 50 age range. From a generational perspective, the negative health impact was stronger for baby boomers than it was for older generations — a finding that surprised Liu. … Liu said this may be because the pressure to marry and stay married was stronger for older generations, and so those who did divorce may have been among the most unhappily married — and thus felt a certain degree of relief when they did divorce. Overall, the study found that those who transition from marriage to divorce experience a more rapid health decline than those who remain married. However, those who remained divorced during the entire study period showed no difference than those who remained married.”

Lui said of the findings, “I would have expected divorce to carry less stress for the younger generation, since divorce is more prevalent for them.”

She concludes, “This suggests it is not the status of being married or divorced, per se, that affects health but instead is the process of transitioning from marriage to divorce that is stressful and hurts health.”

Source: Michigan State University

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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‘Thinking in words’ helps those with autism

Heather Rudow January 30, 2012


Some of the struggles of children living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are the social and communication impairments that will affect them for the rest of their lives. But a British study found that teaching children with autism to utilize inner speech and talk things through in their heads could help them live more independently later in life.

“Most people will ‘think in words’ when trying to solve problems, which helps with planning or particularly complicated tasks,” said lead author David Williams. “Young, typically developing children tend to talk out loud to guide themselves when they face challenging tasks. However, only from about the age of 7 do they talk to themselves in their head and, thus, think in words for problem-solving. How good people are at this skill is in part determined by their communication experiences as a young child.”

The Durham University researchers found that not thinking in words “is strongly linked to the extent of someone’s communication impairments, which are rooted in early childhood.” The results suggested that children with ASD “could, for example, benefit from verbal learning of their daily schedule at school rather than using visual timetables as is currently a common approach.”

The study consisted of high-functioning adults with ASD and 16 normally developing adults who had to complete a task involving moving disks on multicolored pegs in as few moves as possible:

“This type of complex planning task is helped by ‘talking to yourself in your head.’ The participants did the task under normal conditions as well as under an ‘articulatory suppression’ condition whereby they had to repeat out loud a certain word throughout the task — in this case, either the word ‘Tuesday’ or ‘Thursday.’  If someone uses inner speech to help them plan, articulatory suppression prevents them from doing so and will detrimentally affect their planning performance, whereas it will have little impact on the planning performance of someone who doesn’t use inner speech. The results showed that whilst almost 90 percent of normally developing adults did significantly worse on the Tower of London task when asked to repeat the word, only a third of people with autism were in any way negatively affected by articulatory suppression during the task. This suggests that, unlike neurotypical adults, participants with autism do not normally use inner speech to help themselves plan.”

By teaching children with autism to talk things through in their head, the researchers suggest, their chances of an independent, flexible life could increase.

Adds Williams, “These results show that inner speech has its roots in interpersonal communication with others early in life, and it demonstrates that people who are poor at communicating with others will generally be poor at communicating with themselves. It also shows that there is a critical distinction between being able to express yourself verbally and actually using silent language for problem-solving.  For example, the participants with ASD in our study were verbally able, yet did not use inner speech to support their planning.”

Source: Durham University

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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School-based family interventions key to reducing problem behavior in adolescents

Heather Rudow


Middle school is an important time in a child’s life, and without the proper guidance and a positive environment, that transition into adolescence can lead down a path of bad decisions. But according to new research released online in the Journal of Adolescent Health, any problem behavior can be reduced when parents participate in school-based family interventions.

As Health Behavior News Service reports, the researchers split 593 seventh and eighth graders and their families into two groups: a control group where participants simply went to school as usual, and another group where children and families participated in an intervention called Family Check-Up (FCU), which provided feedback and skill training for parents.

“We hypothesized that we would find significant intervention effects on all four outcomes — family conflict, parental monitoring, antisocial behavior and alcohol use,” said Mark J. Van Ryzin, lead author of the study. “We were pleased that these hypotheses were confirmed.”

He noted that one of FCU’s benefits is its short run-time. “The average participating family only received about four and half hours of intervention time,” Van Ryzin said.

Garry Sigman, director of adolescent medicine at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, said one of the positives of FCU is that it is different from other types of interventions. “Most adolescents with behavioral problems see professionals after they are in trouble, instead of beforehand, which is why this program is unique; there are few preventive programs like it,” he said. “It requires either a school district willing to incur the time and financial costs of trained professionals or collaboration between schools and mental health professionals. In either case, most districts do not have funds or interest in this type of endeavor.”

Adds Van Ryzin, “If support and services like the Family Check-Up are available, it can help implement reasonable strategies for change. The key is to involve the whole family in the process, not just the adolescent.”

Source: Health Behavior News Service

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Military could make men more disagreeable, study suggests

Heather Rudow January 27, 2012

(Photo:Flickr/US Army Africa)

The mental health changes that can occur when a soldier comes back from war have been well-documented by this point, but a new study reveals that active service can also alter male veterans’ personalities.

The researchers found that before setting off for duty, those who served in the military typically worried less than those in civilian service. They were also more apt to disagree.

Study author Joshua J. Jackson described them as  “less warm and cooperative interpersonally.”

Participants were given personality tests two years later, once their tours in military or civilian service were complete:

“…[M]en who chose to go into the military, while they were more agreeable two years later than they’d been before, were less agreeable than their peers who didn’t do military service. Four years later, after many of the men had gone on to university or into the workforce, they were still less agreeable if they’d spent nine months in the military.”

Jackson says of the results: “I cannot say if it’s good or bad, but it shows that these individuals — who, by and large, did not face any combat — had experiences in basic training that likely shaped the way they approach the world. The changes in personality were small, but over time, they could have important ramifications for the men’s lives.”

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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