Science and Research Update
 June 2013
In This Issue
Recent Research Findings You Can Use
Featured Articles
Clinical Trials
Quick Links
NAMI New Jersey thanks the NIMH Outreach Partnership Programfor giving us access to the latest research on mental illness to disseminate throughout the state of New Jersey.
NAMI New Jersey will send out regular Science Updateto highlight some of the advances in mental health research through the year.
Every issue will include a "Recent Research You Can Use" articles as well as links to featured articles and clinical trials. 

Please distribute this newsletter widely! 

Recent Research Findings You Can Use
In each newsletter Steven Silverstein, Ph.D. (Executive Director, Behavioral Research and Training Institute UMDNJ-University Behavioral HealthCare Professor of Psychiatry, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School) will have a column detailing the latest in mental health research.  In this edition, Dr. Silverstein responds to a question about whether being raised in a single parent family is associated with greater rates of mental illness.  

Essentially, yes, there is some evidence that being raised in a single-parent home, or a home with a step-parent, is associated with more behavior problems and poorer social adjustment.  However, there is only a little bit of evidence for this.  And, note that the first finding did not cite diagnosable mental illness, but just more problems, and this was at 4 years old.  Other studies are needed for children within a wider age range, and also where psychiatric diagnoses are screened for.  One large and good study found more evidence of drug use in children from single parent families.  Most of the evidence on problems in single parent homes comes from evidence of effects of parental divorce on childrens' mental health.  There is much evidence of greater behavioral problems and more psychiatric diagnoses in children of divorced parents compared to those living with both biological (or adoptive) parents.  This evidence is complicated by several issues though, which I will summarize briefly.

 

It is very important to note that much of the evidence of childrens' mental health problems after a parents' divorce is accounted for by factors other than being now in a single parent home. For example, factors like how much conflict the child was exposed to prior to the divorce, how well the parents get along post-divorce, whether or not the child is allowed to spend time with both parents, the quality of the child's relationships with each parent, whether post-divorce the parent raising the child has to move to a poorer neighborhood, whether the mother (who typically lives with child) has a good support network, whether supportive grandparents are nearby, whether the parents have mental illness (especially maternal depression), how closely the child is monitored for mental health and substance abuse problems after divorce, and even genetic factors related to degree of stress-reactivity etc. all significantly determine how well a child functions.  That is, even though many children living with a divorced parent do experience mental health problems, many do not.  What determines the mental health of the child seems to be more about changes in lifestyle and the level of stress pre- and post-divorce, and even genetics, and not living with just one parent per se.

 

So, to summarize, on average, children in single parent homes, especially where there was a divorce, function more poorly than children from dual parent homes.  However, mental health problems are not inevitable. Other factors are usually more important in determining the mental health of the child.  While the risk for these other factors is higher in divorced families, much can be done to lower the risk or prevent these factors from arising.

 

Anyway, I hope this answers your question,

 

Regards,

 

Steven Silverstein, Ph.D.  

 

Featured Articles
The following articles have been selected by the National Institute of Mental Health and are some of the cutting edge research in mental health.

Scan Predicts Whether Therapy or Meds will Best Lift Depression Biomarker Could Point the Way Past Trial-and-Error Inefficiencies

 

Pre-treatment scans of brain activity predicted whether depressed patients would best achieve remission with an antidepressant medication or psychotherapy, in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

 

Bullying Exerts Psychiatric Effects into Adulthood 

 

Once considered a childhood rite of passage, bullying lingers well into adulthood. Bullies and victims alike are at risk for psychiatric problems such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicide when they become adults, reported a study partially funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that was published in the April issue of JAMA Psychiatry. 

 

Medicaid Study Links Insurance to Reduced Depression and Financial Strain, But No Increase in Health

 

An analysis of two years of data from the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment showed that Medicaid coverage reduced rates of depression and overall financial strain on participating individuals, but did not yield improvements in overall health status. Results of the study, funded in part by National Institute of Aging, appear in the May 2, 2013, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. 

 

Anti-Smoking Medication Shows Promise for Treating Alcohol Dependence; NIH Researchers Seek to Expand Treatment Options

 

A smoking-cessation medication may be a viable option for the treatment of alcohol dependence, according to a study by NIH scientists. The study found that varenicline (marketed under the name Chantix), approved in 2006 to help people stop smoking, significantly reduced alcohol consumption and craving among people who are alcohol-dependent. The findings were published online in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Clinical Trials

NAMI NJ along with NIMH encourages people to participate in clinical trials to advance mental health care and knowledge
  
 









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