Evidence that spanking alters the brain

© 2021 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved As disciplinary tactics go, spanking is ineffective, and it may be harmful, too. A new study suggests that spanking alters the brain, making kids more reactive to potential threats, and more at risk for developing behavior problems. Over the years, I’ve followed the research on spanking, and Read More »

How to communicate with your teenager: Key signals to send

Families are better off when teenagers communicate openly with their parents. But how do we inspire better communication? An experimental study shows the way: We need to provide kids with crucial signals of active, supportive listening. Not only does it make kids feel better. It also encourages them to confide in us.

Machiavellian kids? Understanding the moral reasoning of bullies

© 2021 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Far from being social oafs, many bullies are confident, popular, and socially-savvy. So what’s missing? Empathy, moral engagement, and a sense of  responsibility towards others. According to an old stereotype, people bully others because they have poor self-esteem and lack basic social skills. They don’t know how Read More »

ADHD in children: What parents need to know about attention and hyperactivity problems

friends talking - two boys in conversation

© 2021 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved The difficulty of identifying ADHD in children Diagnosing ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is intrinsically problematic.    The symptoms—distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity—are consistent with the normal behavior of young children. So when young children are diagnosed, the implication is that they are more distractible, impulsive, or hyperactive than Read More »

Why kids rebel (and what we can to encourage cooperation)

© 2018 – 2021 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Is childhood rebellion inevitable? Not really. Most kids are ready to be cooperative. But they recognize limits to our power: They resist when they perceive us as trying to control their personal lives. So what’s the solution? Be fair-minded. Listen to their requests. Give kids Read More »

Bad role models: What happens when adults lie to children?

kids listening and looking skeptical, by Elaine Sanchez, DOD

© 2018 – 2021 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved What happens when adults lie to children? The evidence suggests that kids become more dishonest with us, and not only that: When we make a practice of telling children lies, kids may be at a higher risk of developing aggressive and antisocial behavior problems. How Read More »

When does peer pressure start? Early. Very early in life.


© 2020 Gwen Dewar, all rights reserved Peer pressure and social conformity starts long before adolescence. When faced with a choice between telling the truth and backing a popular falsehood, even 4-year-old children will buckle. You and three other people are sitting in adjacent booths, and you’ve each got a copy of the same book. Read More »

Not actually angry: Black children and boys more frequently misjudged

© 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Race and gender biases can make us perceive anger where none exists. They also lead many adults to perceive Black children as less “childlike” — less innocent and vulnerable.  How many “behavior problems” are caused by adults getting it wrong? Picture this. You are sitting in a Read More »

Bullying in children: The road to psychopathology?

shadows of to children confronting each other - image by Alex_Linch istock

© 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Bullying in children is linked with long-term problems, and it isn’t only the victims who are affected. Kids who bully are more likely to develop symptoms of “antisocial personality disorder” — a condition colloquially known as “sociopathy” or “psychopathy.” You’ve probably heard that bullying can cause lasting Read More »

Disruptive behavior problems: 12 evidence-based tips for handling aggression, defiance, and acting out

silhouette of two young boys -- one child approaching the other with an aggressive posture - image by JohnD / flickr

© 2016 – 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Psychologists call them “externalizing” behaviors — acts of disruption, aggression, defiance, or anti-social intent. Just about every parent has to cope with them at some point, particularly during the toddler years. Young children are still developing the ability to regulate their emotions and impulses; they Read More »