How do children respond to a mother’s voice?

fascinated baby watches mother talking on phone

© 2021 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved A mother’s voice has special power. It can provide comfort — and improve outcomes — for babies hospitalized in the NICU. It can shape the way infants process language in the brain. And it can help children cope with pain and stress. What happens when a baby Read More »

Evidence that spanking alters the brain

toddler in profile, eyes closed, with an his brain superimposed over his head

© 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 »

Parenting stress: 12 evidence-based tips for making life better

© 2016 – 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Parenting stress puts a strain on the whole family — sapping patience, damaging relationships, eroding well-being.  What can we do about it? Here are some suggestions inspired by the latest research.  1. Need social support? Reach out — even if it’s just a phone call Read More »

Parenting stress: What causes it, and how does it change us?

Woman holding her head - eyes closed - stressed. By David Garrison - pexels

© 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Parenting stress damages your well-being, and it may alter the course of your child’s development. How does stress affect parenting, and what can we do about it? What is “parenting stress?”  What do psychologists mean by the term? According to psychologists, parenting stress is the distress you Read More »

Infant crying, fussing, and colic: A thinking parent’s guide

© 2009 – 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Are you coping with infant crying, fussing, or colic? Babies everywhere cry, especially during the first 3 months after birth. Even chimpanzees follow this pattern (Bard 2004). Like it or not, crying is a universal mode of communication for our species. But that doesn’t mean we’re Read More »

Stress in babies: How to keep babies calm, happy, and emotionally healthy

closeup, black and white father kissing a smiling baby - by Kathy Tegtmeyer / flickr (creative commons)

© 2015 – 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Why should we care about stress in babies? Nobody wants a stressed-out baby. The stress is contagious, making everyone miserable. And when the stress is chronic — a regular feature of everyday life — children face long-term health consequences. If babies are exposed to high levels Read More »

Student-teacher relationships: Why emotional support matters

Kids benefiting from quality student-teacher relationships: Young children surrounding their teacher while she demonstrates something on paper. Photo by Jani Bryson.

© 2013 – 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Supportive student-teacher relationships boost achievement, and protect kids from the effects of stress. But many students don’t get the chance to form such bonds. What can we do to help? Imagine 120 children, six-year-olds seated at computers. As part of an experiment, the kids are taking Read More »

How green spaces benefit mental health

three young children roaming together on a grassy hill - image by ajari / flickr / community commons license ccby2

© 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Studies show that green spaces can have a protective effect on our mental well-being. We’re quicker to recover from stress, and less likely to experience depression. Kids grow up with fewer psychiatric problems. Adults are less likely to commit suicide. But not all green spaces are equal, Read More »

Secure attachment relationships protect kids from toxic stress

Secure attachment relationship - mother kissing infant by DieselDemon

© 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Parents can help children recover from stress by offering physical affection and words of support. But is there more? Maybe secure attachment relationships also help kids develop the ability to self-soothe. What happens when you soothe your baby’s tears? When you make eye contact, engage your baby Read More »

Postpartum depression symptoms: When is it more than the “baby blues?”

black and white mother lying in bed with newborn

© 2018 – 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Postpartum depression symptoms overlap with symptoms of the “baby blues,” the mood swings that mothers experience in the first few days after childbirth.  But when symptoms persist beyond two weeks — or take a more severe turn — it’s time to get screened for depression. Read More »

The sexualization of girls: How the popular culture harms our kids

© 2010-2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved What do psychologists mean by the ” sexualization of girls? “ According to the American Psychological Association, sexualization occurs when “individuals are regarded as sex objects and evaluated in terms of their physical characteristics and sexiness.” That isn’t something that children should ever have to contend with. Read More »