Mom’s fatigue influences child’s development, researchers say

East Carolina University researcher Dr. Carmel White has found that chronic fatigue in mothers may lead to poor outcomes in their children.

White is a professor in the Department of Child Development and Family Relations in the College of Human Ecology. With Kathleen King of Seattle Pacific University, she examined how maternal fatigue and depression influenced children’s behavior for healthy mothers and mothers with chronic diseases.

White

The researchers surveyed 57 mothers with multiple sclerosis, 36 mothers with rheumatoid arthritis and 14 well mothers. Both MS and RA have high rates of fatigue and are diagnosed more frequently in women of childbearing age.

White said that a great deal of research exists tying maternal depression to serious problems for the child. “But we know very little about the impact of fatigue,” she said, “which has characteristics similar to depression, such as irritabilty and unresponsiveness.”

White and King studied the relationships between depression, fatigue and negative child outcomes, which they categorized as internalizing problems (children who appear sad, anxious or withdrawn) and externalizing problems (children who are aggressive or act out). They found that fatigue was as important as depression in predicting poor child outcomes.

“Effective parenting means being supportive and sensitive to a child’s needs,” White said. “When mothers are very tired over a period of time, their ability to meet the child’s needs are diminished. This can lead to either internalizing or externalizing problems for the child.”

White said, “There is not enough research on the role of fatigue in parenting, but we suspect it plays a similar role as depression for many mothers and their children.”

Because depression and fatigue are commonly reported by women with MS and RA, the researchers expected that the mothers with these chronic diseases would report greater behavioral problems with their young children. White and King were surprised to find the association between maternal fatigue and poor child outcomes was highest for the well mothers.

“We’re not sure why well mothers who are chronically fatigued reported having more struggles with their young children than did mothers with a chronic illness,” White said, “but we can speculate that well mothers may not get the same level of support from spouses and other family members as chronically ill mothers.

More research on fatigue and parenting is needed, White said, but mothers who experience persistent fatique should look for ways to reduce their fatigue levels. “This would allow for a better outcome for both mothers and their children,” she said.

White and King’s article, “Is Maternal Fatigue Mediating the Relationship Between Maternal Depression and Child Outcomes?” is available online at http://www.springerlink.com/content/0187w0582k481036/.

For additional information, contact Dr. Carmel Parker White at whitec@ecu.edu.

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Escott-Stump meets Michelle Obama at Virginia event

Sylvia Escott-Stump, director of ECU’s dietetic internship program, met First Lady Michelle Obama as the First Lady announced new USDA regulations for school lunches for American children.


East Carolina University dietetic internship program director Sylvia Escott-Stump met First Lady Michelle Obama Jan. 29 at an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics event in Fairfax County, Va.

Escott-Stump is president of the Academy, formerly known as the American Dietetic Association.

The First Lady and Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced new USDA regulations for healthy school lunches for American children at the event, held at Parklawn Elementary School.

Escott-Stump said, “Given the realities of federal, state and local budgets, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is committed to leading the creative collaborations that will be needed to implement changes in school food programs.”

“Children deserve our best efforts to provide them with good nutrition, and school nutrition directors across the country – many of whom are registered dietitians and Academy members – are already serving healthy, delicious meals to our children.

“The meal standards announced today will support their ongoing efforts,” Escott-Stump said.

New meal requirements include:

  • Doubling the daily requirement for fruit and vegetables
  • Increasing the offerings of whole grain-rich foods.
  • Reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.
  • Limiting calories based on the age of children to ensure they receive proper portions of food.
  • Allowing only no-fat or low-fat dairy products.

The nutrition standards will be phased in over three years.

President Barack Obama sought the changes because a third of U.S. children are overweight or obese, contributing to $3 billion in annual medical costs, according to the White House administration.

Costs will be offset in part by a reimbursement increase of 6 cents per meal — the first such increase in 30 years, said Kevin Concannon, the U.S. agriculture undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services. Higher costs for a la carte items sold in cafeterias also will boost school revenue, he said.

ECU offers a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nutrition science. For more information, visit the Department of Nutrition Science in the College of Human Ecology at www.ecu.edu/nutr.  Learn more about the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at www.eatright.org. Learn more about the First Lady’s announcement of new USDA regulations for healthier school lunches at http://www.kansascity.com/2012/01/25/3392116/school-lunches-get-an-update.html.

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Research vessel named for ECU professor emeritus Stanley Riggs

Geology professor emeritus Stanley R. Riggs talks about the history of coastal research at ECU and the school’s new research vessel named for him, the R/V Stanley R. Riggs. The twin-engine boat is a 34-foot Munson PackCat that includes a bow ramp for beach landings and can carry more than 10 people. When not in use, the R/V Riggs is docked near the N.C. Estuarium in Washington. (Video by Cliff Hollis)

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College of Business faculty publish articles

Faculty in the College of Business have published the following articles:

  • By Denise E Dickins (Accounting), “Do audit committee members care about audit engagement partner rotation?” in Today’s CPA, and
  • By Management faculty Shanan Gibson, Bill McDowell and Michael Harris, “The Impact of Strategic Orientation and Ethnicity on Small Business Performance” in the Journal of Business Diversity.

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ECU professor collaborates on research to predict sea-level rise, flooding from hurricanes

East Carolina University researcher Dr. Reide Corbett will join a team of colleagues studying sea-level rise and flooding from hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, thanks to a 3-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Corbett

Corbett is a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and a research scientist in ECU’s Institute for Coastal Science and Policy. He will work closely with the project’s lead investigator, Dr. Benjamin Horton, associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Coastal North Carolina may see significant changes in the future due to rising seas and continued tropical cyclone activity,” Corbett said.

“To effectively adapt to a changing coast, we need to better understand the relationship between climate and sea level variability,” he said. “That is one of the main objectives of this study – using the past as a key to the future.”

The project draws upon research Horton, Corbett and other collaborators from ECU, Penn State, The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Finland’s Aalto University School of Engineering and Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research have published during the last several years. The culmination of this work produced a landmark study that resulted in the first reconstruction of sea-level rise in North Carolina over the past 2000 years.

“The foundation of current models for sea-level projections is data from the 20th century, but we’ve started to be able to push further back in time,” Horton said. “This allows us to have a better understanding of the past relationship between climate and sea level and to make better predictions about the future.”

The team will combine sea-level rise scenarios with state-of-the-science hurricane and storm surge modeling at six study sites from Florida to Massachusetts. This will enable them to map coastal flooding for the current climate and the best- and worst-case climate scenarios of the 21st century. These scenarios will be integrated into strategic policy documents to make technical results more accessible for adaptive coastal decision-making.

This spring, the researchers will begin to meet with coastal managers to get input about how such sea-level and flooding projections might best be put to use. In the wake of Hurricane Irene, Corbett said he believes that the public is more aware of the hazards along the coast and is likely interested in future flooding scenarios.

“It’s important that we present our scientific results and products to local communities,” Corbett said. “We will be providing information and products that will aid in future planning.”

For additional information, contact Corbett at 252-328-1367 or corbettd@ecu.edu.

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