Trend Lines Blog

Welcome to Child Trends’ blog, Trend Lines, where we share key findings from child and youth research and offer insights to inform  policies and programs.

The Truth About Teens

200166564-001Teenagers … amirite!? They’re rebellious, lazy, awkward, and constantly fighting with their parents…or are they? Misconceptions and stereotypes about teens are everywhere – you wouldn’t be alone if you shared some of these perceptions – but the truth is more complicated (isn’t it always?).

Yes, adolescence is a time of dramatic change for everyone. Hormones are pumping, teens start to question their parents’ authority and explore their identity, and are constantly facing new social situations. As we heard from brain development experts at Child Trends’ annual Kristin Anderson Moore lecture a couple weeks ago, we now know that the development of complex skills like critical thinking, reflective thinking, and considered response is not “open and shut” – it doesn’t stop at the end of childhood, but continues throughout adolescence.

But no matter how full of biological, social, cognitive, and emotional change adolescence may be, the research shows that most teens are doing just fine. Read More

Evaluation, Step by Step: The Case of Raising A Reader

039For years, researchers have noted that most of the interventions communities offer children and families—whether mentoring programs, after-school arts and crafts, midnight basketball, tutoring, or teen centers—have little hard evidence behind them.  With few exceptions, these activities haven’t undergone the kinds of rigorous tests we expect from many other things we rely on—medicines, cars, computers—to do what they’re promoted to do. This makes little sense, both because the appropriate research tools are available, and because children deserve better than a-wing-and-a-prayer. A recent Child Trends research report details the trajectory of a promising, low-cost, early education and parent engagement program, Raising A Reader (RAR), that has built an evidence base and is continuing to use research to refine its model. Read More

Using data can put a laser-like focus on efforts to reduce teen births

teenpregThis blog originally appeared in The Washington Post.

Does geography equal destiny? For many of the District’s teens, it sure appears that way. More than 1 in 3 teenage females living in the District’s poorest neighborhoods will become a mother before age 20, compared with 1 in 10 in other areas of the city, based on recent estimates from Child Trends, a national, nonpartisan research center.

Teen parenthood has been linked to poorer well-being, both for teen mothers and their children. While teen parenthood is a symptom of neighborhood poverty, it may also perpetuate poverty in the most disadvantaged wards of the city.

Read More

Brain Gain: Implications for Programs for Children and Youth

brainThe brain has hit the big time. Between the Obama Administration’s BRAIN Initiative, and the European Union’s Human Brain Project (both ten-year, multi-million-dollar undertakings), we can expect to gain a much more detailed understanding of this organ that distinguishes us most from our closest species-relatives.

As highlighted in the recent Kristin Anderson Moore Lecture presentations at Child Trends, one of the remarkable features of the brain is its plasticity. Read More

Early Childhood Family Education: Celebrating 40 Years of Learning for Minnesota’s Parents and Children

girl and tiny babyOn Friday mornings, a new mom loads her 11-month-old twins into the car and drives them to the old high school in her home town. They are welcomed by two enthusiastic teachers into a classroom full of toys where ten or twelve other parents sit in an approximate circle as their babies either lie on the floor or crawl around exploring the room and people. Hers are already the oldest and most mobile but the other parents don’t seem to mind the boys getting into everything. For an hour and a half, the circle chats and chases babies in between teacher-led songs/activities and mini-lectures on topics in parenting and child development. They have all come there for varying reasons; to meet other parents, to learn how to get their babies to eat/sleep/stop crying, to learn about development, or to let their babies socialize. They are all benefitting from a unique program for parents and children in Minnesota known as Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE).

ECFE started 40 years ago and it is designed to educate parents and children from birth to kindergarten entrance. Read More