Social media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing

Royal Society for Public Health | May 2018| #StatusOfMind  Social media and Young people’s mental health and wellbeing

This report from Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) explores the positive and negative impact of social media on young people aged between 16-24, and their mental health and wellbeing. It also includes a league table of five social media platforms which have been ranked in order of their net impact on young people’s health and wellbeing by young people.

mental health young people
Image source:

The RSPH calls for

  1. The introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media
  2. Social media platforms to highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated
  3. NHS England to apply the Information Standard Principles to health information published via social media
  4. Safe social media use to be taught during PSHE education in school
  5.  Social media platforms to identify users who could be suffering from mental health problems by their posts and other data, and discreetly signpost to support
  6. Youth-workers and other professionals who engage with young people to have a digital (including social) media component in their training
  7. More research to be carried out into the effects of social media on young people’s mental health

The report can be downloaded here 


Does a lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep affect parenting?

May 2018 | Sleep better, parent better: Study shows link between maternal sleep and permissive parenting | Science Daily

A US study that looked at maternal sleep and parenting has found that for mothers who fell asleep easily or who slept for long periods their adolescent children reported lower levels of permissive parenting. By contrast, mothers  were not receiving enough sleep, or receiving poor quality sleep, it had an effect on their levels of permissiveness with their adolescents. The researchers studied over 200 mothers and their adolescent children (average age 15). The mothers wore wearable technology that monitored their sleep quality, the young people completed questionnaires about their perception of their mothers’ parenting via Science Daily .


The full news article from Science Daily can be accessed here 


Utilizing a multi‐method design, the present study examined the association between maternal sleep, assessed via actigraphy and self‐reports, and permissive parenting (e.g. lax, inconsistent discipline) during adolescence, as well as the extent to which this association differed by mothers’ race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The sample was comprised of 234 mothers (M age = 41.76 years, SD = 6.25; 67% European‐American, 31% African‐American, 2% other race/ethnicities) and 237 adolescents (113 boys, 124 girls; M age = 15.80 years, SD = 0.80; 66% European‐American, 34% African‐American). Mothers’ sleep duration (actual sleep minutes) and quality (sleep efficiency, latency, long wake episodes) were assessed using actigraphy. Mothers also reported on their sleep problems and adolescents reported on mothers’ permissive parenting behaviours. Results revealed that actigraphy‐based longer sleep duration and shorter sleep latency were associated with lower levels of permissive parenting. Further, mothers’ race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status moderated the association between actigraphy‐based sleep quality (i.e. sleep efficiency, long wake episodes) and permissive parenting. Specifically, a negative association between sleep efficiency and permissive parenting was evident only for African‐American mothers. In addition, a positive association between more frequent night wakings and permissive parenting was evident only for mothers from lower socioeconomic status households. The findings highlight the benefits of longer and higher‐quality sleep for reducing the risk of permissive parenting, especially among ethnic minority mothers and mothers from lower socioeconomic status households.

Full reference:

Tu, K.M. Elmore‐Staton,  L, Buckhalt, J.A., El‐Sheikh, M. | The link between maternal sleep and permissive parenting during late adolescence |  J Sleep Res2018;e12676.

The article has been published in the Journal of Sleep Research
It can be requested by Rotherham NHS staff here


University of Huddersfield researchers: Children with autism do engage in imaginary play

University of Huddersfield | May 2018 | Children with Autism are able to create imaginary friends 

A new study demonstrates that children with Austistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are able to create imaginary friends. This challenges previous research that suggests children with autism are unable to engage in imaginary play (via Science Daily).


The researchers used over 200 questionnaires completed by UK and US parents of children diagnosed with ASD and parents of children with typical development (TD). Although the findings show that children with a diagnosis of ASD were less likely to create an imaginary friend (16.2 per cent) compared to 42 per cent of their TD peers; they were older when they begin engaging in this kind of play, and were also more likely to play with a   “personified object” such as a stuffed toy or doll. The researchers argue that there is no difference in the quality of the play the children engage in.

According to Dr Paige Davis, of the University of Huddersfield and the lead author of the study: “The finding that children diagnosed with ASD even spontaneously create such imaginary companions refutes existing beliefs that they are not imagining in the same way as typically developing children.”

The press release is available from the University of Huddersfield 

The article is published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, it can be requested by Rotherham NHS staff here 

Book dispensing machines increase children’s learning opportunities, according to NYU study

Science Daily | April 2018 | Proximity to books and adult support enhance children’s learning opportunities

A project led by researchers at New York University (NYU) used a vending machine to dispense books in low-income neighbourhoods.  The project was part of a community-wide effort to improve access to books during the summer months, when  children have historically had  less access to books. Focusing  in areas that were “book deserts”,  four low-income areas received vending machines that dispensed free fiction and non-fiction books, with the stock rotating every fortnight to encourage return visits.  Books in the  machines were arranged by age ranges; individuals could review the books, make a selection, and receive a book free of charge (via Science Daily).

The researchers found  that over 64000 books were distributed during the project. The researchers analysed traffic patterns to the vending machines, which revealed that three-fifths used them, but two-fifths did not. Brief interviews immediately following book selection were also used to provide elaboration into the reason for choosing a particular book. These showed that those who used the machines enjoyed reading, and appreciated the opportunity to have books more accessible in the community. Also, parents and grandparents were highly influential in encouraging children to select books. By contrast, those who did not choose a book cited a lack of interest in reading.  Leading the researchers to deduce that the physical proximity of books did not convert non-readers into readers, and environmental changes may not be sufficient to motivate them to enjoy reading.

This study examines a community-wide effort to promote greater access to books through the mechanisms of physical and psychological proximity. It addresses the seasonal summer slide through an innovative book distribution program in neighborhoods identified as book deserts. Four low-income neighborhoods were provided with vending machines used to dispense free children’s books over the summer months. Within a design research framework, the study was designed to capture how, why, and in what ways these machines were used in communities. Results indicated that providing greater access through close physical proximity to books and greater adult support enhanced children’s opportunities to learn.

Full reference:  Neuman, S.B. &  Knapczyk, J. J. | Reaching Families Where They Are: Examining an Innovative Book Distribution Program| Urban Education | Doi:

The full article may be downloaded from Sage 

Children with conduct disorder have brains that are wired differently

Science Daily | April 2018 |Brains of young people with severe behavioral problems are ‘wired differently’

A new study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience could help to explain why young people with conduct disorder struggle to control and regulate their emotions.  Conduct disorder (CD) is characterised by symptoms that can include lying and truancy as well as  physical violence. 

The disorder is under researched and  the research team aimed to understand how the brains of young people with CD differ to others adolescents.  The scientists had previously hypothesized that youths with the disorder may have impaired or dysfunctional amygdala. To further this understanding the team analysed brains of both groups, observing that their amygdala responses  to angry and sad faces  showed  lower amygdala responses than other adolescents (via Science Daily).
Dr Graeme Fairchild, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath said: “This study shows that there may be important differences between youths with high and low levels of psychopathic traits in the way the brain is wired. The findings could have clinical implications, because they suggest that psychological treatments that enhance emotion regulation abilities are likely to be more effective in the youths with Conduct Disorder alone, than in the psychopathic subgroup.”


There is accumulating evidence that youths with antisocial behavior or psychopathic traits show deficits in facial emotion recognition, but little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying these impairments. A number of neuroimaging studies have investigated brain activity during facial emotion processing in youths with Conduct Disorder (CD) and adults with psychopathy, but few of these studies tested for group differences in effective connectivity—i.e. changes in connectivity during emotion processing. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and psycho-physiological interaction methods, we investigated the impact of CD and psychopathic traits on amygdala activity and effective connectivity in 46 male youths with CD and 25 typically-developing controls when processing emotional faces. All participants were aged 16–21 years. Relative to controls, youths with CD showed reduced amygdala activity when processing angry or sad faces relative to neutral faces, but the groups did not significantly differ in amygdala-related effective connectivity. In contrast, psychopathic traits were negatively correlated with amygdala–ventral anterior cingulate cortex connectivity for angry vs neutral faces, but were unrelated to amygdala responses to angry or sad faces. These findings suggest that CD and psychopathic traits have differential effects on amygdala activation and functional interactions between limbic regions during facial emotion processing.Full reference:
Michael P Ewbank, M.P., Passamonti, L.,  Hagan, C.C, Goodyer, I.M., Calder, A.J., Fairchild, G. |Psychopathic traits influence amygdala–anterior cingulate cortex connectivity during facial emotion processing | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2018; DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsy019

The full article can be viewed  at Oxford Academic 


Mental health counselling for young school pupils could deliver a substantial societal return on investment

Pro Bono Economics| April 2018 | Mental health counselling in primary schools could offer a six-fold return on investment, benefiting children’s economic future and creating savings for taxpayers

Early investment in children’s mental health could generate a six-fold return on investment, argues Place2Be a charity that offers mental health services including offering  one-to-one mental health support from counsellors.

The report, by Pro Bono Economics on behalf of Place2Be, uses figures from a study of over 4500 school pupils across 251 primary schools who had received one-to-one support from counsellors during the most recent school year 2016/17.  The figures which have been extrapolated indicate that for every £1 invested in young children’s mental health, the charity could potentially deliver a societal return of £6.20. Which translates to   improved rates of employment and earnings and by reducing rates of school truancy, exclusion, smoking, depression and crime.

Image source:

The report calculates that for every £1 invested (£4.2 million in total), Place2Be’s counselling service has the potential to deliver a societal return of £6.20 (£25.9 million in total) by improving long-term outcomes for each child. This return is achieved through higher rates of employment and earnings and by reducing rates of school truancy, exclusion, smoking, depression and crime.

  • Just under 63% (£3,568) is attributed mainly to a child’s higher lifetime earnings from increased employment and higher wages;
  • Over a third, i.e. 36% (£2,050 per child) represents savings to government arising from increased tax revenue and lower spending on public services (such as health and the criminal justice system).

Full news item from ProBono Economics 

The report can be read at Place2Be

New study finds CBT helps children with ASD to regulate their emotions

Science Daily|Cognitive behavioral therapy can improve emotion regulation in children with autism

A Canadian study that examined the impact of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) found that children assigned to the intervention (CBT) group demonstrated improved emotional regulation, compared to those in the control.  The 68 children who participated in the study each received 10 sessions of CBT intervention, this was intended to improve their emotional regulation and   This study is the first of its kind to demonstrate the benefits of CBT extend beyond treating anxiety (via Science Daily). 



Mental health problems are common among individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and difficulties with emotion regulation processes may underlie these issues. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is considered an efficacious treatment for anxiety in children with ASD. Additional research is needed to examine the efficacy of a transdiagnostic treatment approach, whereby the same treatment can be applied to multiple emotional problems, beyond solely anxiety. The purpose of the present study was to examine the efficacy of a manualized and individually delivered 10‐session, transdiagnostic CBT intervention, aimed at improving emotion regulation and mental health difficulties in children with ASD.


Sixty‐eight children (M age = 9.75, SD = 1.27) and their parents participated in the study, randomly allocated to either a treatment immediate (= 35) or waitlist control condition (= 33) (ISRCTN #67079741). Parent‐, child‐, and clinician‐reported measures of emotion regulation and mental health were administered at baseline, postintervention/postwaitlist, and at 10‐week follow‐up.


Children in the treatment immediate condition demonstrated significant improvements on measures of emotion regulation (i.e., emotionality, emotion regulation abilities with social skills) and aspects of psychopathology (i.e., a composite measure of internalizing and externalizing symptoms, adaptive behaviors) compared to those in the waitlist control condition. Treatment gains were maintained at follow‐up.


This study is the first transdiagnostic CBT efficacy trial for children with ASD. Additional investigations are needed to further establish its relative efficacy compared to more traditional models of CBT for children with ASD and other neurodevelopmental conditions.


Full reference: Weiss, J.A., Thomson, K.,   Burnham Riosa, P.,  Albaum, C.,  Chan, V.,   Maughan, A.,  Tablon, P., Black, K. |  A randomized waitlist-controlled trial of cognitive behavior therapy to improve emotion regulation in children with autism |Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry |  2018; DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.12915

Rotherham NHS staff can request the article here  


Science Daily Cognitive behavioral therapy can improve emotion regulation in children with autism