Posts tagged with "University of Utah"

Step-parents: Not so wicked after all?

May 7, 2021

Although fairy tales featuring wicked stepmothers are an integral part of popular culture, the effects of blending children with their new stepfamilies may not be as grim as once thought, Eureka Alert reports.

In fact, new research demonstrates that stepchildren are not at a disadvantage compared to their peers from single-parent households—and actually experience better outcomes than their half-siblings.  Wicked

And that’s very good news for the more than 113 million Americans who are part of a step-relationship.

Led by East Carolina University anthropologist Ryan Schacht and researchers from the University of Utah, the study has been published in the May edition of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

The study challenges the “Cinderella effect” theory—which contends that conflict within stepfamilies over physical, financial, and emotional resources leads to higher mortality risks for stepchildren, and is a main factor in higher rates of abuse and neglect. The phenomenon suggests that step-parents play a major role in this abuse, hoarding resources for their biological children and leading to negative outcomes for stepchildren.

Schacht proposes that previous studies have placed blame for the negative outcomes associated with parental loss on step-parents yet have done so through an an “apples-to-oranges comparison.” Specifically, they compare of the long-term outcomes of children who have suffered trauma like parental loss versus children from stable households. When the team compared stepchild outcomes more appropriately among those children who too have experienced the economic and emotional hardships associated with parental loss, they found no difference. Specifically, the introduction of step-parenents did not increase stepchild mortality.

“The idea of a step-parent, especially the stepmother, as being an agent of evil seems to be a story as old as time,” Schacht said. “It’s easy to sell the Cinderella effect’s result because we’ve been told these stories about the problems that stepfamilies experience for hundreds of years.

“We’re not denying that some stepchildren suffer,” he said. “However, if we truly believe it is the step-parent that is the source of negative outcomes for a stepchild, then we need to compare similar environments and experiences. A child that hasn’t lost a parent through death or divorce hasn’t experienced the same trauma that a stepchild has; comparing those two experiences and blaming the step-parent for diverging outcomes isn’t a fair comparison.”

The study compared the mortality of stepchildren whose parents remarried after the death of a spouse to children whose parents did not remarry and found three key findings:

  • Parental mortality has a negative effect on children under 18 years old, especially for infants losing a mother;
  • Children whose parents remarried after the loss of a spouse did not suffer a mortality rate any greater than children whose parents did not remarry; and
  • Stepchildren received a protective effect when a half-sibling was introduced to their new family.

“The metrics of what makes a family successful—household stability, relationship stability, and economic stability—are achieved by step-parents investing in their stepchildren to make that a reality. Coming in with an antagonistic approach doesn’t make sense if step-parents want their relationship to succeed.”

The research team analyzed a data set of more than 400,000 children from Utah from 1847-1940. Schacht said the time period provided an opportunity to analyze stepchild mortality rates in families during a natural fertility period where families were larger in size and most stepfamilies were formed due to the death of a parent.

The study adds that children who have suffered parental loss have more in common with their peers from single-parent households, facing many of the same educational, economic and health care disparities.

Schacht hopes the study will shed a light on public policy funding for interventions for families that have suffered parental loss.

Research contact: @EurekaAlert

‘Smart cars’ are too ‘demanding and confusing’ for older drivers

August 2, 2019

“It was a comedy of errors,” said a 71-year-old participant in a recent study conducted by the University of Utah on behalf of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety—during which, among other things, he was asked to program car’s infotainment system.

The new AAA car safety study suggests that tech-laden “smart” cars are too distracting, which can undermine efforts to keep roadways safe, especially when those getting behind the wheel are aged 55 and over, NBC News reports.

Indeed, the researchers say that all of the bells and whistles on new cars may be perceived as demanding and confusing by older drivers.

“The technology we’re putting in cars today [is] unsafe for all of us to use, especially for older adults,” said Jake Nelson, AAA Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research. “Our advice to consumers is that just because technology is built into your car doesn’t mean that it’s safe to do those things.”

In the study, drivers were divided into two groups— a younger group (ages 21 to 36) and an older group (ages 55 to 75). Each participant was asked to drive a 2018 car equipped with a number of “smart” features, including navigation screens and voice activation controls.

Among the tasks drivers were asked to complete: sending a text message, programming music, programming a navigation system, and placing a call.

Overall, the study found, older drivers experienced higher levels of cognitive and visual demand, compared to younger drivers. These differences were even more pronounced for older drivers when completing any in-vehicle information system task, or IVIS. But the study found that older and younger drivers both found some tech features challenging and time-consuming.

“Given the demands associated with IVIS tasks,” the study concluded, “drivers of all ages should use these infotainment technologies only for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving-related purposes.”

Paul Brown, a 71-year-old retired attorney who resides in Salt Lake City, is one of the drivers who took part in the study. “I don’t need something that is going to do everything for me and distract me while I’m driving,” Brown said. “Quite frankly, when I was driving, I found myself feeling as if I was driving dangerously because of all of those distractions.”

Brown said he found the large display screen situated to the right of the steering wheel in the cars he drove for the study especially distracting.

“If I was driving that kind of car, I would probably put a napkin or blanket or something over that screen so that I could concentrate on driving the car,” Brown said, adding that he prefers older, simpler cars.

Nelson said that making cars more user-friendly for older drivers ultimately makes cars safer for everyone. “If we can design a system to make it so that utilizing a car’s features is no more distracting than tuning your radio, if we can achieve that for the older adult driver, we can all benefit from that,” Nelson said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

78% of Utahns want Senator Orrin Hatch to retire

November 18, 2017

Utahns are split over whether they approve of seven-term Republican Senator Orrin Hatch’s performance in office, but a large majority are sure they don’t want him to run for office again, according to a new poll by The Salt Lake Tribune and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.

Nearly 80% of registered voters statewide polled recently said Hatch—who is currently Senate Finance Committee Chairman and who also  serves as the Senate’s president pro tempore —shouldn’t seek re-election, with 57% saying he should “definitely not” run. Those numbers mirror results from a January poll that found 78% of Utahns think the senator should retire at end of his term.

“Even though he’s in a powerful … the voters are indicating they’re ready for a change,” said Tim Chambless, associated professor of Political Science at the university, adding, “If I were the campaign manager for Senator Hatch, I’d be very concerned.”

Hatch made news last week when he intervened to say that the President Trump “Cut, Cut, Cut” tax bill would not only benefit the rich. “I really resent anyone saying that I’m just doing this for the rich,” Hatch said, disgust evident in his voice, according to a report in Red State. “Gimme a break. I think you guys overplay that all the time and it gets old.”

Hatch has said he intends to run for another six-year term, although he won’t officially make the call until later this year. He had said during his last run in 2012 that the next run would be his final bid, but now says President Donald Trump, fellow senators and business leaders are urging him to continue on.

Research contact: tburr@sltrib.com