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American Psychological Association, July 31-Aug. 4, 2013

Last Updated: August 07, 2013.

The 121st Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association

The annual meeting of the American Psychological Association was held from July 31 to Aug. 4 in Honolulu and attracted more than 10,000 participants from around the world, including psychological scientists, practitioners, and educators. The conference featured the latest advances in psychological knowledge, with presentations focusing on immigration, racism, bullying, eating disorders, clinical practice, social networking, and psychotherapy.

In one study, Nicole Avena, Ph.D., of the University of Florida in Gainesville, and colleagues found that when rats were fed diets high in fat or sugars during pregnancy, it affected the offspring's health and behavior.

The offspring of rats that ate high-fat or high-sugar diets while pregnant weighed more as adults and drank more alcohol, compared to pups of rats that ate regular rodent chow. It was also found that those exposed to high-sugar diets had greater sensitivity to amphetamine exposure.

"More studies are needed to understand how a diet high in sugar and/or fat can affect development in utero," Avena said.

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In another study, Abbey Eisenhower, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and colleagues examined the relationships formed by young children with autism with their teachers during the early years of school and the effect of these relationships on behavior and reading skills.

"We found that for children with autism, high levels of disruptive behavior problems (acting out, aggressive, oppositional, or inattentive behavior) at the start of their preschool, kindergarten, or first grade school year predicted a worsening of student-teacher relationship quality by the end of the school year," said Eisenhower. "This association appeared to be transactional; the quality of the student-teacher relationship also predicted change over time in behavior problems. In other words, children who start school with behavior problems may experience a decline in the quality of relationships with their teachers over the course of the year; meanwhile, children who have close, low-conflict relationships with teachers may have reduced behavior problems over time."

The researchers also found that reading skills among the group were strong overall, falling in the average, age-appropriate range. "Some aspects of their reading skills -- specifically, reading comprehension and vocabulary -- were relative weaknesses," said Eisenhower. "However, student-teacher closeness at the start of the school year appears to lead to improvement in both comprehension and vocabulary by the end of that school year."

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Jessica Bradshaw, Ph.D., of the University of California in Santa Barbara, and colleagues evaluated whether early signs of autism (low social engagement) could be found to be stable across several weeks of repeated measurements, and whether the use of Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) improved social engagement in 6-month-old infants exhibiting early signs of autism.

"Low social engagement was found to be stable and abnormally low (compared to a sample of typically-developing infants) across several weeks of repeated assessment," said Bradshaw. "Implementing PRT for very young infants improved infant affect (happiness and interest) during parent-infant interactions and increased infant social smiling during interactions."

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APA: About One-Third of Teens Perpetrate Dating Violence

THURSDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- About one-third of adolescents report having perpetrated adolescent dating violence (ADV), and children who bully in middle school are much more likely to perpetrate ADV in high school, according to two studies presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, held from July 31 to Aug. 4 in Honolulu.

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APA: iPad Use in Classroom Ups Communication in ASD

THURSDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Use of handheld touch devices in classrooms may be beneficial for enhancing communication skills among children with autism spectrum disorders, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, held from July 31 to Aug. 4 in Honolulu.

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