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Unit: Adolescent Health

Issue: Should Adolescents Be Taking Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for Mood and/or Anxiety Disorders?

YES: E. Jane Garland, Stan Kutcher, and Adil Virani, from “2008 Position Paper on Using SSRIs in Children and Adolescents,” Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2009
NO: Tamar D. Wohlfarth et al., from “Antidepressants Use in Children and Adolescents and the Risk of Suicide,” European Neuropsychopharmacology, 2006

E. Jane Garland, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, Stan Kutcher, a professor of psychiatry at Dalhousie University, and Adil Virani, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of British Columbia, reviewed numerous randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trials regarding the role selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for the treatment of depression and anxiety in children and youth. They conclude that the risk–benefit balance for fluoxetine is favorable in depression, and the risk–benefit balance for three SSRIs is favorable in anxiety disorders. Tamar D. Wohlfarth, a clinical assessor, and colleagues in the Netherlands assessed antidepressant use in pediatric patients and reported an increased risk for events related to suicidality among those taking antidepressants. They caution the use of all SSRIs and NSRIs (norepinephrine or noradrenergic serotonin reuptake inhibitors) in the pediatric population.

Issue: Are Body Dissatisfaction and Its Outcomes of Equal Concern for Boys and Girls?

YES: Marita P. McCabe, Lina A. Ricciardelli, and Kate Holt, from “Are There Different Sociocultural Influences on Body Image and Body Change Strategies for Overweight Adolescent Boys and Girls?” Eating Behaviors, 2010
NO: Anastasia S. Vogt Yuan, from “Body Perceptions, Weight Control Behavior, and Changes in Adolescents’ Psychological Well-Being Over Time: A Longitudinal Examination of Gender,” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2010

Marita P. McCabe, chair of psychology at Deakin University in Australia, Lina A. Ricciardelli, associate professor, School of Psychology at Deakin University, and Kate Holt, a researcher in psychology at Deakin examined gender differences in overweight and normal-weight adolescents and found that boys and girls were equally dissatisfied with their bodies, but that boys had higher ratings of body importance than did girls. For overweight boys, but not girls, body dissatisfaction (along with peer and parental pressure) predicted weight-loss strategies. This focus on weight loss is consistent with previous research on adolescent girls, but atypical of research with boys. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Anastasia S. Vogt Yuan, associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, investigated gender differences in adolescent boys’ and girls’ psychological well-being (as measured by self-esteem and depressive symptoms) associated with body perceptions and weight over time. Perceptions of being overweight/more developed (for girls) or smaller/less developed (for boys) had greater negative impacts on psychological well-being (lower self-esteem and higher depressive symptoms) for girls than for boys. Similarly, behaviors aimed at changing one’s body size/shape were associated with decreases in self-esteem over time for girls, but not for boys. Overall, girls were more negatively affected than boys by body perceptions and body-change behaviors.

Issue: Should the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine Be Mandatory for Early Adolescent Girls?

YES: Cynthia Dailard, from “Achieving Universal Vaccination Against Cervical Cancer in the United States: The Need and the Means,” Guttmacher Policy Review, 2006
NO: Gail Javitt, Deena Berkowitz, and Lawrence O. Gostin, from “Assessing Mandatory HPV Vaccination: Who Should Call the Shots?” Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 2008

Cynthia Dailard, a senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, argues that making universal vaccination against HPV mandatory for school attendance is a necessary step in preventing cervical cancer and other HPV-related problems. Rebuttals to the issues of the high cost as well as the suitability for the vaccination in schools are presented, and she marks universal vaccination as a key step in future vaccination policy reform. Gail Javitt, Deena Berkowitz, and Lawrence O. Gostin argue that while the risks of contracting HPV are high, and its demonstrated link to cervical cancer has proven strong, it is both unwarranted and unwise to force mandatory vaccination on minor females. They discuss the potential adverse health effects, both long- and short-term risks, the lack of support for the HPV vaccine within the justifications for state-mandated vaccination, the consequences of a vaccination targeted solely at females, as well as the economic impact that would result from making the HPV vaccination mandatory.

Issue: Is the Use of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) an Appropriate Cessation Aid for Adolescents Wishing to Quit Smoking?

YES: Irene M. Rosen and Douglas M. Maurer, from “Reducing Tobacco Use in Adolescents,” American Family Physician, 2008
NO: K.H. Ginzel et al., from “Critical Review: Nicotine for the Fetus, the Infant and the Adolescent?” Journal Health Psychology, 2007

In a paper geared at family physicians, Irene Rosen and Douglas Maurer, both family doctors themselves, review treatments for adolescent-smoking cessation; they recommend nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) as well as a variety of other methods to reduce adolescent smoking. K. Heinz Ginzel, a retired medical doctor and professor emeritus of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and his colleagues, argue in a critical review paper that NRT should not be used with adolescents because it simply substitutes one form of nicotine with another, thereby prolonging and/or facilitating nicotine addiction

Issue: Should Schools Be Responsible for Completing Body Mass Index (BMI) Report Cards in the Fight Against Youth Obesity?

YES: Cynthia I. Joiner, from “Writing for the PRO Position—Body Mass Index (BMI) Report Cards: Should Schools Be Responsible for Screening?” The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 2009
NO: Betsy Di Benedetto Gulledge, from “Writing for the CON Position,” The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 2009

Cynthia I. Joiner, MPH, RN and nurse research manager at the University of Alabama, views having body mass index (BMI) report cards in the schools as an extension of what schools are already managing to highlight the important role they play in helping to address childhood obesity. Betsy Di Benedetto Gulledge, an instructor of nursing at Jacksonville State University, highlights what she sees as the disadvantages of having body mass index (BMI) report cards in the schools; she challenges the accuracy of BMI measures and notes the risks of labeling on children’s psychological well-being.

Unit: Sex, Sexuality, and Gender

Issue: Is There Cause for Concern About an “Oral-Sex Crisis” for Teens?

YES: Sharlene Azam, from Oral Sex Is the New Goodnight Kiss: The Sexual Bullying of Teenage Girls, Reluctant Hero Publishing Ltd., 2008
NO: SIECCAN (The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada), from “Do You Think ‘Oral Sex’ Is ‘Having Sex’? Does the Answer Matter?” The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 2011

Journalist Sharlene Azam, in a book about teen prostitution, discusses the cavalier attitude toward oral sex that some girls report. As well, she discusses a famous Canadian case of oral sex with under-aged girls that had major press coverage. The Research Coordinator of the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada reviews the academic research regarding oral-sex practices and their associated meaning for youth. Their take-home message is that oral sex among teens is not at “epidemic” levels and that many youth feel that oral sex is an intimate sexual behavior.

Issue: Is “Coming Out” As a Sexual Minority (Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual) Earlier in Adolescence Detrimental to Psychological Well-Being?

YES: Justin Jager and Pamela E. Davis-Kean, from “Same-Sex Sexuality and Adolescent Psychological Well-Being: The Influence of Sexual Orientation, Early Reports of Same-Sex Attraction, and Gender,” Self and Identity, 2011
NO: Margaret Rosario, Eric W. Schrimshaw, and Joyce Hunter, from “Different Patterns of Sexual Identity Development over Time: Implications for the Psychological Adjustment of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youths,” Journal of Sex Research, 2010

Using the ADD Health longitudinal dataset, researchers Justin Jager and Pamela E. Davis-Kean investigated the association of early same-sex attraction on mental health outcomes of depressive affect and self-esteem. Those who had early (12–15 years) same-sex attractions and whose attraction remained stable throughout adolescence had the most negative psychological well-being. However, this group of adolescents gained or “recovered” the most, in terms of psychological well-being, over time. In a longitudinal study, Professor Margaret Rosario and colleagues found that early versus later acknowledgment of one’s minority sexual orientation was not related to psychological distress; thus, sexual-minority identity formation was unrelated to psychological distress. Rather, identity integration––how well one accepts and integrates that sexual-minority status into one’s life––was predictive of psychological well-being. Those who had a well-integrated sexual-minority identity had the most favorable measure of psychological well-being, while those with lower sexual-minority identity integration had the poorest measures of psychological well-being.

Issue: Does a Strong and Costly Sexual Double Standard Still Exist Among Adolescents?

YES: Derek A. Kreager and Jeremy Staff, from “The Sexual Double Standard and Adolescent Peer Acceptance,” Social Psychology Quarterly, 2009
NO: Heidi Lyons et al., from “Identity, Peer Relationships, and Adolescent Girls’ Sexual Behavior: An Exploration of the Contemporary Double Standard,” Journal of Sex Research, 2011

Derek A. Kreager and Jeremy Staff, both associate professors of sociology and crime, law, and justice at Pennsylvania State University, used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine the existence of a contemporary double standard among adolescents. They found significant differences in peer acceptance among sexually experienced males and females, with higher numbers of sexual partners associated with significantly greater peer acceptance for boys than for girls. Heidi Lyons, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at Oakland University, and her colleagues, Peggy C. Giordano, Wendy D. Manning, and Monica A. Longmore, all of Bowling Green State University’s Department of Sociology, examined the sexual double standard in a longitudinal, mixed-method study of adolescent girls’ popularity and lifetime number of sexual partners. The results paint a nuanced picture of the contemporary sexual double standard. Number of sexual partners was not associated with negative peer regard, and whereas young women acknowledged the existence of a sexual double standard, violating it did not seem to be associated with significant social costs. In fact, these authors highlight the buffering role of friendships against possible negative outcomes.

Issue: Do Reality TV Shows Portray Responsible Messages about Teen Pregnancy?

YES: Amy Kramer, from “The REAL Real World: How MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom Motivate Young People to Prevent Teen Pregnancy,” Original Work, 2011
NO: Mary Jo Podgurski, from “Till Human Voices Wake Us: The High Personal Cost of Reality Teen Pregnancy Shows,” Original Work, 2011

Amy Kramer, director of entertainment media and audience strategy at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, argues that reality television shows engage teens in considering the consequences of pregnancy before they are ready for it and motivate them to want to prevent it. Mary Jo Podgurski, founder of the Academy for Adolescent Health, Inc., argues that although such television shows have potential benefits, they inadequately address the issue and may even have a negative impact on those who participate in them.

Issue: Is Having a Muscular Physique in Adolescence Strictly a “Guy Thing”?

YES: Jennifer Brunet et al., from “Exploring a Model Linking Social Physique Anxiety, Drive for Muscularity, Drive for Thinness and Self-Esteem among Adolescent Boys and Girls,” Body Image, 2010
NO: Lauren B. Shomaker and Wyndol Furman, from “A Prospective Investigation of Interpersonal Influences on the Pursuit of Muscularity in Late Adolescent Boys and Girls,” Journal of Health Psychology, 2010

Jennifer Brunet and Katherine Sabiston, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, McGill University, Montreal, Canada, Kim Dorsch of the University of Regina’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies, and Donald McCreary, a psychologist at Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada, examined the drive for muscularity versus thinness across male and female youth. Consistent with other research, boys in this study reported significantly lower drive for thinness and social physique anxiety than girls, and significantly higher drive for muscularity and self-esteem compared to girls. According to this study, boys focus on being muscular, whereas girls do not. Lauren B. Shomaker, postdoctoral research scientist and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and Wyndol Furman, professor of psychology at Denver University, examine various interpersonal influences on adolescent girls’ and boys’ desire for muscularity and thinness. Results highlight unique ways that the drive for muscularity is permeating the developmental experience of adolescent girls: Both boys and girls reported pressure from mothers and friends to be muscular and both were influenced by this pressure. The ideal physique for both genders seems to have evolved over time to include some degree of both thinness and muscularity for both genders—muscularity may not be “just a guy-thing” anymore.

Unit: Peer and Family Relationship

Issue: Does Having Same-Sex Parents Negatively Impact Children?

YES: Michelle Cretella, from “Homosexual Parenting: Is it Time for Change?” American College of Pediatricians, 2012
NO: Charlotte J. Patterson, from “Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents: Psychology, Law, and Policy,” American Psychologist, 2009

Michelle Cretella, a physician writing a position statement for The American College of Pediatricians, argues that having biological, heterosexual parents is the best situation for the development of children. She criticizes the same-sex parenting outcome literature as being fraught with design flaws and she argues that homosexual lifestyles pose dangers to children. Charlotte J. Patterson, a developmental psychologist who is one of the leading scholars in same-sex parenting research, reviews the empirical research regarding the similarities and differences between children reared by homosexual parents and those by heterosexual parents. She concludes that there is no negative impact on children by being raised by a sexual-minority parent.

Issue: Does Dating in Early Adolescence Impede Developmental Adjustment?

YES: Ming Cui et al., from “The Association Between Romantic Relationships and Delinquency in Adolescence and Young Adulthood,” Personal Relationships, 2012
NO: K. Paige Harden and Jane Mendle, from “Adolescent Sexual Activity and the Development of Delinquent Behavior: The Role of Relationship Context,” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2011

Ming Cui, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Child Sciences at Florida State University, and her colleagues found a relationship between delinquency and adolescent romantic relationships, with younger adolescents being at greater risk than older adolescents for engaging in delinquent behavior. Their analyses also pointed to a cumulative effect of relationship history on delinquency and criminal behavior in early adulthood. K. Paige Harden and Jane Mendle, assistant professors of psychology at the University of Texas and the University of Oregon, respectively, examined the associations between adolescent dating, sexual activity, and delinquency, after controlling for genetic influences. They found evidence for genetic influences on sexual behavior and for a link between these genetic predispositions and an increased likelihood to engage in delinquent behavior. They argue that early dating and/or early sexual activity do not cause delinquent behavior; in fact, this study suggests that sex in romantic relationships is related to lower levels of delinquency in both adolescence and later life.

Issue: Should Parents Supervise Alcohol Use by or Provide Alcohol to Adolescents?

YES: Mark A. Bellis et al., from “Teenage Drinking, Alcohol Availability and Pricing: A Cross-Sectional Study of Risk and Protective Factors for Alcohol-Related Harms in School Children,” BMC Public Health, 2009
NO: Barbara J. McMorris et al., from “Influence of Family Factors and Supervised Alcohol Use on Adolescent Alcohol Use and Harms: Similarities Between Youth in Different Alcohol Policy Contexts,” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2011

Mark A. Bellis, a professor at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, and colleagues suggest that potential harms to youth can be reduced by having them drink in the safety of their own home where they can be supervised by their parents. Barbara J. McMorris, a senior research associate in the Healthy Youth Development Prevention Research Center within the medical school at the University of Minnesota, and colleagues argue that early alcohol use coupled with adult supervision of alcohol consumption leads to increased alcohol-related problems.

Issue: Should Parental Consent Be Required for Adolescents Seeking Abortion?

YES: Teresa Stanton Collett, from Testimony Before the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution. H.R. 2299 the “Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act,” 2012
NO: Laurence Steinberg et al., from “Are Adolescents Less Mature Than Adults?” American Psychologist, 2009

Teresa Stanton Collett, law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota, testified about the “Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act” before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that minors would benefit greatly from parental involvement in youth abortion decisions. She argues a federal law is needed to protect girls from exploitation and improve medical care. Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University, and his colleagues conclude that adolescent girls have the cognitive maturity to make abortion decisions independently, without parental input. They base their conclusions on their own research studies and their reading of the developmental psychology literature.

Unit: Technology, Mass Media, and Criminal Justice

Issue: Are Boys Bigger Bullies than Girls—In Cyberspace?

YES: Özgür Erdur-Baker, from “Cyberbullying and Its Correlation to Traditional Bullying, Gender and Frequent and Risky Usage of Internet-Mediated Communication Tools,” New Media & Society, 2010
NO: Faye Mishna et al., from “Cyber Bullying Behaviors Among Middle and High School Students,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 2010

Üzgür Erdur-Baker, associate professor in the Department of Educational Sciences, Middle East Technical University, found that males are more likely to engage in bullying behaviors than females, regardless of physical or cyber environment. In fact, she found that males were more likely to experience cyber-victimization and to be cyberbullies than females. Faye Mishna, dean and professor at the Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, and colleagues Charlene Cook, Tahany Gadalla (associate professor), Joanne Daciuk, and Steven Solomon, all of the University of Toronto, Canada, examined gender differences in the perpetration of cyberbullying among early and mid-adolescents. They found that both middle school and high school boys and girls were equally likely to have engaged in cyberbullying. No gender differences were found in the perpetration of cyberbullying; gender differences in methods of cyberbullying are discussed.

Issue: Does Playing Violent Video Games Harm Adolescents?

YES: Cheryl K. Olson et al., from “M-Rated Video Games and Aggressive or Problem Behavior Among Young Adolescents,” Applied Developmental Science, 2009
NO: Christopher J. Ferguson, from “Blazing Angels or Resident Evil? Can Violent Video Games Be a Force for Good?” Review of General Psychology, 2010

Cheryl K. Olson and her colleagues from the Center for Mental Health and Media, Massachusetts General Hospital, report a significant positive relationship between playing M-rated video games and both bullying and physical aggression. Christopher J. Ferguson, associate professor of psychology, Department of Behavioral, Applied Sciences and Criminal Justice, Texas A&M International University, argues that the negative effects of violent video games have been inconsistent and exaggerated, while the positive effects—such as social networking and visuospatial cognition—have been ignored. He also states that although video game consumption has steadily increased in the last 10 years, youth violence has decreased.

Issue: Are Social Networking Sites (SNSs), Such as Facebook, a Cause for Concern?

YES: Billy Henson, Bradford W. Reyns, and Bonnie S. Fisher, from “Security in the 21st Century: Examining the Link Between Online Social Network Activity, Privacy, and Interpersonal Victimization,” Criminal Justice Review, 2011
NO: Nicole B. Ellison, Charles Steinfield, and Cliff Lampe, from “Connection Strategies: Social Capital Implications of Facebook-Enabled Communication Practices,” New Media & Society, 2011

Billy Henson, assistant professor of criminal justice at Shippensburg University, Bradford W. Reyns, assistant professor of criminal justice at Weber State University, and Bonnie Fisher, professor of criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati, argue that participation in social networking sites, such as Facebook, exposes many users to interpersonal victimization. Researchers Nicole B. Ellison, Charles Steinfield, and Cliff Lampe from the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media, at Michigan State University, argue that SNSs such as Facebook scaffold relationship development, and are positively associated with self-expression, identity formation, and social capital.

Issue: Should Juvenile Offenders Be Tried and Convicted as Adults?

YES: Charles D. Stimson and Andrew M. Grossman, from Adult Time for Adult Crime. Life Without Parole for Juvenile Killers and Violent Teens, The Heritage Foundation, 2009
NO: Laurence Steinberg, from “Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice,” Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 2009

Charles D. Stimson, senior legal fellow and Andrew M. Grossman, past senior legal policy analyst, Center for Legal and Justice Studies, The Heritage Foundation, argue that for serious offenses, trying juveniles in adult court and imposing adult sentences—such as life without parole—is effective and appropriate because youth who commit adult crimes should be treated as adults. Laurence Steinberg, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Psychology at Temple University, argues that adolescents often lack the cognitive, social, and emotional maturity to make mature judgments and therefore should not be sanctioned in the same way as adults. He supports a separate juvenile justice system where adolescents should be judged, tried, and sanctioned in ways that do not adversely affect development.