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December 2010

News You Can Use

Shopping for special needs children poses dilemma

If it's tough for parents to buy for children with developmental disabilities, imagine being a friend or relative trying to figure it out.

Julie Brinkhoff, associate director of the Great Plains Center at the University of Missouri, is lending some expertise this holiday season.

Oftentimes, she said, gift-givers either overestimate a child's ability - offering something that's potentially frustrating - or they underestimate abilities and run the risk of offending recipients.

Cats can make owners happier, healthier and gentler

Yes, kittens are adorable. Yes, they can grow up to be good mousers and are very entertaining to watch. And yes, cats are independent and don't require as much care as dogs. But research shows cats can also be caretakers for us and our families, improve our health and teach us and our children to be kinder, gentler souls.

Research shows that being able to care for a pet improves our morale, helps validate us and encourages us to take care of ourselves, says Rebecca Johnson, director of the University of Missouri's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction. The body of research is leading more retirement communities and universities to roll out the welcome mat for pets.

From the Lab

Amazonian Cultures Found Social Benefits in Multiple Fathers

Up to 70 percent of Amazonian cultures practiced multiple paternity--more than one man fathering and taking responsibility for a child--according to research announced by the University of Missouri (MU).

"In modern culture, it is not considered socially acceptable for married people to have extramarital sexual partners. However, in some Amazonian cultures, extramarital sexual affairs were common, and people believed that when a woman became pregnant, each of her sexual partners would be considered part-biological father," the MU study said.

Verbal aggression may signal depression

Nursing home residents who began using aggressive language were 69 percent more likely than others to be diagnosed with depression, U.S. researchers say.

Lorraine Phillips of the University of Missouri in Columbia says increased verbal aggression may signal depression in the elderly.

"Depression is currently diagnosed using several methods that emphasize mood symptoms including interviewing and self-reporting of depression symptoms," Phillips said. "However, since elderly depression may appear with non-mood symptoms, these characteristics identified in this study can help diagnose depression that may be overlooked by traditional screening methods."