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GOP Lawmaker in N.H. Seeks Ban on ‘Conversion Therapy,’ PTSD Can Affect Female Vietnam War Vets, Too

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Welcome back to In Case You Missed It (our weekly roundup of articles touching on psychology, health, mental health and social justice issues from multiple news and commentary websites). This week, we address conversion therapy, PTSD for female Vietnam War vets, positive benefits of delaying kindergarten, and anti-bulling laws.

New Hampshire State Representative Eric Schleien is proposing legislation in New Hampshire to ban therapy intended to change the sexual orientation of minors. Schleien says he doesn’t think it’s possible to change someone’s sexual orientation, and that research indicates it can be harmful. For the Report of the APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation and other resources, see here.

Women who served in Vietnam may be at far greater risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than women service members stationed in the United States during the war, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry. Of the female Vietnam vets, 20% experienced PTSD, compared with 11.5% of women serving near Vietnam and 14% of women stationed in the United States. Lead researcher Kathryn Magruder’s team concluded that noncombat female Vietnam War vets were still exposed to casualties and other sources of stress.  Job performance pressures and wartime exposure to sexual harassment and discrimination were more prevalent and was related to PTSD in each analysis of women deployed overseas.

A new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found strong evidence that delaying kindergarten by a year provides mental health benefits to children.  Based on data from tens of thousands of students from a mental health screening survey in Denmark, researchers Thomas Dee (Stanford Graduate School of Education) and Hans Henrik Sievertsen (Danish National Center for Social Research) found that just a one-year delay in the start of formal schooling dramatically reduced inattention/hyperactivity at age 7. Delaying formal kindergarten may give the benefit of an extended period of informal, play-based preschool that complements language development and the capacity for “self-regulation” of cognitive and emotional states. Delaying until children are deemed to be mentally and physically ready for the challenge supports what many parents and policymakers have already been doing.

Bullying affects one out of every five U.S. high school students. But anti-bullying laws do make a difference, especially when those laws comply with guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. Lead author Mark Hatzenbuehler (Associate Professor, Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health) noted three components of anti-bullying laws tied to decreased bullying and cyberbullying: (1) having a description of where and when the school has the authority to take action against bullying; (2) having a clear definition of what constitutes bullying; (3) and having a requirement that schools develop and implement their own local policies, possibly on a timeline. Hatzenbuehler noted a critical first step in creating effective anti-bullying laws is understanding which elements of anti-bullying legislation make the laws more effective or less effective. More research remains to be done, especially concerning how schools implement the laws.

What do you think of these stories? What did we leave out?

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