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The Year In Parenting-Specific Science And Research

For every parent you meet who exults in reminding you that there’s no scientific method for raising kids, there seems to be a team of researchers trying to create one. This year, people in white coats brought you a slew of data about the connection between kids’ guts and their brains, household microbes you actually want to expose them to, how they learn to imitate you and be successful (which should go hand in hand), and even a few ways your genetics and brain chemistry can affect your relationship with your spouse. A lot of this is social science, which means the science is still out on much of it, but at least they’ll give you some smart sounding factoids to throw back in those know-it-all parents’ faces.

You Felt It In Your Guts
This year could down as the year of gut bacteria. Headlines about the stuff touted everything from using poo to predict kids developing asthma (seriously, keep scrolling) to how what’s in your gut affects what’s on your mind. Gut health expert and author Dr. Vincent Pedre offered a primer on the latter, starting with this: no amount of good bacteria (aka probiotics) will stop a crowded restaurant meltdown. Activia still doesn’t cure being 3.
Everything You Need To Know About How Gut Bacteria Affects Your Kid’s Behavior

Somebody Get The Calomine Lotion
In an email to Scientific American, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher explained that whoever coined the “7-year itch” — the psychological term for an observed decline in happiness after 7 years of marriage — sucked at math. She posits it’s closer to 4 years, citing hunter-gather societies where parents raised their kids until age 4, when “the village” took over. Then, parents were free to mate with others they had met at village peewee soccer practice if they wished.
The ‘7-Year-Itch’ Has A Biological Explanation (But It’s Off By 3 Years)

Your Cheatin’ Heart … May Be Genetic
Researchers found a link between gene coding of the brain’s dopamine (“happy hormone”) receptor and likelihood of cheating. According to AsapSCIENCE, “One study found that 50 percent of people who possess the long variant of this gene had cheated on their partner, compared to only 22 percent of people who have the short variant.” So cheaters got 2 excuses to claim, “Science made me do it” this year. What a time to be alive.
Why You Or Your Partner Might Be Genetically Predisposed To Cheat

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Whatever Sponge Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger
In March, pair of studies on kitchen bacteria offered you a choice: expose your kids to potentially immune-strengthening household microbes, or kill your sponges and dish towels with fire immediately. As it turned out, there was a third option: keep forcing your kids to wash the dishes, but try to wash that towel more than twice a year.
One Of The Grossest Things In Your Kitchen May Actually Be Good For You

The Imitation Game Has A Complicated Rulebook
It doesn’t take a scientist to know it’s hilarious when a baby imitates you. It does take a scientist to know why and how they do it. University Of Washington researchers revealed that it’s not simply monkey see, monkey do. It’s monkey see, monkey create sophisticated “body map” in brain corresponding to areas of touch or sensation on their body and the body of people they’re watching, monkey do.
The Neuroscience Behind Adorable Baby Imitations Is Surprisingly Complex

Childhood Obesity Meets Over-Medication — Worlds Are Colliding!
Research out of Johns Hopkins suggested that kids who regularly take antibiotics may gain weight faster than those who don’t. The effect increases as kids get older, and not because all those kids go out for varsity offensive line. So next time you’re about to reassure your kid that they’re just big-boned, check the medicine cabinet. Then close it and check the mirror. Who are you really trying to convince, Mr. DadBod?
If Your Kid’s Gaining Weight, Check Their Antibiotics Intake

Their Poo Can Also Determine Whether You Can’t Breathe
A new study pointed to a statistically significant correlation between levels of specific kinds of gut bacteria at 3 months and one year old, and the likeliness a baby will develop asthma. The discovery could enable doctors to diagnose, treat, or even prevent asthma within a child’s first 100 days, which would be lightyears ahead of current detection methods — waiting for the lungs to prove they suck at sucking.
Poop Experts Link Newborn Gut Bacteria To Predicting Asthma In Kids

When You Teach Your Kid The Glengarry Glen Ross ABCs
If your kid always demands a bigger cookie, they’ll grow up to demand a bigger bonus. A study that followed 700+ kids from age 9 to 40, noting their sense of entitlement, studiousness, defiance against parents, and tendency to break rules, found that the ones who ignored rules and parents ultimately earned higher salaries. Sure, your kid’s still a dick, but they’ll make enough to get you that Green Grove corner suite. It’s a retirement community!
Your Stubborn Kid Will Probably Be A Wildly Successful Adult Says Science

There’s No Middle Child Syndrome? Your Brother’s Gonna Be Pissed
German researchers studied 20,000+ family panels for IQ and the Big 5 personality traits (extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness to experience) and found firstborns are only by 1.5 IQ points smarter. Birth order also doesn’t affect any of the Big 5, so no long-term damage is inflicted on your little sibling rivals’ psyches purely based on birth order. As for short-term damage, your older one just duct taped your younger one to a fence.
Finally An Answer To The Question: Does Birth Order Matter

Scientific Proof You Need To Move To Hawaii
Oh, right, and then there was that whole “mushroom that makes women instantly orgasm” story. Sure, it was based on a small, questionably scientific, 14-year-old study, but if such a mushroom really exists, the world probably needs a reminder.
Can This Obscure Hawaiian Mushroom Really Make Women Orgasm From A Single Sniff?