T U E S DAY , O C T O B E R 19 , 2 0 0 4
Children invited to participate
in research studies at the University of Ottawa
he Childhood Cognition and
Learning Lab at the University of
Ottawa needs children between
the ages of two and eight to participate
in research studies aimed at uncovering
more about how young children think.
“It’s a unique opportunity for the children, and they have a lot of fun participating in our studies,” says Cristina
Atance, Assistant Professor in the
School of Psychology at the University of
Ottawa, and Director of the Lab.
“I can honestly say that at the end of
the session it’s not rare to hear a child
say that they’d like to come back, or that
they had a lot of fun,” she says. “The
reason for this is that the focus is on the
child, and they are given an opportunity
to share what they’re thinking with an
attentive and friendly adult - the researcher.”
Professor Atance’s specialty is developmental psychology, and she’s particularly interested in the development of future thinking, planning, and language.
She is also interested in children’s understanding of their own and others’
“As adults we often explain and predict behaviour on the basis of beliefs, desires, and intentions,” she says. “For example we may say ‘he’s reaching into
the fridge because he thinks the eggs
are in there,’ ‘she wants more cake,’ or
‘he didn’t intend for it to happen that
way.’ Do children also interpret people’s
behaviour in this way and, if so, which
experiences lead them to begin to gain
insight into their own and others’
The studies currently running at the
CCLL are about the development of fu-
All games are meant to be fun for the children.
ture thinking and planning, as well as
children’s understanding of mental
states such as beliefs and desires.
All of the research studies are conducted on the University of Ottawa campus.
A convenient time is scheduled during the day, evening, or weekend for a
one-time visit lasting about 45 minutes
to an hour. Upon arrival, parent and
child are greeted in the Reception Room
by a researcher who will tell the parent
about the study.
The researcher will also play with the
child to make him or her as comfortable
with the surroundings as possible. The
experimenter then invites the child to
play some games in one of the laboratory ‘playrooms.’
At this point, parents can either
watch their child from behind a oneway mirror or, if they prefer, stay in the
playroom with their child. All games are
meant to be fun for the child. Tasks differ but they all involve either pictures,
stories, or props that involve dolls, ob-
When well-intentioned parents place their
children at risk: The ‘Pampered Child Syndrome’
Citizen advertising features
by Dr. Mamen, is a sociological and
psychological phenomenon that appears in homes so loving and permissive that the children become used to
very special treatment that they are
unlikely to encounter in the real
oincidentally, as the media release on the ‘pampered child
syndrome’ arrived on my computer, I was on the telephone talking
to my own adult ‘pampered child.’
The child who just that month had
surmised that I was somehow responsible for her own unhappiness with
the struggles of life because I had
spoiled her in her early years.
The “aha!’s” spilled out as we both
saw a bit of ourselves in the literature.
Some of the best-intentioned parents are raising children who are most
at risk for serious social or psychological difficulties, says Dr. Maggie Mamen, an Ottawa-based clinical psychologist.
“Children get used to a very high
level of stimulation and attention from
a very early age,” she says. “I see
many very unhappy children even by
age three and four and especially
when they get into their teenage
She says it’s a sociological issue not
just a parenting issue. “Professionals
are buying into it too by encouraging
photo credit: - Valberg Imaging Inc.
“Children must learn to deal with down
time and to self-sooth - or they simply will
not be able to function without their parents or other external providers of stimulation. Being bored is a part of life. They have
to get used to it.” - Dr. Maggie Mamen,
child-driven parenting strategies.”
She believes that parental confidence has been eroded to the point
where parents are reluctant to say
“no” or to deal with their child’s disapproval.
Rather than being something a child
has (like the measles) or is (like angry,
anxious, or “a problem”), the Pampered Child Syndrome, a term coined
“These children expect to be kept
happy and stimulated, to be treated
equally to adults, and to be in charge,”
Dr. Mamen explains. “When they run
into situations that challenge these expectations, they have difficulty coping,
and may show symptoms of depression, anxiety, hyperactivity or behaviour disorders. Their parents are often
at a loss to understand why their children are so unhappy, when they have
always been given everything they
Dr. Mamen’s new book, The Pampered Child Syndrome (Creative
Bound International), examines the
roots of the problem. “One of the
book’s main goals is to help parents
take back their families, and to restore
themselves to the management positions they have been persuaded to give
away,” she explains. “Otherwise, today’s pampered children will grow up
lacking the skills that they need to
manage their own lives responsibly.”
Hands-on exploration inspires
curiosity and excellence in science
ven if you don’t know a lot
about science yourself, you
can kindle a love of scientific
learning in your child.
“We find that children have a
natural curiosity for scientific
knowledge and benefit from interactive, hands-on learning,” says
Mary Ann Turnbull, of Turnbull
School on Fisher Avenue. “They
best acquire this knowledge first
through experimenting, manipulation and exploration with science
materials. They are then more
able to apply this practical knowledge to what the textbooks and
other written material offers.”
She outlines some things that
parents can do to lead their child
to success and interest in science:
- Inspire children from a young
age to be curious about science
and how the world works - discuss
everyday phenomena and the “science” behind it. “In this way they
see science as a living subject and
this breaks down any
High Honours: The top grade 7 and 8 students from Turbull School’s annual Science Fair
obstacles or stereotypes that
went on to the Regional Science Fair competition last spring at the University of Ottawa. The
they are not ‘good’ at science.”
12 Turnbull students who entered all went home with prizes, with a total of 29 awards in their
- Watch the Discovery Channel
junior division (grade 7 & 8). The final grand prizes were those selected to represent this reand other science programs with
gion at the Canada Wide Science Fair in June, held in St. John’s. Out of the four best experiyour child so you can reinforce the ments from the junior division at the Regional Fair, three were Turnbull students.
concepts or add additional ideas.
and follow the link to projects.
- Embrace an atmosphere of wonder and exploring
within the home environment.
- If you have some knowledge in a science area, or
know someone who does, offer to go into your child’s
“Every family who wants to see a child ‘turned on’ to
class as a special guest.
science should have a microscope, telescope and
binoculars; start your child early observing and asking
She says that a key to Turnbull School’s success is havquestions; go star gazing together! If children see you
ing science as a ‘serious’ but fun subject in early grades
excited about science they quickly pick up on this enwhere good lab equipment and resources are used for “a
lot of hands-on activities and experiments involving real
life phenomena.”
- If you don’t feel as knowledgeable about science as
you feel you need to be to answer your child’s quesThis motivates children to discover the excitement of
tions, show your own interest in learning by exploring
science in the world around them and to continue to
the answers together, so children have good modeling
question, explore and learn outside of their time in the
for self-discovery. “A child’s ability to learn and disclassroom, she says.
cover things for themselves will be a major factor in
their school success, in any subject, but they need to be
“They also take a “cross curricular” approach to the
shown how to do this.”
Science Fair, such as learning data collection skills in science, data management skills in math, graphical analy- Visit the many resources in the nation’s capital sis and layout design in computer classes and oral premuseums, parks, Agricultural Farm, two universities;
sentation skills for the judges in English. “And Study
or not too far away the BioDome in Montreal.
Skills classes teach those all important time management and organizational skills for completing their pro- Explore the Hila Science Camp web site where you
jects on time and to a high standard.”
can find many “hands-on” projects to stimulate your
child’s curiosity and knowledge: www.hilaroad.com
jects and stickers. Children’s responses
during the games can tell the researchers a lot about how they are
thinking about, and interpreting, their
And the children and the researchers
aren’t the only ones having fun at the
CCLL. “Parents love to see their child interacting with a new adult in novel situ-
ations,” says Professor Atance. “They often make predictions about how their
child will answer a question - sometimes
their prediction is confirmed and sometimes it’s not. Either way, it’s interesting.
In the former, parents’ beliefs about
their child’s behaviour, knowledge, and
likes are confirmed. While, in the latter,
parents learn something new about
their child.” Oftentimes, she says, a parent will say “wow, I didn’t think he’d
know that!” or conversely, “I really
thought she’d remember that!”
All of children’s performances in the
research studies are considered confidential. Professor Atance stresses that
individual performance on the tasks is
not evaluated, as the CCLL is interested
in children’s performance as a group.
For example, they are interested in
how planning ability in three-year-olds
differs from that of four-year-olds.
Children also receive a t-shirt and a
small toy to thank them for their participation.
“We are very grateful to parents who
are willing to participate in our studies,”
says Professor Atance. “Obviously, we
wouldn’t be able to conduct our research without them.”
If you are interested in participating in
a study, please call the Childhood Cognition and Learning Laboratory at 5625800, ext. 4475. All studies conducted in
the laboratory have been reviewed and
approved by the Research Ethics Board
at the University of Ottawa.
Many support groups available
for breastfeeding mothers
reastfeeding is more than just nutrition.
“It’s a wonderful relationship that offers both parents and children wonderful gifts,” says Gillian Sippert, Birth Companion Coordinator at Canadian Mothercraft. “I remember nursing my daughter
and thinking: ‘Wow, you are lowering
my risk of breast cancer and I am lowering your risk of ovarian cancer, and all
while we sit and cuddle.’ It’s something
that should be continued as long as possible. The benefits only increase with duration.”
To maximize successful breastfeeding,
she advises having a plan even before
you give birth. “You should have the
name of a lactation consultant and know
where the closest breastfeeding drop-in
is to you before you have the baby.”
Nearly every day of the week across
the city there is a breastfeeding drop-in
centre to provide support.
In the Hunt Club area, there is a dropin the last Thursday of every month at the Benefits to mothers and children.
Hunt Club Riverside Community Services Centre, at the corner of Paul Anka and McCarthy. It runs from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Open to anyone across the city and to any age of nursing baby, there’s a drop-in at
Mothercraft at 475 Evered Avenue near Churchill and Byron and another at
Pinecrest Queensway Community health center on Tuesday afternoon 1:30 p.m. to
3:30 p.m.
Carlington Community & Health Services also offers a weekly breastfeeding dropin every Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
For more information on breastfeeding resources, go to infactcanada.ca or ottawa.ca/health, or call the Public Health Info Line at 724-4179, or La Leche League
Canada at 238-5919.