Progress on Theme 4

Improving Child and Adolescent Health and the Transition to Adulthood

Highlighted Programs and Activities

  • NEW: Impact of technology and digital media exposure/usage on child and adolescent development
    Technology and digital media exposure and use have become ubiquitous facets of modern childhood, often starting at an early age, underscoring the urgent need to understand how this exposure/usage affects neurocognitive and social development. NICHD launched a new initiative to support integrated, multiproject research programs to examine the pathways by which technology and digital media exposure and usage impact developmental trajectories and health outcomes in early childhood (ages birth to 8 years) and adolescence (ages 9 years to 17 years). Learn more: RFA-HD-22-009.
  • NEW: Learning Disabilities Innovation Hubs
    NICHD is renewing its support for exploratory grants to address the etiology, manifestation, prevention, and remediation of reading-, writing-, and/or mathematics-specific learning disorders. Learn more: RFA-HD-22-005.

Selected Recent Advances

  • NEW: High screen-time use and school-age outcomes in extremely preterm children (PMID: 34251406)
    Both preterm birth and increased screen time are associated with an increase in risks of developmental and behavioral problems. Researchers analyzed data from more than 400 children born extremely preterm (before 28 weeks of pregnancy) and found that many had high screen-time use rates, with 57% spending more than two hours per day looking at screens. In addition, almost two-thirds had a television/computer in their bedroom. High screen time (2 hours or more per day) was associated with an increased risk of cognitive, executive function, and behavioral problems at early school age among 6- to 7-year-old children, after adjusting for other factors. High screen time was also associated with overweight and less physical activity.
  • NEW: No serious adverse events from COVID-19 vaccine in breastfeeding women or their children (PMID: 34492204)
    Researchers found no serious adverse events reported by 180 breastfeeding women who received either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccine, neither among themselves nor in their infants. Similar proportions of women reported side effects after the first dose of either vaccine, while women were more likely to report side effects after the second dose of the Moderna vaccine than after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The authors noted that the study data should reassure people regarding the safety of vaccine use in breastfeeding women and their children.
  • Identifying genetic causes of stillbirth (PMID: 32786180)
    This research suggests that whole exome sequencing could provide information for counseling families that experience stillbirth and to inform medical care of future pregnancies.
  • Early sleep problems linked to autism diagnosis among at-risk children (PMID: 32375538)
    Researchers found that sleep problems among children who have a sibling with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may further raise the likelihood of an ASD diagnosis, compared to at-risk children who do not have difficulty sleeping.
  • Lower language skills link early adversity to later mental health problems (PMID: 31046468)
    About one-half of adults in the United States have experienced early childhood adversity, which can include abuse and neglect, exposure to violence, family poverty, and deprivation, such as a lack of learning and social opportunities. Researchers studied the pathways linking early deprivation to mental and behavioral problems and found that the link between deprivation and mental health problems was mediated by language ability. These results suggest that early interventions to increase language skills could lower children’s later risk for mental health problems.
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