Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Compassion helps foster care kids cope

It is well documented that children in foster care have a high prevalence of trauma in their lives. For many, circumstances that bring them into the foster care system are formidable—sexual abuse, parental neglect, family violence, homelessness, and exposure to drugs. In addition, they are separated from biological family and some are regularly moved around from one place to another.
“Children with early life adversity tend to have elevated levels of inflammation across their lifespan,” explains lead author Thaddeus Pace, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University.

“Inflammation is known to play a fundamental role in the development of a number of chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, cancer, and depression.”
Published in the journals Psychoneuroendocrinology and Child and Family Studies, the study found that adolescents who practiced Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) had improvements in their mental and physical health—reductions in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP), less anxiety, and increased feelings of hopefulness. The more the study participants practiced, the greater the improvement observed in these measures.
“The beneficial effects of CBCT on anxiety and feelings of hopelessness suggest that this intervention may provide immediate benefit to foster children,” says Charles Raison, corresponding author of the study in Psychoneuroendocrinology, now at the University of Arizona.
“We are even more encouraged by the finding that CBCT reduced levels of inflammation. Our hope is that CBCT may help contribute to the long-term health and well being of foster care children, not only during childhood, but also as they move into their adult years.”


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