Fathers who performed an equal share of household chores were more likely to have daughters who aspired to less traditionally feminine occupations, such as astronaut. Tanya Lam
Fathers who help with the dishes and laundry may play an important role in shaping their daughters' future, suggests a study in the August issue of Psychological Science.
Researchers found that fathers who performed an equal share of household chores were more likely to have daughters who aspired to less traditionally feminine occupations, such as astronaut, marine biologist, geologist, police officer and professional hockey or soccer player.
Fathers who believed in gender equality and yet left most of the housework to mothers had daughters who favored more traditionally feminine careers, such as nursing, fashion designer, librarian and stay-at-home mom.
By pitching in at home, fathers may be signaling to daughters that they can expect men to help with chores, allowing women more time for work, researchers said.
From 2011 to 2012, researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, recruited 172 boys and 154 girls, ages 7 to 13, from a local science center and at least one of the 204 mothers and 140 fathers who were present.
The division of labor in each household and the attitudes of parents and children toward domestic chores were assessed with questionnaires. Children's career aspirations were assessed.
On average, mothers reported doing 68.2% of child care and housework, compared with 42.2% reported by fathers, but fathers spent twice as many hours at paid jobs. Both parents shared domestic chores equally in less than 15% of households. Two-thirds of fathers and 14.4% of mothers reported inconsistencies in their beliefs about gender roles and the example they set at the home.
Girls were more likely to envision themselves working outside the home, as engineers, paleontologists and medical researchers, for example, if both parents held less traditional beliefs. But it was the father's day-to-day participation in daily chores that predicted girls' unconventional career aspirations.
Boys aspired to traditional male careers such as surgeon, engineer and CEO, regardless of their parents' beliefs or the division of labor at home.
Caveat: Information about the parents' occupations wasn't available. The division of household labor was self-reported.
Therapeutic viruses: The viruses that cause sporadic outbreaks of bird and human flu may be useful in treating pancreatic cancer, one of the most aggressive and lethal forms of cancer, says a study in the September issue of the Journal of Virology.
The study suggests avian influenza viruses are oncolytic, or cancer-fighting, viruses that may be more effective than the chemotherapy drugs used to treat pancreatic cancer. More than 46,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year and approximately 40,000 people will die from the disease, according to National Cancer Institute estimates.
A 2009 study reported that healthy human pancreatic cells were infected and killed by relatively mild avian flu viruses, suggesting the viruses have a predilection for the pancreas, researchers said.
In this follow-up study, a team of Italian scientists tested eight avian flu virus strains on malignant pancreatic cell lines from humans and mice. Experiments showed the pancreatic cells contained receptors or proteins that enabled the viruses to enter and infect the cells.
Avian flu viruses were more effective at killing pancreatic tumor cells—termed apoptosis—than gemcitabine and cisplatin, the mainstay chemotherapy drugs used to treat pancreatic cancer. The rate of apoptosis in virus-treated cells ranged from 5% to more than 60%, while the chemo drugs had little effect. The H7N3 avian virus was the most potent inducer of apoptosis, but it had no effect on healthy pancreatic cells, researchers said.
The H7N3 virus was subsequently tested on 12 mice with induced pancreatic tumors. Six mice received four injections of H7N3 over a week and six received placebo injections. After a month, tumors in H7N3-treated mice were significantly smaller than in placebo-treated mice.
Caveat: The experiments were conducted on cell cultures and laboratory mice.
Weight-loss link: A behavioral technique that involves linking two columns of if-and-then statements on a page helped overweight people lose a significant amount of weight in a short period, according to a report in the September issue of Behavior Therapy.
The study used a volitional help sheet, which consists of two lists, one with temptations beginning with "if" and the other with possible responses beginning with "then." For instance, "If I am tempted to eat when I am at a party" could be linked to a response such as, "Then I will tell myself that if I try hard enough I can keep from overeating."
The "if-then" format encourages people to associate in memory a critical situation with an appropriate behavioral response, researchers said. Linking "if" and "then" helps to automate the response, they said.
The technique has been used to help people quit smoking, reduce alcohol consumption and increase physical activity.
The study, at the University of Manchester in the U.K., recruited 72 overweight and obese subjects from a commercial weight-loss program. The subjects, 36 men and women ages 19 to 64 years old, were given a volitional help sheet with 12 temptations and 12 possible responses and asked to tick the statements that applied to them. Half of the subjects were instructed to draw lines linking the temptations with the responses.
The subjects were weighed after a month. Those who linked the temptations and solutions lost an average of 4.2 pounds, or 2.3% of their pre-study weight. The subjects who only ticked the temptations and responses lost an average of 2.9 pounds or 1.6% of their pre-study weight.
Caveat: The study was short and it isn't known if the effects were sustained over a longer period, researchers said.
Vacation dilemma: Taking a long summer vacation can temporarily erase the differences between obsessive and nonobsessive workers, says a report in the August issue of Stress and Health. But holidays can be a double-edged sword for the workaholics, the study found.
In the summer of 2010, researchers in the Netherlands examined the effects of a two- to four-week vacation on 54 workers from a range of occupations. The subjects, 27 men and 27 women in their early 40s, were interviewed about their work hours and work rumination habits three times before the vacation, every four days during the vacation and weekly in the month after returning to work. They also kept diaries of the time they spent working and thinking about work. The majority, 80%, spent their holiday abroad.
Of the subjects, 21 were classified as obsessively preoccupied with work. Among the workaholics, 43% reported working on vacation compared with 18% of nonobsessive workers. Both groups ruminated less about work during the vacation and for two weeks after it ended. The obsessive workers experienced significantly greater improvements in mood and well-being related to the holiday but also a steeper post-vacation relapse into their obsessive work thoughts and habits.
Researchers were surprised that during a prolonged summer holiday, compulsive workers seemed able to forget about work, something they normally find difficult to do after a day at work or on weekends. Previous studies have associated an obsessive need to work with high blood pressure, poor sleep and burnout.
The challenge for workaholics is to continue working on strategies to develop a healthy work-life balance before their pre-vacation work habits kick in, researchers suggest.
Caveat: The study was small and none of the employees worked excessively long hours.
Hand-hygiene alert: Adding flashing red lights to hand-hygiene dispensers significantly increased voluntary hand-washing in a busy hospital lobby—except on extremely cold days, according to a report in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. As outside temperatures decreased, so did hand hygiene, the study found.
An estimated 750,000 infections and 75,000 deaths are attributed to hospital-acquired infections every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hand hygiene is key to hospital infection control programs, but use of alcohol-based dispensers remains low, studies have shown.
From 2012 to 2013, battery-powered flashing red lights, similar to those used by cyclists, were installed over four hand-hygiene dispensers in the lobby of an Ottawa, Ontario, hospital. During two weeks in January and two weeks in April, trained observers recorded dispenser use by staff and visitors on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. The lights were activated during the second week of each two-week period. Hand washing in the week with lights was compared with the week without lights and with a week in the September before the study that was used as a control.
During January, 23.5% of people entering or leaving the hospital used dispensers with lights. In the no-lights week, usage was 12.6%. In April, use of dispensers with lights was 27.1% and 11.8% without lights. Usage during the control week was 13%.
During the January lights-on week, dispenser use fell from 31.1% on Monday, when the outside temperature averaged 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit, to 20.6% on Thursday, when the temperature dropped to 6.8 degrees, to 12.3% on Friday, when it was minus 11.2 degrees. Most people wore gloves or mittens during that week, researchers said.
Caveat: People may grow tired of the flashing lights and ignore or even resent them, researchers said. Some people tried to steal or tamper with the lights, they said. Long-term compliance wasn't tracked.
Practicing the piano requires learning how to move fingers against the natural constraints from tendons and muscles in the hand. Corbis
Piano Playing Makes Fingers More Nimble
Practicing the piano may be a helpful exercise for people with reduced manual dexterity due to aging, stroke or neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, says a small study in the September issue of Neuroscience.
Finger movement is naturally constrained by tendons and muscles in the hand, so that moving one finger affects the fingers next to it. Mastering the piano requires learning how to move fingers against these anatomical constraints and may help to develop better finger control, researchers said.
Because piano playing is an enjoyable exercise with low physical demands, older people and those with chronic diseases can be easily motivated to try it, researchers said. Music also stimulates the production of dopamine, a hormone that helps to control the brain's reward and pleasure centers, and this can aid in changing the brain with practice, they said.
The study involved 10 people in their early 20s in Japan. Using their left or nondominant hand, the subjects practiced a sequence of 12 notes in time to a metronome set at two keystrokes per second. Each sequence was practiced 50 times a day for four consecutive days, or 200 times. The index, middle, ring and little fingers were used three times in each sequence.
Finger motion was analyzed by using reflective markers on the hand and forearm. Half of the subjects were shown the improvements in their piano playing on a computer screen. The other half tracked their progress by listening to recordings.
Daily practice improved independent finger movement in both groups, mostly in the ring finger and little finger, which have low independent motion, researchers said. Practicing also improved joint motion in all four fingers, especially in the metacarpophalangeal joint, where the hand and finger bones meet.
Subjects who got visual feedback struck the piano keys in time with the metronome with 138% greater accuracy than those who got audio feedback. Visual feedback may improve manual dexterity by sending signals to the brain to correct motor commands that control nerves and muscles in the hand, researchers said.
Caveat: The neurophysiological changes related to piano playing weren't assessed. The study was small and only included one woman.