Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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I resolve to take Benjamin Franklin seriously

It’s that time again: time to set resolutions and goals for ourselves as we enter the New Year. In this excerpt from Pursuing the Good Life, the late Christopher Peterson puts the spotlight on Benjamin Franklin, encouraging us to take the statesman a little more seriously… not for his political or scientific achievements, but for the way he set and cultivated his personal goals. Peterson shows that whether our resolutions are set in the beginning of January or halfway through the year, Franklin’s approach is one that we can all take some notes from.

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Music: a proxy language for autistic children

I spend around 12 hours a week – every week – sharing thoughts, feelings, new ideas, reminiscences and even jokes with some very special children who have extraordinary musical talents, and many of whom are severely autistic.

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New year’s resolution: don’t sabotage yourself

By Susan David
We humans are funny. Often we create beliefs or engage in behaviors that seem to help us in the short term, only to discover they get in the way of the lives we really want to live, or the people we want to become. Allow me to share the story of my friend, Erin.

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Resources to help traumatized children

By Robert Hull
As parents, children, and communities struggle to come to terms with the events in Newtown last week, it is important for educators and parents to be aware of just how deeply children can be affected by violence. Community violence is very different from other sources of trauma that children witness or experience. Most trauma impacts individual students or small groups, whereas the violence that was experienced in Newtown affected the local community and the entire nation.

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Identifying and preventing antisocial behavior

By Donald W. Black
For many years I have pondered the mental state and motivations of mass shooters. The tragic events in Newtown, CT this past week have brought this to the fore. Mass shootings have become everyday occurrences in the United States, and for that reason tend not to attract much attention unless the circumstances are especially heinous, such as this instance in which the victims were young children. We are all left wondering what can be done.

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The case for creating trauma-sensitive schools

By Eric Rossen
In the wake of another national tragedy, it is more apparent than ever that our schools must embrace a stronger role in supporting the mental health of our youth by developing trauma-sensitive schools. The mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that killed several staff and 20 elementary school students came less than two months after Hurricane Sandy, a storm that brought devastation and displacement to tens of thousands of people in the Northeast.

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Nurturing a spirit of caring and generosity in children

By Kenneth Barish
At this holiday season, I would like to offer a few thoughts on how we can help nurture in our children a spirit of generosity and concern for others. I cannot write this post, however, without first expressing my deepest condolences to the families of Newtown, Connecticut, for their unimaginable and unbearable loss.

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Reflections on the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School

By Kathleen M. Heide, Ph.D.
The mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut is a tragic event that is particularly painful as it comes at a time when people across the world are trying to focus on the upcoming holidays as the season of peace bringing good tidings of great joy. Three factors about the Newtown school shooting are noteworthy. First, it was a mass murder. Second, it appears to have been precipitated by the killing of a parent (parricide). Third, it was committed by a 20-year old man. All of these factors are relevant in making sense of what appears to be inexplicable violence.

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Some warning behaviors for targeted violence

By J. Reid Meloy, Ph.D.
As the debate concerning public and social policy surrounding gun control intensifies, I would like to offer some comments on the identification of individuals who concern us as potential perpetrators of planned killing(s). These thoughts are from the trenches of threat assessment, and do not address or offer opinions concerning the larger policy issues we face as a country regarding firearms and public mental health care — one of which is highly emotionally charged and the other sorely neglected.

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How to help your children cope with unexpected tragedy

By Brenda Bursch
Children look to their parents to help them understand the inexplicable. They look to their parents to assuage worries and fears. They depend on their parents to protect them. What can parents do to help their children cope with mass tragedy, such as occurred this week with the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut?

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How many more children have to die?

By Rochelle Caplan, MD
Surely the time has finally come to put our heads together and focus on three seldom connected variables regarding mass murders in the United States: the lack of comprehensive psychiatric care for individuals with mental illness, poor public recognition of the red flags that an individual might harm others, and easy access to firearms.

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The art of science

By Leonard A. Jason
Are art and science so different? At the deepest levels, the overlap is stunning. The artist wakes us from the slumber of ordinary existence by uncovering a childlike wonder and awe of the natural environment. The same magical processes occur when a scientist grasps the mysteries of nature, and by doing so, ultimately shows a graceful interconnectedness.

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Musical ways of interacting with children

By Professor Jane Edwards
As a music therapy scholar, teacher, and practitioner for more than 20 years, I have been able to learn from many sources about the crucial role our early years play in our lives. The ability to reflect on challenges experienced in our adult lives by linking back to childhood experiences is an essential aspect of the way that many music therapists practice. Rather than using descriptions of family histories to apportion blame, the therapist tries to understand the current experience of the patient and their worldview through the lens of past experience, to see if there is some way to make sense of self-destructive behaviours, or difficulties experienced in creating meaningful and satisfying relationships with others.

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Personality disorders, the DSM, and the future of diagnosis

By Edward Shorter
Ben Carey’s thought-provoking article in the New York Times about the treatment of personality disorders in the forthcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association raises two questions:
1. Do disorders of “personality” really exist as natural phenomena, comparable to mania or dementia?

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Moral cost of occupation for the occupiers

By Daniel Bar-Tal and Izhak Schnell
While many countries moved towards termination of occupation, colonialism, and imperialism, Israel still continues the prolonged occupation of West Bank and part of Golan Heights, and partially controls Gaza Strip. It appears that the prolonged occupation bears harsh moral, social, and psychological consequences, not only for the occupied population, but to the occupying society as well. Prolonged occupation refers not only to a statutory or geographical situation, but also inherently carries with it moral and socio-psychological meanings.

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‘Zombie drugs’

By Dr Rosie Harding & Dr Elizabeth Peel
According to official statistics, a significant minority of people living with dementia are prescribed antipsychotic drugs. The 2012 National Dementia and Antipsychotic Prescribing Audit suggests that there has been a fall in the prescription of these medications. However, less than half of GP practices in England participated and thousands of people with dementia are still prescribed antipsychotic drugs each year. What many perhaps don’t know is that only one antipsychotic (Risperidone) has actually been licensed for use in elderly people with dementia.

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