Now I just need to know what happens to rats who drink 6 Diet Cokes a day like I do. (No, I don't! Don't tell me! I'm sure it's something horrible.)
Mothers' talk is key to kids' social skills, study says
1. we observed a particular behavior, let's call it behavior A, in some mothers
2. we observed a different behavior, let's call it behavior B, in the children of those mothers
3. therefore, Mothers engaging in behavior A will cause their children to engage in behavior B!
ARGH. No. "Mothers with social skills produce offspring with social skills" might be a fair conclusion, or even "Mothers who talk about mental states produce children with social skills." But saying that the talking is the means of producing the skills in the offspring is a leap. There could be another underlying cause for both the mothers' tendency to talk about mental states and the kids' tendency to have good social skills...genetics, for instance, or level of education, or whether they eat peanut butter, or whether they have other family members living at home.
(Here's my own theory, based on the same logic: Mothers who wear boots in December are more likely to have children who wore coats in December than mothers who wear sandals in December. Therefore boot-wearing must cause coat-wearing! If we get the sandal-wearing mothers to wear boots instead, their children will start to wear coats! Where should I go to apply for a grant?)
If they did a study in which they altered the way the mothers talk to their children and recorded observable results, with a control group etc, that would be persuasive. This is just annoying and creates another way of blaming mothers for stuff, which is, of course, the thought that the artcle leads with.
Because I am secretly 12 years old, this part of the article made my day:
Bill Albert, chief program officer for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said teens need to be encouraged to delay having sex, but they also need to be given the facts about safe sex.
"When pledgers fell off the wagon, they fell off hard," he said.