What to think about before reading another study

What to think about before reading another study

Science is awesome. Research is important. Insight is invaluable.

I firmly believe those three statements. And, with those in mind, I think it's also important that parents should stop and think before applying the findings of the latest study to their lives.

It feels like there are countless headlines announcing what some study has found or touting what an expert has deemed to be the best and only way to do something, particularly when it comes to parenting. I share these headlines on the Between Us Facebook page and here on the blog regularly.

I do that because they can be helpful. Facts are fantastic. I base my parenting approach on them, finding them more reliable than trends and gossip and more persuasive when answering the question, "Why?"

However, like everything else in the world, you need to  think critically about what you read and hear, especially before you apply it to your life and definitely before you freak out about it. Here are some things to consider when reading about the latest study:

Sample size

How many people participated this study? Just today I read one that consisted of just 20 people (10 in the control group), and one that included thousands of participants. A small study isn't necessarily wrong. On its own, though, I look at it as more of a start and not a huge pronouncement. I prefer big studies that include a lot of people, or academic work that aggregates the findings of several different studies.

Bias

Look at who and where the study is from, and particularly who paid the people doing the research?

Cultural differences  

We are far more alike than we are different, but raising kids in one country is not the same as doing so in another. And within the same the country, there are different cultures. Similarly, studies about teens completed or simply started before they all had smart phones may not give you the full picture today.

Uniqueness

You, your child, your family - you are all unique. No one knows those three entities like you do. Certainly no researcher in a lab hundreds of miles away knows what your day to day experience is like. What works for many may not work for you, your kid, your family. That's okay.

The big picture

Keep things in context. Facts are great, and they're more reliable that gossip or trends. However, the research findings are data points, among others, to take into consideration. They can help inform your parenting (and other decisions), certainly, and they should. But only you know the history of your family, your current struggles, the goals you all have for the future.

Those future goals, as well as scientific research, are always evolving. Think critically about what you're reading, and do the best you can with the information you have at the time.

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Prior Post: Expert advice on handling tricky back-to-school social scenarios with your kids

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