Monday, 9 November 2009

How to bring up your kids

I've been having a quick flick through this (pdf) this morning, after being listening to a somewhat unusual event on the Today programme this morning.

The smooth talking chap and the strident angry woman (How is it that they always seem to have the same two people on no matter what the problem is?) were both agreeing with each other!

Whatever it was they were talking about must have been so fundamentally obvious that even these two diametrically opposed views were perfectly capable of agreeing. This had a chance of being interesting.

Part of this is due to the entertaining media coverage around this report (BBC: Tough love 'is good for children'. Guardian: How tough love breeds smart children). A habit of mine is to read the report and see if there are any interesting outcomes that don't make the media.

There's a nice graph (page 39) showing that the children bought up by their natural parents, who are married are twice as likely to be in the top quintile for "Child Outcomes" than those who have single parents. Amazingly (particularly with a sample size of 9,000 families, which means we can discount that as a reason) this ratio is even higher when comparing to married, step couples. There's a fun one conclusion from that - Divorce is bad for your kids, even worse is to shack up with someone else.

(Though it's worth noting, if you do get remarried, your kids are slightly less likely to end up in the bottom quintile. Swings and Roundabouts, right?)

I originally started this piece with the intention of either going on a lovely rant about how the media spin the results of serious research or how serious research is often mind-numbingly obvious and utterly pointless.

Well, I'm not going to do either of those. Sure the media have over simplified the report but they are journos afterall, and the report does seem to be obvious to anyone.

However, research like this is useful. It does serve a purpose. In a world of "Science backed Policy" (OK, OK, this lot are bad at it, but hopefully the next lot will be better!) we need evidence like this before we can make some decent policy.

This report makes two essential points.

  1. Bad Parents fuck up kids.
  2. Good Parenting is more important than wodges of cash, though the two are often correlated

Maybe people just shouldn't be allowed to breed until they're mentally, physically and economically capable of dealing with it?

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