Skepchick Quickies 5.25

Skepchick Quickies 5.25
Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

47 Comments

  1. Dammit, and I had already told a bunch of people that Mayim Bialik was awesome.

    I don’t actually know anything about “attachment parenting” and the science related to it. Is this merely a minority, defensible position or is it complete bullshit?

    She doesn’t mention vaccines in the video, but doing a little Googling I see that she has apparently bought into some of the antivax propoganda.

    She seems especially swayed by arguments from nature and antiquity. On attachment parenting: “It’s not a new style of parenting it’s the way mammals and primates parent, period.” On vaccines: “Children today get about four times as many vaccines as the average 35-year-old did when we were kids.”

    • I too was very upset when I saw this and yes Mayim is an anti-vaxxer. Her nerd card must be revoked, and I must retcon my years watching Blossom and having a huge crush on her. *sob*

    • It’s complete bullshit.

      A bunch of uppity fools took a bunch of old, highly intensive parenting practices and multiplied them to be even more intensive, stole a name from a legitimate theory so it would sound legit, and then attempt to prove how awesome they are by misinterpreting and hyperbolizing studies about ABUSE and proclaiming that mainstream parenting causes the same outcomes.

  2. On the Gallup poll: Only a random sample of 1,024 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states? That seems small to me. The survey tells me more about who picks up the phone when a telemarketer calls. Personally, if I don’t recognize the number on caller ID, I don’t answer it.

    • Not only that, but there’s a known issue with coverage bias in telephone surveys. Specifically, landline samples tend to favor Republicans. Looking at the methodology of this particular poll, there are at least 200 more landline respondents than cell phone respondents. And there is a margin of error of ±4-5 percent.

      I’m always weary of survey data. It can be a great place to start from, but I never put a lot of trust in them.

      • Okay, I’m still aggravated by pro-choice people not identifying as pro-choice, but I feel better now.

      • Important points, Mr. Wilson and Will. I don’t think most of the public is really aware of how major media organizations do polling, and therefore have very little concept of what biases might come out in the polls.

      • That is true, just ask Thomas Dewey.

      • This. I live in a province where in a recent provincial election a party which had polled as getting a huge majority emerged on election day with an insignificant minority. The trend of people moving away from land lines and getting cellular phones, of having unlisted numbers and of just plain not answering telemarketers… well, there was a lot of media the day after going “ohmygosh how could The Polls be SO WRONG??”.

        Not to say there isn’t a trend in that direction, there may be a kernel of truth in the poll data, but it’s really not representative. I think one thing they said is that polls tend to be missing/under-representing youth.

    • The number of people involved in the poll is actually good. You only need about 600 people for a good poll on a single question. 1000 people is quite good.

      The Dewey-Truman poll did highlight one of the weaknesses of polling that scientific pollsters, of which Gallup really, really is one, work long and hard to eliminate. In the case of Dewey, it was because owning a telephone correlated to above average wealth, so they weren’t getting a random sample of the population.

      As JoanneBB, that sort of phenomenon can still bite pollsters today. However, it only takes one skewed poll before pollsters start paying attention and correcting. Among other things, you’ll notice that the survey is 40% cell phones. Read the brief on their methodology; this really is a social science with a strong mathematical foundation.

  3. On the whole “pro-choice” poll number, I’ve heard that they are actually sort of bullshit, dishonest numbers from the people responding. If you ask if they are pro-choice they say “no”, but if you ask if they think that they personally should have access to abortions a lot of them change their answer to “yes”. Abortions in the general sense are for ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’ but if they get one it is for good rational moral reasons.

    • Alternatively, people identify as “pro-life” because they’re Catholic or they personally wouldn’t get an abortion or whatever, but they don’t actually think that abortion should be illegal. The same survey the 41% stat came from also indicated that only 20% of Americans think that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, fewer than the 25% who think it should be legal in all circumstances. (52% think it should be legal under certain circumstances, which certainly encompasses a wide range of views.)

      Don’t get me wrong, I want to see more people openly identify as pro-choice and I hate the vilification of the term. I’m just pointing that what label people use doesn’t reveal the whole picture.

  4. While I did not practice attachment parenting when my kids were small there are a large number of people in my circle of friends and acquaintances who do. (In my area of the midwest there seems to be a choice between bible thumpers and hippies when venturing out into the world. I choose the hippies.) I’ve heard their arguments, done some of my own research(purely out of curiosity and not necessarily extensively) and tried to apply some critical thinking to the information I’ve heard/read.

    IMHO, some aspects of attachment parenting appear to be benign. If people want to baby wear, co-sleep, breastfeed on demand, extend breastfeeding, etc. I’m okay with that. I haven’t found a great deal of credible evidence either way in support of mainstream or attachment parenting. Most people who choose mainstream practices aren’t doing so because of science either. It’s cultural which is no greater reason to do something than naturalism.

    Personally, I don’t put much credence into the long term benefit claims of attachment parenting or the dangers they claim are posed by mainstream parenting. But being a parent isn’t just about who your child will one day become; it’s also about who they are right now. Right now I want my kids to feel safe and secure. I don’t want them to cry alone when they don’t understand the “lesson” the parents are trying to convey. If some of the practices that fall under the label of attachment parenting make a baby’s life better right now, with no known future benefit or harm, then I think it’s a sensible decision.

    The anti-vax I have concerns about but that isn’t really a part of attachment parenting. There is definitely a great deal of overlap between the two and many people who choose attachment parenting also choose not to vaccinate which means that media coverage usually lumps the two together. Much like skepticism and atheism- they OFTEN go hand in hand but I’m sure most of us know skeptics who aren’t atheists and atheists who aren’t skeptics. For this reason I choose to look at AP as a separate issue than anit-vax. As do some of the parents in the article.

    • If people want to baby wear, co-sleep, breastfeed on demand, extend breastfeeding, etc. I’m okay with that.

      The other three are mostly benign, but co-sleeping can actually present a severe suffocation hazard to babies. Even when babies sleep in a crib, suffocation is such a concern that it gets a special name: SIDS. Now, move them from a crib (which people have been working to design to help minimize the chance of SIDS) to an adult bed, with all the trappings. Now add a sleeping adult human to the mix, who will likely adjust their position, roll over, etc. as they sleep. The child’s suffocation chance has just gone through the roof.

      • Do you have any data to support that co-sleeping is dangerous? I’ve had a lot of friends who have co-slept and no one has been smothered.

      • Just as specific measures are necessary to make sleeping in a crib safe, specific measures are also necessary to make co-sleeping safe. Cribs are recalled all the time (in fact the one I use was recalled AFTER my kids had outgrown it). That doesn’t mean we stop using cribs. Educating the public about the ways to make co-sleeping as safe as possible should be the goal.

  5. It appears that Mayim has fallen for the “I identify as a nerd, therefore every whim and idea that enters my brain MUST be genius-level thought, because I couldn’t possibly believe anything that is stupid or irrational” fallacy. Is there a name for that. Self-fulfilling nerdery?

  6. I don’t know how you even test attachment parenting for effectiveness compared to other styles of parenting, unless the parents are doing something openly dangerous to their children. The power of being an involved parent, whatever the chosen style, would seem to beat being an disinterested parent every time. Sort of like all these different diets with specific differences, where the thing they all have in common is that you’re controlling portion size and total calorie intake and THAT’S what makes a diet work.

    • I was just thinking about how to test it as well. Probably best to try a longitudinal study or compare adults raised that way vs some sort of control parenting group and try to control for income, parents working, parents eduction etc and then try to look at things that might affect the kids life satisfaction like mental health, criminal records, later academic achievement, if you go far enough maybe number of divorces etc?

      It would take a fair bit of time need some thinking through of all the factors you need to control for and a decent sample of attachment parenting families but you should be able to get some useful data this way.

      • It could happen but it would still be incredibly difficult due to the sheer number of complicating factors.

        They’ve tried it with some other types of studies and largely what they find isn’t anything reliable because you have to hedge the results so much.

        • Indeed. If I wasn’t clear I’m thinking: possible in theory difficult in practice (to put it mildly).

    • I don’t know that you can test attachment parenting as a concept, since it seems to me to involve a number of different choices. But you can test different practices that fall within the category.

      For example one practice that some parents who practice attachment parenting use (including from what I have read, Mayim Bialik and Alicia Silverstone, reportedly)is to chew food in their own mouths first and then feed it to their children.

      This is a demonstrably dangerous practice as it has been found to be very susceptible to transferring some really bad bacteria. It’s a good example of the naturalistic fallacy because it’s a practice taken from animal behavior and cultures in other countries.

      However, this is generally practiced in those other cultures because they do not have access to safe clean tools for processing food for children. Not because it is a better way to feed children.

  7. Bialik claims to be a nerd but opposes vaccines and utilizes pointless terms like “holistic?”

    That article was purely disheartening. It’s bad propaganda, IMO. (BTW, I say that while acknowledging that we utilized many attachment parenting techniques with our kids. Not because there’s all that much science to support it, but because it fit our family, and there isn’t science to show that it’s harmful. A lack of vaccines, on the other hand, can be extremely harmful. Further, failing to set boundaries does appear to be harmful to kids, which makes me wonder about Bialik’s derision of basic politeness rules for her kids.)

    • Does Bialik also oppose seat belts? How about modern sanitation? Attachment parenting is being as responsive to your child as you can, which usually includes a lot of carrying and nursing, at least in the early days. It does not mean you wish you lived in the fifteenth century.

    • “Nerds” are not necessarily rational thinkers. Mayim Byalik proves that.

  8. LIke many parenting choices, the decision to practice attachment parenting is largely made by the child. If you have an easy going baby who sleeps through the night in his crib at an early age, you can make any choice that suits you. If on the other hand, you have an infant who screams when you put him down or a toddler who vehemently resists all efforts to wean him, then you’d be crazy not to wear your baby and practice extended breastfeeding. Who wants to make life that hard on themselves?

  9. Attachment parenting, if that’s what works for your family is fine, every family and every child is different. Not everyone can or wants to have a completely un-medicated childbirth (conversely not everybody wants an epidural), not everyone can or wants to breastfeed, not everyone can or wants to be a stay at home parent, not everyone can or wants to go back to work when they have kids. However, Mayim not vaccinating has possible consequences for others besides her family.

    I’m also not sure of what to think about the fact that she doesn’t feel it was necessary to have he son tested when he didn’t even roll over until the age of one…or the fact that she feels its not necessary to teach her kids basic manners:

    http://moms.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/02/16/6059853-why-i-dont-force-my-kids-to-say-please-or-walk-on-schedule

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/02/21/say-it-aint-so-amy-farrah-fowler/

    In the case of not even coming close to meeting physical milestones, I know from experience in my own family that early intervention can make a big difference in how a kid does in school. My younger brother has multiple speech and learning roadblocks and early intervention and speech therapy helped him immensely. Maybe since she is homeschooling Mayim feels that she can help him compensate until he catches up.

  10. My parents practiced detachment parenting, after I was born they pretty much ignored me. And just look how I turned out!… wait a minute.

  11. Amanda,

    Rage Barf? I’ve never heard that term before. Anyway, I’m glad you thought the story showed you on that poll was important enough to mention it here.

  12. Malik’s ‘advice’ comes at a great time after I just read cracked’s 4 reasons you should never take advice from celebrities: http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-reasons-you-should-never-take-advice-from-celebrities/

    Although, it obviously depends on the celebrity. If Adam Savage told me to buy stock, I would do it blindly.

    • And Tim Minchin. Tim Minchin has himself some rationalist cred in spades, man!

  13. Re the pro-choice thingy. So much rests on the actual question. I would not automatically say I am pro choice – it depends on who is choosing, and therefore, on how the question is phrased. Only the woman who has the organism growing inside her has the choice. The politicans don’t. The clergy don’t. I don’t. Vox populi doesn’t. For what it’s worth, I don’t think the doctor does either.

    I know many women who are against abortion for themselves, but would not hold it against another woman making a different choice. I wouldn’t put too much stock in that poll.

    • You’re right, everything depends on how the question is phrased (this is well known to researchers). The phrasing frames the whole discussion. This is evident in polling on marriage equality: when phrased “do you support legalizing gay marriage?” the poll numbers are lower than when phrased “do you support marriage equality?”.

      But I don’t agree that only women who choose to have an abortion can be pro-choice (if I’m reading your comment correctly–that’s how it comes across to me). Pro-choice means you are in favor of women making their own reproductive choices. It doesn’t mean that you would choose to have an abortion. If a woman would not choose to have an abortion herself, but would not seek to revoke another woman’s choice, she is pro-choice.

    • Erm. That makes you pro-choice. That’s what pro-choice is: Believing that women should be able to make such choices for themselves.

      That’s it. Period. That’s what pro-choice is. It’s very simple. It’s not at all politics when it comes right down to it.

      You are 100% pro-choice.

      • Exactly, thanks for saying what I was thinking! There are so many misconceptions about what pro-choice means.

  14. I always felt that attachments parenting, the type that Myaim promotes, is a very, very, very privileged sort of parenting that only a very, very, very small aspect of our society can even begin to attempt. And even then those privileged parents probably fail from time to time, so even they get the guilt piled on them, because no one can be that fucking perfect all the time.

    But of course, if you’re not privileged enough to utilize attachment parenting — which is probably almost every god damned parent in the country — you are looked down upon.

    It’s just yet another snotty way for the well off, who have plenty of time and money to “attachment parent”, to look down on us normal folk. “You can’t breastfeed because you’re a single parent? You are an awful parent!” Etc.

    It’s yet more “us vs. them” crap and it’s depressing.

    And I’m not even a parent.

    • I think you make a good point. Attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding are definitely much easier for well off women to practice. However, that doesn’t alter the benefits of those choices. Formula is inferior to breastmilk in many ways. That’s a fact. That doesn’t mean that kids who don’t get breastmilk are inferior any more than it means that kids who can’t take trips to museums are inferior. It just isn’t ideal.

      We don’t tell mothers that it’s just as well if they don’t have time to read to their children. We can sympathize with the fact that they’re working three jobs to feed their kids (and I sure wish we had a much more robust social safety network) and don’t have the time or energy, but we don’t pretend it doesn’t matter. We don’t sneer at those rich elitist moms who think everybody should be reading to their kids.

      Maybe if we had the same kinds of maternal leave and health care that civilized nations offer their citizens, all women could choose the type of parenting that works best for their family.

      • It may be a “fact” that breast milk is better than formula, however, I’m not sure how much I buy that kids who are breast fed are therefore going to be healthier. Life comes with so many other variables. While alone, with no other factors, breast milk is ideal, it’s hard to prove, in my opinion, that it’s necessarily ideal in all situations. The health of the mother is just as important as the health of the child (and effects the health of the child as well, especially when very young), for example.

        It’s good to know that breast milk is a very healthy option when possible, but at the same time we need to have some perspective.

        • Why the quotes around fact? There is no debate about breastmilk being better than formula- even makers of formula stipulate this in their advertising (IE: “Breast is best but…”).

          I’m not saying formula is horrible or that parents who choose/need to use it are doing anything wrong. But there’s no question about the benefits of breastmilk vs. formula.

    • I think this is the media portrayal of attachment parenting. I spend a great deal of time with people who actually practice AP. They are of all income levels and attitudes. Most of them have the attitude that this is what works for them so they do it, without judgement for those who choose differently. And most know their own limitations and accept that there is no way to practice absolutely every aspect of AP philosophy. It is my experience that the media does a really good job of revving up the “mommy wars” when in reality most moms are too busy being moms to worry about what others are doing. Of course there are exceptions but this is true of every type of parent, not just those who choose AP.

      Additionally, the friends I know who choose AP are of every income level, though admittedly none of them are single parents. Nothing works for everyone, but that doesn’t make it inherently bad or wrong.

    • I hate how the word “privelege” is thrown around to make certain lifestyles seem out of touch with reality. And no I’m not talking inherent privilege of race and sex, I’m talking about your use of “oh, this is a lifestyle only for privileged people”.

      And the reason I hate this is that most posters in the blogsphere are highly privileged themselves. It’s like someone with a diamond studded watch calling someone in a Porsche a privileged a-hole. Lame.

      As far as attachment parenting, why are we talking about it? It’s a controversial non-issue stirred by the media to sell magazines and drive ad impressions, and people gobble it up. It’s stupid.

      Anti-Vax is an issue because it clearly hurts people, *other people’s* parenting style should be none of your damn business.

      P.S. I’m not an attachment parent.

      • P.P.S.

        The reason I hate your criticism Marilove, is that as parents, my girlfriend and I have to deal with people always lecturing us on how to parent. And most parents deal with this.

        And frankly it’s particularly annoying when it comes from a single person who has no idea what it’s like being a parent. It’s like “oh gee single childless person, thanks so much for the nugget of golden advice you just pulled out of your ass about how to raise children, we kneel at the shrine of your great experience.”

        Mind your own beeswax everybody.

  15. Regarding Bialik’s stance that “You tell my body when to give birth? That _feels_ wrong.”

    You know what? Sometimes I tell my body when to take a shit. It works out just fine. I’m aware that the two aren’t exactly the same; for example, I’m exceedingly unlikely to die while pooping. However, by the same token, modern medicine hasn’t, I don’t think, spent quite so much time and energy studying the bowel movements of healthy thirty year old men. Unless I’m greatly mistaken.

    Her Ph.D. is in neuroscience, not obstetrics. She should know better than to opine so strongly about a field outside her expertise.

    • I think in general it’s probably best to listen and pay attention to the woman’s body because it, in a MOST cases probably, or even just a lot of cases, does know when it’s time to give birth.

      THAT SAID, sometimes the body doesn’t work right. Humans are imperfect creatures and things just don’t always work right.

      Sometimes you have to interfere and help the process along.

      And that’s what I have a problem with a lot of this attachment parenting, and also this idea that the body ALWAYS KNOWS WHAT IS BEST! line of thinking that a lot of the “Natural child birth” people advocate.

      It is just so extreme. It often leaves no wiggle room. It often ignores the fact that human bodies are imperfect and they fail a lot.

      Science and medicine are not evil! They can help your body do what it’s designed to do.

  16. Just gave birth 3 weeks ago. Science was my friend as were those who practice it. The only reason I am here typing is highly trained staff and a lot of research into childbirth. Though fainting due to blood loss was an interesting experience.

    Vaccinations – yes please wish they could be given at birth as every time I take my baby out I think will she be safe from diseases that I should not be worried about if other people got vaccinated.

  17. Attachment parenting is only bad in two instances: one, if it is medically harmful to the child or mother. Two, when the media shoves it in our faces. Look, everyone, a nearly grown boy sucking on a woman’s breast! I mean, seriously. It’s one thing if a mom must feed her child in public. But now it’s something to paste on a magazine cover? What the hell ever happened to discretion? Why don’t we all just run naked down the damned street?

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