Thursday, January 03, 2013

MD attacks parenting experts

The WSJ published this letter:
Even though parenting experts are now a dime a dozen, there is no such thing as an expert in parenting ("Smarter Ways to Discipline Kids," Personal Journal, Dec. 26). To be an expert in anything one must have vast experience. To be a parenting expert one must have raised vast numbers of children, but every so-called parenting expert has at the most two to four children, hardly the kind of series that commands respect in any science. And of their two to four children one observes that about half of them tend to be messed up in one way or another, and certainly no better than anybody else's kids.

So forgive me if I'm skeptical when you inform us that the information you are giving us is "backed up by hundreds of research studies." You could have been more convincing had you cited a large, carefully controlled study that actually discovered something new about raising children, but knowing that those "hundreds of research studies" read like a five-place logarithm table I am not in the least bit surprised that you failed to do so. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that those Ph.D.s are going to discover anything our great-grandmothers didn't already know.

Finally, when you cite "experts" at Yale, let me be quick to point out that I am a graduate of the Yale School of Medicine, and during my years there the most bizarre and maladjusted people I encountered were professors of psychology and psychiatry.

John Barchilon, M.D.
Los Angeles
He is right to be skeptical. Yes, most shrinks are personally screwed up, and I would not want my kids anywhere near them. I do believe that common sense from our great-grandmothers is superior to any advice I got from any shrink or court evaluator.

I also think that pediatricians and other MDs are worthless for parenting advice. Medical schools teach how to diagnose and treat diseases and injuries. They teach nothing of value about parenting, nutrition, safety, or other such topics, and it is foolish to get advice on such topics from a physician.

The article said:
Parents who look for discipline guidance often find conflicting advice from the avalanche of books and mommy blogs and the growing number of so-called parent coaches. (In 2011, 3,520 parenting books were published or distributed in the U.S., up from 2,774 in 2007, according to Bowker Books In Print database.)

"Many of the things that are recommended we know now to be wrong," says Dr. Kazdin, a leading expert on parent management training. "It is the equivalent of telling people to smoke a lot for their health."
Most of those books are garbage. So is much of the article. I have only seen 2 or 3 parenting books that say anything of value.
Some parents try and reason with young children, which Dr. Kazdin says is bound to fail to change a kid's behavior. Reason doesn't change behavior, which is why stop-smoking messages don't usually work, Dr. Kazdin says. Overly harsh punishments also fail. "One of the side effects of punishment is noncompliance and aggression," he says.

Spanking, in particular, has been linked to aggressive behavior in kids and anger problems and increased marital conflict later on in adulthood.
This is crazy advice. A parent can reason with a child as young as 3 years old. Reason has in fact persuaded millions to stop smoking.

I do not actually reject the research studies as much as the above letter. You have to read the papers to see what the research really says, as there is a gap between the research and what the experts says.

For example, I have looked at the spanking studies, and they do not show that moderate spanking causes later anger problems or increased marital conflict. I have discussed these studies several times, such as here and here, and explained how supposed experts draw faulty conclusions.

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