Research says mothers are responsible for the social outcomes of their children, but I just want better reporting on research
Bad research leaves me uneasy. Bad reporting of research leaves me feeling even more uneasy, especially if the reporting happens to be released by a major news outlet. When the actual research isn’t freely available, thanks to the monetization of the research sector, it becomes difficult to find who is more to blame when a report is released.
I find a CNN article in my newsfeed regarding mothers and their role in developing children’s social skills. I enjoy the subject and greatly appreciate the role it plays in showing the importance of parenting above and beyond all factors in a child’s development – decreasing the amount of blame we can put on the media. But the report, as you might suspect, leaves me feeling uneasy.
From the beginning, I have to point out that there’s a cultural difference, since the research was done in the UK. It is difficult for me to say anything about the difference in family dynamic there and here. What immediately irks me about the research is the lack of focus on the father’s role in the development of the child. The research assumes that the father plays a lesser role, and dually assumes that the mother’s role is to focus on children for some unknown reason. Zelinger’s quote at the end of the piece is appropriate in that she frames it as the responsibility of the parents, but everything else seems to make mothers shoulder the burden more so then men.
Is the mother focus due to the nature of the research or due to a spin that the journalist, Elizabeth Landau, put on the article? It is difficult to say without all of the facts. If the latter, the result is my disappointment in CNN for allowing a writer to do that. If the former, then I have even more disappointment to dole out to the involved parties. The researchers should be aware of the additional factors and already looking into the role of the father in the developing social sensibilities of the children as well as a deeper review of the family dynamic in modern times – since fathers are not the primary breadwinners and mothers do not all stay at home. Additionally, Landau should be charged with the responsibility of not only informing readers of the research but also of the cultural differences inherent and the shortcomings a 14 year study may yield. Those reporting on psychological research should be informed enough to provide readers with appropriate caveats. After all, there’s a difference between saying, “I read an article that said that this research says…” and saying, “I read an article that said the following research was suggestive of…”