Thursday, April 10, 2008

Parenting, Inc. Author Pamela Paul: Doing the Data

Pamela Paul, journalist, author, and mother, dropped a comment on my little old review of a review of her hot off-the presses book in The New York Times. No amateur she, Paul's written extensively on social sciency-issues like parenting, marriage, and pornography. Though I haven't yet read the book, I should be receiving it on my doorstep, perhaps today. Look forward to reading it, especially after reading her thoughtful article over at Babble on baby sign language, a piece adapted from Parenting, Inc.

Kudos to Paul for a balanced look at the issue and also the scientific evidence that, by the way, does not show a lot of support for the purported benefits attributed to the practice (e.g., cognitive skills). Out of the thousand-plus "studies" done, only 10 measured objective outcomes. Granted, conducting a rigorous experiment to study the issue would be difficult - for one, there are a host of factors that complicate the task. Like other parenting practices, say, breast-feeding, there are probably substantial differences between parents who choose one way to parent, and those, another. And it's difficult to account for (or control for in science-speak) all those messy, not so quantifiable variables.

And to assure those of you who do sign to your kiddos (or breastfeed), I know you find it rewarding, and that alone should not be discounted. If you want to sign, sign. If you don't want to, don't. If you do but didn't, don't feel guilty. If you did but didn't want to, don't feel guilty.

As for Parenting, Inc. - I think I got the wrong impression from the title - assuming that it was focused on the commercial aspects of parenting, like the $800 stroller. Sounds like Paul's taking on the so-called parenting industry that no doubt perpetuates parental fear, anxiety, false impressions of scientific evidence, and yes, questionable consumerism.

Greg at daddytypes is reading Parenting, Inc. - maybe he'll feed us some insights when he's finished it.

Read a Q & A with Paul and Salon's Katharine Mieszkowski.

Check out Pamela's blog at The Huffington Post.

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