Thursday, July 28, 2011

Shame! Shame! "Freakonomics"

Sam has taken to running around yelling "Shame! Shame!" at Gavin whenever he doesn't like what Gavin is doing.


I've been off my soap box for a while. Apologies to those that just want to see cute pics of the boys, but this one's been brewing in my mind for a while, and I just needed to get it off my chest.

For those of you not familiar with the book Freakonomics, the whole point of the book is examining correlation vs causation. So basically just because two variables move in the same direction together, does not necessarily mean that one causes the other. It's actually a really fascinating book.


I got to this section, taken directly from the text, and can be found here

A child who had low birth weight tends to do poorly in school. It may be that being born prematurely is simply hurtful to a child's overall well-being.

So that would be the usual assumption, that being a preemie causes injury to the brain via over/under oxygenation, brain bleeds, and sensory experiences that they are not yet able to process. That would be my assumption.

It may also be that low birthweight is a strong forecaster of poor parenting, since a mother who smokes or drinks or otherwise mistreats her baby in utero isn't likely to turn things around just because the baby is born. A low-birthweight child, in turn, is more likely to be a poor child - and, therefore, more likely to attend Head Start, the federal preschool program. But, according to the ECLS data, Head Start does nothing for a child's future test scores. Despite a deep reservoir of appreciation for Head Start, we must acknowledge that it has repeatedly been proven ineffectual in the long term. Here's a likely reason: instead of spending the day with his own undereducated, over-worked mother, the typical Head Start child spends the day with someone else's undereducated, overworked mother.

What did you read in that paragraph? I read that low brith weight/prematurity is caused by the mother, and mothers of preemies tend to be under-educated, over-worked, and low income.

Really Mr. Levitt?? Your entire book is based on peeling back the layers and differentiating causation from correlation. Had you done your research you would have found a large percentage of premature births are not a result of mothers engaging in high risk activities.

According to this article, about 40% of U.S. women that deliver prematurely have contributing risk factors - and that 40% includes ALL risk factors, not just those that mean you abuse your body or don't seek out proper prenatal care.

There is NO way low birth weight should be absolutely attributed to poor parenting. Just ask my huge network of preemie moms that would give anything. ANYTHING. to have a healthy, full term baby. Or watch those shows where the teen gives birth in the bathroom at prom having no prenatal care and the baby turns out fine. Much to the dismay of those of us on the other end of the spectrum, women that could give a s*** about their pregnancy have healthy full term babies.

Low birth weight is NOT caused only by poor parenting, and the authors should be ashamed for making such a statement in a book that is dedicated to finding true cause and effect relationships. Is poor parenting a risk factor for premature/low birth weight babies? Definitely.

But there is an overwhelming amount of the preemie population that was born to loving, awesome parents that did everything they could, and continue to do everything they can for the well being of their kids.

For this book to perpetuate that preemies are born only of a mother's inability or lack of desire to properly care for herself while pregnant - well, I'm at a loss of words to respond to that, so I will say it in Sam's words "Shame! Shame!"

That is all.


Sarah said...

Hey Bridie - I noticed there is room on the box. Mind if I join you?

Here you can find a chart of the differences in fetal brain development. Look at a 26-weeker, then look at a full-term child.

It would seem that a 26-weeker's brain isn't fully developed.

In fact, you might say that an extremely premature child has brain damage.

Oh, wait - you mean that children who have intraventricular bleeds have brain damage? Why yes, yes they do.

So, let me get this straight, a brain damaged child who does poorly in school is the result of a parent who didn't take care of herself properly and therefore didn't care for her child properly?

Yes, of course that makes sense.


liz.mccarthy said...

Well Said Bridie and Sarah!!!

Grr, what a ridiculous assumption!

Uncle Chris said...

I totally understand where you're coming from, but I think you jumped to a conclusion that wasn't being presented.

Not to defend Mr. Levitt, because I haven't read the book and I don't really know his position, but it seems like he's not saying that low birth weight and prematuriy is always caused by the mother, and that mothers of preemies are always under-educated, over-worked and of low income.

It looks like what he is saying is low birth weight and premature birth are two different things. Low birth weight CAN be caused by prematurity, or low birth weight CAN be caused by a family environment that is of low income, single parent, etc.

He's not saying if you have a preemie you're a bad mother, but poor choices of a mother can lead to low birth weight, which can lead to the cyclical pattern of a child being poorly educated and making poor parenting decision of their own.

Bridie said...

I appreciate trying to see the other point of view but the sentence that gets me is "low birthweight is a strong forecaster of poor parenting". That's hardly saying that it merely CAN be caused by poor parenting, his sentence confers that in the majority of the time, it indicates the fault of the mother.

If I saw a statistic that 95% of the time (or 75%) that low birth weight is a result of poor choices by the mother, I would take my offense as a sensitivity. I could accept it based on the evidence, that at a 75% rate, that it really is a strong forecaster of poor parenting. However, that simply is not the case.

His book is interesting, and actually really good with a lot of great statistics. This case, he really isn't talking about low birth weight, but the point of the chapter is Head Start programs. It's just dumb that he threw in this one point - trying to look at things from a different angle (which I can appreciate in theory) but threw out a statement that has no evidence behind it. And one that perpetuates a very common misconception in society that preemies are due to mothers that smoke and drink and otherwise don't take care of their pregnancy - he accepted that standard POV without any research to back it up.