The Mom

Emotionally Packed, Misleading Articles Exposed

I just read a ridiculous article. The title is, “Could a Toddler’s Personality Foreshadow Teen Drinking?” If you can’t already tell from the title, let me go through why I believe this article will go down in infamy as one of the least researched, yet most havoc-inducing articles in history.

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From the Pop Sugar Article

Summary: The summary is easy, because the entire article consists of just a few small paragraphs of nonsense. Basically, it tells the reader that there is a study out there that suggests that if your child has low self-esteem and is an extrovert in preschool, that he or she has a high likelihood of drinking underage.

1)  The article, published in Pop Sugar and written by Patricia-Anne Tom, has very little information in it. It basically gives a blurb from the study and then gives a blurb from someone who doesn’t agree with the study. It doesn’t explain what really went into the study or what percentage of error there was in the study (how many introverted preschoolers ended up drinking underage and how many extroverted preschoolers didn’t?)

2)  The one source they have listed (Fernando Ariotti via Flickr/Creative Commons) is

a) a Flickr account… really? A Flickr account? That’s some hardcore research right there.

       b) Inaccessible:

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 9.09.57 AM

3) It misrepresents the article it references. The Pop Sugar article states:

“Research reveals that if your child demonstrates a degree of emotional instability and high sociability before first grade, that extroversion and “sensation-seeking” personality means they will be more likely than other kids to drink as teens.”

Here, it sounds as if they are talking about one cause: if your child is emotionally unstable and also an extrovert, that they have a higher likelihood of drinking underage.

However, the article they link to in Live Science states that the research actually pinpoints two personalities that can trigger a liklihood of drinking underage. Those two are 1) extroverts, and 2) those who are emotionally unstable AND have a tendency toward introversion.

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From the Live Science Article

I can say that Live Science actually did well with this article. They not only clearly stated the findings, but they also added a statement that clarifies that these findings are just stipulation and aren’t proven as of yet:

“Other researchers in the field acknowledge this study as a substantial step forward, but also note the results are still not robust enough to accurately predict teenage alcohol use from an early age.”

4) The article doesn’t give a “Call to Action” or a resolution. Tom mention that the low self-esteem and extroversion can foreshadow your child’s entrance into the big bad world of teenage drinking, but she doesn’t give resources that can help parents avoid this or offer suggestions as to how to prevent it… She should’ve gathered some quotes from her brilliant researchers about how to prevent the teenage doomsday while she got the valuable quotes such as,

“This underscores the fact that drinking during adolescence is largely a social phenomenon,” says Danielle Dick, a psychologist from Virginia Commonwealth University and a coauthor of the study.

Really? A social phenomenon? Thank you for the enlightenment.

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Reading this article got me thinking about how often fuzzy and anxiety-provoking articles are published. Forbes published an entire article highlighting the fact that readers need to be aware of poorly-written and poorly-researched studies. The author of How Abysmal Scientific Research Is Used To Scare America’s Parents,  Geoffrey Kabat, mentions that “…the unfortunate truth is that virtually anything – no matter how bad – can get published somewhere.” He states that this is because researchers need to have something published to increase their credibility and to spring their careers forward, and that the peer review system in place sometimes fails to screen out nonsense.

Kabat talks through the misnomers present in one article published in the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) regarding how a certain level of urinary Bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disrupter,  in a child’s (6-18 years) urine can foreshadow obesity. Because of his background in research, Kabat was able to pick out the flaws of the article, apparent trickery, and the misrepresentation of the statistics. Most parents will not be able to do this! What then happens, is that the media gets ahold of a “sexy” scientific publication and writes a barebones article that they don’t even understand, to draw readership. A buzz then starts among parents regarding the “facts” of this certain study, and before you know it, everyone is frightened without justification.

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After reading this, I was provoked to find more nonsensical articles meant to only wreak paranoia among parents instead of empower them.

1) Bisphenol A linked to childhood obesity, published by Food Consumer, barley summarizes the results of the study Kabat tore apart. They have no content to their tiny article besides a few of the misrepresented statistics in the original article.

2) Teens More Likely to Drink If Their BFFs Do: Well, thank you for the memo! I can’t imagine why that is. Someone was really stretching for material that day. My favorite quote from this article (and the only quote), is this:

“When you start drinking, even with kids who come from alcoholic families, they don’t get their first drinks from their family,” Samuel Kuperman, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Iowa, said in a statement.

teen-girl-drinking-shotSo, wait… You’re telling me that it isn’t common for parents to give their children alcohol in their sippy cups? I thought all alcoholics did this! Boy, was I mistaken!

Is this article really proving what it seems to be? Do teens drink because their best friends drink, OR do they become best friends with people who drink because they, too, are more inclined to drink?

The article actually states that 4 out of 10 teen drinkers state that their best friends also drink. In order to write an entire article about it, I would think it would have been higher.

The article also goes off topic and discusses other factors related to teenage drinking, all pointing to other articles on their site (obvious Search Engine Optimization tactics without concern for a succinct and relevant article).

Lastly, they did give a “take-home” message, which I criticized the Pop Sugar article for omitting. Here it is:

“Whatever parents can do to delay the initiation of alcohol until at least 15 years (or preferentially even older) has the potential of decreasing the risk for later problematic drinking,” Kuperman wrote.

Hmm… ok, parents, get on it! My suggestion is to home school your child and then chain him or her child to your bed at night. This, clearly, will be the only way to keep them from becoming alcoholics.

3) Teen Drinking: It’s Not Just Their Pals You Have To Worry About

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From Live Science

This Live Science article discusses a study published in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The study took place in 1994-95 and followed up in 1996. It suggests that teens who have friends with authoritative parents are less likely to drink, smoke, or do drugs underage. This seems like a stretch to me. Can you really single out this really random factor as being the key to preventing underage intake? I’m not so sure.

First of all, this study was done in the ’90s. So much has changed since then! Not only do we have a much greater influence of social media nowadays, our TV/radio/print media has changed (it is much more entertainment-based now than it was then), parenting styles have changed, and trends among teens and peer pressure focuses have changed.

The reason this article gives to the fact that teens with friends who have authoritative parents are less likely to drink or smoke underage is that authoritative parents usually sit down with their teens to talk about good decision-making. They suggest that the teens will observe the heart-to-heart between their friend and their friend’s parents and benefit from the lessons-learned. This is HIGHLY doubtful. I can’t recall going to a friend’s house and having their parent have a heart-to-heart with them while I observed from the wings.

If the study is actually accurate, which I am absolutely not convinced of, it seems more likely to me that the child who benefits from the disciplinary parent is unlikely to drink or smoke underage. Their good friend who spends a lot of time with them (going back to the article above) is likely to follow in their footsteps.

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The moral of the story is to put on your analytical hat when you read articles. They are written by people just like you, and many of them are under pressure to bring in readership. It’s always good to find multiple sources that support an idea you read in an article before you completely buy in to it, but if you don’t have time for that, just remember to take it at face value.

2 thoughts on “Emotionally Packed, Misleading Articles Exposed

  1. Thanks for the info. I will definitely be careful what I read & take to heart. An opinion / observation on teen drinking. I find it surprising that the drinking habits of the parents aren’t taken more into consideration. I love this point Pastor Steve, from Simi Community Church, made: what parents do in moderation, children will abuse to the extreme. Not to say all parents should completely abstain from alcohol, but it’s definitely a point to consider. Children look to us as role models. If we allow ourselves to enjoy occasional alcohol use, it makes sense to me that our children will want to emulate that behavior. However, moderation is not necessarily a teenagers strongsuit.

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