Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is NurtureShock the new fad?

In our early media interviews, we’ve been asked a good question: How do we know that the new science we cover in NurtureShock won’t soon be debunked another decade from now?

NurtureShock works hard to set straight old psychology. But should we have any faith that today’s science won’t be laughable when society looks back on it decades from now? This is an argument first popularized by Ann Hulbert’s book, Raising America, which argued a hundred years of parenting fads haven’t made us better parents. Every generation produces its parenting experts, and then the next generation knocks them down.

So, can today’s science be trusted?

Well, Ashley and I aren’t asking readers to simply take our word for it, or the scientists’ word for it. It’s not a question of who to trust. We don’t think readers should just turn off their critical faculties when they’re listening to advice from a “parenting expert.” In fact, we don’t think parents or policymakers should trust any information delivered as simple, blunt tips. Don’t take advice unless you really understand it and comprehend where it comes from – no matter how lofty the credentials of the expert.

In the same way the food movement has advocated, “get to know your farmer, learn where your food comes from,” people will make adopt better strategies for nurturing, and make better decisions, when they demand to see the evidence behind every parenting expert. Take control.

That’s why we present scholars’ methodology in such detail: so readers can judge for themselves if it makes sense. All of the research in NurtureShock has been replicated by multiple scholars, over ten years; we laid out as much of this research as we thought readers could take. We looked for confirmation from other disciplines –from neuroscience, biology, epidemiology, cross-sectional and longitudinal social science, and experimental manipulations done in the lab. We hoped to set the bar high for how this material is presented and explained to the public.

The point is, you can’t trust all modern science just because it’s new – just because the researchers used MRIs and control groups. For NurtureShock, we read over 100,000 pages of scholarly articles, attended numerous scientific conferences where we were the only journalists in attendance, and participated in the conversation for several years. We grilled the scholars on their numbers. The vast majority of work we reviewed had weaknesses, and we tossed it aside. When we came home from conferences with stacks of posters, five inches thick, a surprising amount of it seemed misguided and irrelevant. We didn't give this weaker science "equal time" - we left it out. Only the best science was chosen for the book.

Don’t trust us. Get informed, and trust yourself.


Blogger joshuadf said...

Good insight.

9:55 PM  

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