Arnold Kling  

Let the Spinning Begin

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Social Justice of the Gaps... Paul vs. Paul...

James Heckman and many co-authors write,


a sample of rhesus monkeys...subject to a randomized early rearing protocol to show evidence that the lack of a secure attachment relationship early in life has detrimental consequences on physical and mental health later in life.

How will liberals say that this result bolsters their views? How will conservatives say that this result bolsters theirs?


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CATEGORIES: Economic Methods



COMMENTS (8 to date)
Eric Falkenstein writes:

Is that any different than the famous Harry Harlow studies from the 1950s?

Further, I think Bryan Caplan noted the Judith Rich Harris argument that while environment generally doesn't matter, a really bad one does.

RPLong writes:

Liberals: "It takes a village to raise a child!"

Conservatives: "The problem with society is the breakdown of the traditional family!"

Andrew writes:

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stephen writes:

My (predicted) bolstered view: people trust a proxy more when the results confirm their priors.

Ryan writes:

Liberals will attribute the lack of relationship as culture and call for more intervention in the lives of the poor.

Conservatives will see as confirmation that the institution of marriage must be upheld for the greater good.

Jon writes:

The study of behavior suffers from similar problems as macroeconomics.....the nonlinear interactions between genes and environment are numerous and hard to define. So researchers "assume a sphere" and simplify in order to prove their hypothesis. look at the methods! The vast majority of family interaction in this country has minimal overlap with "experimental" group..these researchers push the environmental effect as hard as they can to prove what? Increased diarrhea? this is data driving public policy? Pretence of knowledge strikes again.

Quantifying effects sizes in real world settings is very hard, too hard in most settings to drive efficient public policy. It's very hard for academics who depend on peer status to admit "I really don't know very much about this wonderfully complex system I've spent my whole life studying"

Hunter writes:

Steve Suomi, the senior author on this paper was a student of Harlow's so the work follows on Harlow's findings. It also follows on the work of Anda and others who have shown in massive, real world, samples (10k+), that adverse childhood events contribute to the incidence of adult disease with dose responsive effect sizes ranging from 50-4000%. You might be surprised to know how much family interaction in this country does fall into the category that produces adverse childhood events, the answer is: most of it. It could, and has been argued that this is the biggest public health issue facing the developed world.
The study of behavior is complex, but it does not suffer from the same problems as macro-economics, you can do controlled behavioral experiments. There is a lot we don't know, but this is not a study that I suspect is going to be falsified, given that it is modeling on a small scale what we already know on a large scale, is happening in both humans and animals.

Politically I think that liberals will view this as a public health issue (it is) to be fixed with some sort of governmental intervention (there are now 30+ years of studies on this that demonstrate there are effective ways to do that). Modern, big government social conservatives may well agree with them if it is framed as a family strengthening exercise, a lot will depend on how much it becomes a political football. Libertarians will probably hate this, and try to do intellectual somersaults to argue that no intervention is justified, I know I have, but I don't have much faith in my conclusions, the data in this case are much stronger than those I have seen in any science/policy context I can recall (certainly stronger than anything in macroeconomics, AGW or low fat diets).

(Hunter): "...adverse childhood events contribute to the incidence of adult disease... You might be surprised to know how much family interaction in this country does fall into the category that produces adverse childhood events, the answer is: most of it...liberals will view this as a public health issue (it is) to be fixed with some sort of governmental intervention (there are now 30+ years of studies on this that demonstrate there are effective ways to do that)."

ORLY? "Family interaction" compared to what? Why not count as "neglect" surrendering children to the care of total strangers? In Hawaii, juvenile arrests FALL in summer, when school is NOT in session. Juvenile hospitalizations for human-induced trauma fall when school is not in session.

Roland Meighan
"Home-based Education Effectiveness Research and Some of its Implications"
Educational Review, Vol. 47, No.3, 1995.

The issue of social skills. One edition of Home School Researcher, Volume 8, Number 3, contains two research reports on the issue of social skills. The first finding of the study by Larry Shyers (1992) was that home-schooled students received significantly lower problem behavior scores than schooled children. His next finding was that home-schooled children are socially well adjusted, but schooled children are not so well adjusted. Shyers concludes that we are asking the wrong question when we ask about the social adjustment of home-schooled children. The real question is why is the social; adjustment of schooled children of such poor quality?
The second study, by Thomas Smedley (1992), used different test instruments but comes to the same conclusion, that home-educated children are more mature and better socialized than those attending school...
So-called 'school phobia' is actually more likely to be a sign of mental health, whereas school dependancy is a largely unrecognized mental health problem.
Clive Harber
"Schooling as Violence"
Educatioinal Review, p. 9 V. 54, #1.
Furthermore, according to a report for UNESCO, cited in Esteve (2000), the increasing level of pupil-teacher and pupil-pupil violence in classrooms is directly connected with compulsory schooling. The report argues that institutional violence against pupils who are obliged to attend daily at an educational centre until 16 or 18 years of age increases the frustration of these students to a level where they externalise it.

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