Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekend Reading: The Science of Parenthood Edition

I've come across a couple of interesting sciencey parenting links lately, which I thought I'd share:

First up, a post from Gwen Dewar (whom I've linked to before) describing a study on aggression in lactating mothers. I suppose that it is not at all surprising that like other mammals, we'll respond strongly to aggression when our kids are young. And I suppose it is also not surprising that nature uses lactation as a key for "young kids"- I'm not sure I can think of another biochemical mechanism that would work. But it is still interesting to see a study on the subject.

Next, I came across a new blog about the science of parenthood, called ScienceofMom. She has a recent post summarizing a study on the outcomes associated with various discipline techniques. I don't think the study is really telling us much new on that front- it seems to me that it mostly confirms what other studies have shown about discipline (i.e., stricter is not necessarily better). But I was amused by the finding that kids whose mothers drink in moderation seem to have fewer discipline problems. I told my husband about this finding, and now he's telling me to have another beer- for the kids, you know. He's joking, of course- the finding is suggestive at best. But given the fact that a sizable chunk of people frown on drinking by mothers, I'll take it!


  1. The scientist in me is skeptical.

    Could it be hormones released while breast-feeding? Possible.

    Or could it be that breast-feeding moms are older, better
    educated and more assertive than non-breast-feeding moms?

    Now, if they had controlled for mothers who tried to breast-feed
    and failed, that would be more convincing.

    Or, if they compared the same moms under different circumstances,
    e.g. my SIL who bfed #1 and then didn't produce milk for #2,
    say when both babies were 6 mo old, that would be more convincing.

    Correlation does not imply causality again!

    However, it is clear that you shouldn't mess with a lactating mom.

  2. Re: moderate drinking.

    I am finding more and more studies linking moderate drinking with all kinds of positive outcomes (including moderate drinking during pregnancy being correlated with lower levels of birth defects). Personally, I think the link is not with the drinking but with the personality traits that go with moderate drinking. If you are capable of moderation in alcohol consumption, you are probably capable of moderation in all areas of life and/or have high personal control/willpower. Those traits are highly correlated with life success, financial secutiry, weathering all kinds of emotional and relationship storms. All-in-all, I would say that moderate social drinking is a hallmark of other "success" traits that you pass along to your children and allow you to provide the kind of stable home in which children thrive.

  3. the milliner7:38 PM

    Very fascinating links. With my very tiny 'control group' of one mother with one BF child, the idea that lactating moms react with more aggressiveness is interesting, even plausible.

    I would definitely say that I react more aggressively than I did pre-baby, when reacting to aggression from other people. And my protective instinct has been way stronger than I ever imagined it would be. Of course, 3+ years and I'm still BF (a surprise to even me). It'll be interesting once we stop to see if my aggressive responses diminish.

    Great articles & food for thought! (I say while enjoying my glass of know...doing my part to ward of maternal emotional distress).

  4. @SarcastiCarrie, that is a really interesting theory. I wonder if the data set was big enough to try to control for those things? If I weren't so lazy I'd go read the original paper and try to figure it out!

  5. My husband's comment when I mentioned the breastfeeding/aggressiveness correlation:

    "Do they control for lack of sleep?"

    What are you looking at? I say WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? Yes, in fact, I was up nursing Mademoiselle at one a.m., why do you ask?


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