Here's a story with a straightforward message: "Happier families put kids to bed early." The journalist's story begins with this introduction:
Studies are proving that getting kids to bed early isn’t just good for the kids – it’s good for their parents too. While a lot of parents may already know this from first-hand experience, now there is official data to support what they’ve thought all along.
(Note: Somebody should remind this journalist that scientists do not "prove" things; however it is true that they can use "data to support what they've thought all along.")
Here's some more about the study:
The University of New England and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute analyzed the lifestyles and sleep patterns of 3,600 children (all under age nine) .The results showed that teh mothers of children who went to bed early had improved mental health than those with children who went to bed after 8:30pm.
Dr. Jon Quach from Murdoch Children's Research Institute and the University of Melbourne also pointed out to Yahoo Parenting, "These benefits were seen in all early-to-bed kids regardless of whether they woke early or slept late."
a) What kind of claim is it to say that "happier families put kids to bed early?" (Frequency, Association or Cause?)
b) Was this study experimental or correlational? What seem to be the main variables?
c) When the researcher says, "These benefits were seen in all early-to-bed kids regardless of whether they woke early or slept late," he is talking about a potential moderator. What is the moderating variable he is discussing? According to his statement, does that variable a moderator of the core relationship, or not?
d) Apply the three causal criteria to this result. Can we use it to support the claim that "putting your kids to bed earlier will improve their mental health?" Why or why not?
The journalist's story goes on to cover a study on sleep times and child obesity. According to the journalist, a study of 2,200 kids found that the ones who went to bed earlier had lower rates of obesity. The researcher was quoted as saying, "The late sleepers were considerably more likely to be obese, have a poorer diet, get more screen time and less physical activity than other kids."
e) Use your consumer-of-information skills to find at least two questionable aspects of the journalist's comments about the obesity study, about which she wrote:
Does this mean that kids that go to bed later will be obese? Not necessarily--more studies still need to be done to prove if there is a correlation between the two. But it's certainly a good reason to stick to a bedtime schedule.
f) Rewrite the above statement using more appropriate phrasing.
f) I would rewrite the journalist's comment as follows:
Does this result mean that going to bed later will cause kids to become obese? Not necessarily. Although this study does find a correlation between the two, the study may need to be replicated. Furthermore, it's based on correlational data. So while we may be tempted to conclude that we should "stick to a bedtime schedule," we don't know whether the obesity actually came before the sleep patterns, and we also can't rule out outside variables, such as family dynamics, family SES, child gender, and so on.