A recent empirical research article in Psychological Science (psychology's premier journal) has received some attention from the press. The Pacific Standard headlined the story this way: "Learn self-control, stay off the dole: A study from Britain links poor self-control with unemployment"
The journalist reports:
An analysis of decades worth of data on two large, nationally representative groups of British citizens finds those who had problems with self-control as children had more trouble finding, and keeping, jobs as adults.
"Low childhood self-control predicted unemployment in adulthood, even decades later at age 50,” a research team led by Michael Daly of the University of Stirling writes in the journal Psychological Science.
At age 10, each participant was rated by their teacher on their level of “attentional control” (Do they pay attention in class? Are they easily distracted?), and perseverance (whether they typically complete tasks).
The researchers looked at that data, and compared it with the participants' total months of unemployment from 1986 to 2008.
Later in the article, you'll read:
the researchers note that “Childhood self-control was still a significant predictor (of unemployment) after we controlled for variation in intelligence, social class, and an extensive range of family and health factors.”
Apply your knowledge of Chapter 9 to this article, by answering the following questions:
a) What were the variables in this multivariate correlational study? How might you set up a regression table with mock results that are consistent with the pattern described?
b) What information do you have about the external validity of the study? Is this result generalizable? If so, to what population of interest?
c) What information do you have about the construct validity of the study's variables? What more information would you like to see?
d) Here is some information about the effect size of the study. These quotes help you assess the study's statistical validity:
Our analysis indicated that from youth to age 38, participants with low self-control experienced 1.6 times as many months of unemployment as those with high self-control,” they conclude.
“The predictive strength of differences in childhood self-control was equal to, or greater than, that of intelligence."
What does the second quote ("the predictive strength...") tell you about the betas for childhood self-control and intelligence? Should you revisit the mock results that you created in part a?
e) Finally, what about internal validity? The headline, "Learn self-control, stay off the dole" implies that if we teach kids self-control, we will cause a reduction in unemployment. Is this claim warranted by the study's design and results? Apply the three criteria for causation to this claim.