Thursday, January 27, 2011

Children of divorce more likely to have suicidal ideation? Reporting for good rather than guilt.

Why are reports on study results utterly deviod of perspective? Why do writers play a guilt card, when with a little bit of thought, they could do A LOT of good for the most vulnerable members of our society?

Babble reports today about a study in Canada that shows children of divorce are more likely to have suicidal thoughts as adults and it's worse for boys. The title is not altogether that misleading. It is a pretty basic, "Study Says Children of Divorce May Have Suicidal Thoughts as Adults." It's actually funny because ALL children may have suicidal ideations as adults so why would the children of divorce be any different. The title is a truism and a tautology. Queue logic lesson music...

In logic, a truism is a statement that in and of itself is true but because it is couched with words like "may" and "under certain conditions". Under the right conditions, pig fly, but those conditions don't occur very often so it's not really that exciting a development. Headlines do this all of the time (so they can't be held against a mirror of actual truth value).

A tautology, on the other hand is a proposition that is true by definition. Some philosophers debate whether tautologies are truisms, but it's not relevant for th discussion here. A tautology is a proposition which is true by definition or identity. Definitions are great examples. In this article since ALL children grown up to be adults and many adults have suicidal thoughts, the idea that children of divorce having suicidal thoughts is neither surprising nor informative.

Anyway, logic lesson over. What bugs me about this is the FEAR factor. If you divorce, you are putting your adult son at risk of suicide and suicidal ideation. What's missing in the context of this article?

The incidence rate is NOT discussed. Is it 2x more, 1x more .0000001X more? Give us a sense of HOW this compares to adult men in general? What about adjusting for the custodial parent? Do boys who live with their fathers have the same rate of these problems as boys who live with their mother? Could it have to do with the higher incidences of poverty among children of divorce? Poverty is correlated with many problems as well.

The blogger than speculates away about how boys aren't encouraged to express their feelings and therefore bottle them up causing them to be suicidal later in life.  Whatever, a theory looking for a study as far as I'm concerned. Can't you hear perfect mommy on the playground, "Not only did she once give her child, gasp, formula, now she's divorcing...the boy has no chance. Tsk. tsk..." This demon woman lives in my head. She IS irrational and I tell her to "shut up" at least five times a day lately. (Statgrrl loves logic because it reminds her that she can identify irrationality, name it, and make it go away, at least for a little while). When it comes to Statbaby, I confess that I am completely irrational.

As if people in a struggling marriage and children don't have enough to worry about.  Think about the domestic violence victim here. Terrified to leave (because we see that some are killed AFTER they leave, not before), in a state of constant stress and battered self-esteem. Did this just tell them to stick it out for one more day? I don't know. But if one person suffers even one extra beating because they were trying to stay in it for the kids, there's a problem here.

Personal note about StatGrrl: I have worked with victims of domestic violence. They suffer silently among us every day.  Acknowledging their existence and  giving them some context (your son MAY have a slightly elevated risk of suicide but that risk is still lower than being struck by lightening- not sure about that since the article doesn't give me that context) would be the first step in using reporting for good, rather than guilt. These people are living on the edge literally, the article isn't dangerous per se. It is however, devoid of sensitivity.

No comments:

Post a Comment