Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reactions to Divorce Research 2010 Blog Post

About 36 hours ago, Huffington Post Divorce editor, Ashley Reich and I posted the results of ten research articles published in scientific journals in 2010.  (see this post for more background.)

As of this morning there were also 300 comments, over 900 re-tweets, and 60+ shares on Facebook.  Interesting.  The postings are mostly the findings themselves without much embellishment.  Six of these studies were in the news earlier in the year, but four of the studies have not had a news release prepared and/or released to the public.  Readers also have the opportunity to rate the "most interesting" study and/or findings.  Again as of today, the most interesting finding is from Gharzarian and Buehler study of the way in which marital conflict is linked to academic achievement.  (complete study here)  Again this is a study that I don't think has been in the news in general. 

I have not done an extensive analysis of the comments, but they are interesting.  Some indicate that there are some savvy readers such as this comment that shows the author is quite familiar with the research literature and methods:
"There is an entire academic industry based on exploring the impacts of divorce on children. Most use a cross-sect­ional design, examining difference­s between children from divorced & intact households­. These designs lead to self-selec­tion issues (despite attempts to control for confoundin­g factors), as children are not randomly assigned to the divorced or intact group. Longitudin­al studies, which circumvent these problems, are becoming more common and often corroborat­e cross-sect­ional findings, although the effect sizes are typically much smaller. With regards to the tuition finding, an earlier study of Albuquerqu­e men found that men invested most in the college expenses of their biological children of their current spouse, then roughly equal in current step-child­ren and biological children of previous spouses, and by far the least in former step-child­ren from previous marriages. The fact that these effects were found from both the point of view of the child and the father suggests that the effect is real."  
There are also comments like this one which indicates that some readers make it sound like they understand the statistics and scientific methods, but do not completely understand the source and substance of this work:

"I don't doubt at all that divorce has a negative effect on kids... I have made some comments to that idea regarding public education.

But, while there may be correlatio­n—and maybe some causation—­I doubt many of these studies are very statistica­lly significan­t. Are we really supposed to believe that if our parents get divorced we are 100% more likely to have a stroke BECAUSE they decided to get divorced?

Spurious data and info ki//s me... the example we used was that divorce rate (coinciden­tally) doubled for each country club a man belonged to; therefore, 1 membership doubled the chances, 2 membership­s tripled the rate... I doubt that golf is the leading cause of divorce."

Overall, many of the comments suggest that they are reading the findings and thinking about the issues that are presented.  This makes me hopeful about the degree to which behavioral scientists can use new media methodologies to distribute their findings. 

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