Data Driven Parenting: An Introduction (Entry 1)

As a first-time parent, I find myself wondering how each decision I'm making might end up "messing up" my kid.

How each factor that I introduce could ripple down and somehow eventually lead to my child sitting on a meticulously upholstered psychiatrist's couch talking about how all their problems stemmed from childhood and were particularly the fault of some defect or distortion in their relationship with their mother (aka me).

But I think back to my own childhood: left for long unsupervised lengths times in the car parked outside of a grocery store, freely flipping through mystery/horror/slasher movies with my friends, and eating Hot Pockets and Pop-Tarts for dinner. Am I messed up? I mean, probably a little but aren't we all?

There are libraries filled with parenting advice, oftentimes offering contrary opinions. Homo Sapiens have perpetuated for an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 years, how badly could we be doing?

These are the concerns that I imagine drove Brown University economist Emily Oster to write Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool (Penguin Press). I paged through it quickly at my local bookstore and it got me thinking: how much does parenting actually contribute to child outcome? What should we really be doing? Can we actually mess up our kids?

Utilizing Oster's compiled research from Cribsheet as a foundation, I'll be exploring what the past and present research states, as well as what findings in animals has also suggested. What does the data on parenting say? Are we just becoming more anxious, more allergic, more obese, hopeless? doomed??

Does anyone really know what they're doing? Hopefully, we'll find out. Join me later for Data Driven Parenting: ??? Entry 2.

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