Posted by: Ticktock | April 26, 2008

Mothering Magazine’s Chicken Little Effect


My wife subscribes to Mothering Magazine, the periodical for hippies, vegans, naturalists, breast feeders, and activists.  Our family, I’m slightly ashamed to say, fits into Mothering’s targeted demographic.  We use cloth diapers, we chose not to medicate during the births of our children, our infant is breastfed, and we shop regularly at Trader Joe’s with our own cloth bags. 

My wife reads Mothering for the articles.  I read it for the woo (it drives me crazy).  There is usually at least one anti-vaccine article, such as this month’s gleeful story about Hannah Poling.  She’s the girl whose family won their case in court because vaccines aggravated her mitochondrial disorder to cause some symptoms of autism.  The short version of the story is that the ruling in no way proves that vaccines are the determining cause of autism; this was a special and complex case that can’t be simplified into an easy explanation. 

I don’t understand the joy that Mothering takes in destroying our country’s progressive immunization policies.  Readers are subjected to an anti-science bias on a monthly basis, rather than an objective look at the facts.  If science is used, we often see examples of poor studies that are deeply flawed.  This creates a Chicken Little effect that makes it hard to know when Mothering is accurate, like perhaps when they frantically shout about plastic baby bottle toxin Bishpenol-A (the government only has “some” worry right now).

Among the ads for useless homeopathic pills for children, this month’s Mothering also had a nice article about fathers.  Some at-home dads had written to complain that they were excluded from the topics and articles within the magazine, and the editors returned the interest with a promise to include involved dads in the future.  Maybe these Dad who complained didn’t read the name of the maternal magazine.  I’m excited that we’re being included, but I don’t think Dads have a right to claim exclusion in a magazine for mothers. 

As Randy “The Science Dad” often points out at playgroup, the publications that really suck are the “Parenting” magazines that direct all their articles to one gender-role (Mom) despite their neutral titles.  These infuriating pop-parenting periodicals have little substance and offer a steady diet of mind-numbingly suburban white bread pandering. At least, Mothering (woo and all) has some quality articles that highlight the interests of alternative parents.



  1. Hey, a shout out! All right!

    – Randy

  2. Try Berkeley publication “Rad Dad” CUL8R

  3. What is up with BPA? I have long suspected that this was the alar of our day. Anytime you have a bunch of people emailing incessantly about replacing these for born free or some such, I just think yeah, right, that will prevent disease in your kid.

    About parenting mag, well, the reality is that a lot of fathers aren’t involved on a ‘reading about the topic’ level. I cannot imagine my husband sitting down with a copy of it when he had a free moment, even if it were butched up. I get a sliver of good information in each issue and my husband requests a synopsis. Done.

    I will say I see no reason to extend the subscription past the first year. I figure I can just go back and read what is relevant for the tot at any given age.

  4. Hah, complaining that there are not enough men focused articles in Mothering magazine. Too Funny. But I have the same problem with Golf Digest, there’s no articles on surfing. They clearly have an anti-surfing pro-golf bias. On another note you shouldn’t feel ashamed at embracing some of the hippie-dippy stuff. The same people who brought us the “healing” power of crystals are the same people who pioneered organic farming. It kind of comes with the territory. It’s like the same open mindedness and unconventional thinking that leads to some really great things is also the same pathway that leads to a lot of bullshit. Also today’s bullshit may become tomorrows science and vice versa (doesn’t happen that often but it does occasionally)

  5. I like Mothering and, even though I definitely fall into their demographic, I find their magazine mostly a bunch of patting each other on the back.
    I don’t vaccinate, but i think that it’s a decision that everyone must make with proper information. The community boards are way more informative for the vaccination question.

    • Whether to vaccinate or not is definitely a decision to be made with proper information. I don’t know that the opinions of random people is good source of proper information. What does your pediatrician say?

      Our last two episodes of Podcast Beyond Belief focus on vaccination, and a lot of the myths that people believe about vaccines… things like whether vaccines are safe, whether they are effective, and what the consequences of not getting vaccinated would be. We interview two experts and we’d be more than happy to find an expert to answer any questions you may still have.

      If you still choose not to vaccinate, then at the very least you should inform other parents that you don’t vaccinate your children. Parents with children to young to be vaccinated, or who have a medical reason that they can’t vaccinate, deserve to know that your children could be carrying measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, or chicken pox.

      You should also read these family stories before you choose to expose pregnant women or babies to your children.

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