Posted by: Ticktock | September 13, 2009

This Week In Parenting Science 9/12/09

There was a lot of science related news for parents to digest last week, and I’m only getting around to posting about them on Sunday.

Day care and Asthma – Oh shoot. Science has a pesky way of changing it’s mind when better evidence comes along. Why can’t it be more stubborn and dogmatic? I had previously written that day care seemed to protect against asthma, but a new study by scientists at Erasmus University shows that the original research was perhaps interpreted prematurely.

ADHD and the Brain
A new study by the Institute of Drug Abuse in maryland may shed new clues on the chemical origins of ADHD. It seems that adults with ADHD are deficient in dopamine. This study confirms others that have been trending in this direction.

School Grades and Age – After I read “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell, I felt a bit more confident that my daughter would be at an advantage as one of the older students in her class. Gladwell surprised me by pointing to research that proved a statistical academic boost of students who were older than their peers.

Now, I’m reading “Nurture Shock” (which I will review at a later date), and the authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman have written an article that challenges Gladwell’s interpretation that the age of a student is linked to his academic achievement. A closer look at the data shows that older kids are actually more likely to have affluent parents (for reasons unknown); it seems more likely to Merryman and Bronson that a child’s heritage is the factor that actually affects their grades, not the fact that they’re the oldest.  I think the success of older students is more likely a combination of both affluence and age, but this might be a case of the wealthy controlling the sample by planning pregnancies and/or being savvy about red shirting .



  1. I have not read “Outliers” but I do have a September child. When he was old enough to put in Kindergarten the counselor advised us to wait.

    We were defensive at first, but when he realized he would be a recent 4yr old that turned 5, in a class full of 5yr olds turning 6, we got it and we waited.

    We are SO glad we waited! He has been a very happy, confident and successful student.

  2. Just speculation, but I’m guess the “older kid = better student” thing may be due to more affluent parents being able to hold their kid back longer before putting them in K. Poorer parents would just be happy to get them into essentially free daycare, even if they’re not “ready.” Whenever parents ask me if they should put their kid in K (and the kids birthday is in the grey area) I always say wait until the last minute. Maturity is a big factor in school.

  3. I read (well listened to the audiobook of), and enjoyed, Outliers. BUT, there were SO many times during that book that I wanted to scream out “Correlation does not imply causation!” at my iPod… but then there would be the whole “crazy man yelling at technology” label for me to live down. His point about affluence making a big difference in what the kids retained was well made, and I think it was a more reasonable causal link than just how old the kid was when they started 1st grade.

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