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Ice cream linked to drowning

When it comes to parenting and so many other things in life, we are determined to find the pattern, to understand the WHY behind it all. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to know why & other times, we are so desperate for an explanation that we jump quickly to the simplest conclusion.

This is what is known as “spurious correlations”. Here is an example:

Researchers notice that when ice cream sales increase, drowning deaths also increase. They conclude that ice cream consumption leads to an increased risk of drowning.

Another explanation, & perhaps much more likely is: when it’s hot, people eat more ice cream & ALSO more people are involved water-based leisure activities. It’s not that ice cream is causing increased rates of drowning, but that both of these occur at higher rates in summer time.

Another example:

Young children who fall asleep with the light on are much more likely to develop myopia (or short-sightedness) in later life. Therefore, sleeping with the light on causes the need for glasses.

This is a real example that was published in the journal Nature in 1999. The study received a lot of press & was widely reported all over the world, no doubt influencing families light-based bed habits.

Another team of researchers decided to investigate. They found a strong link between parental myopia & the development of child myopia, also noting that short-sighted parents were more likely to leave a light on in their children's bedroom (to help the parents, see better).

The key thing behind these examples is to remember that ‘correlation does not equal causation’. That is, just because two things are linked doesn’t mean that one causes the other. Sometimes the relationship between two things is actually caused by a 3rd thing & other times it’s purely a coincidence. Did you know that beef consumption in the US is highly correlated with the number of people hit by lightning?

This is so important to remember when it comes to trying to understand our children’s behaviour. Sometimes we think our children are doing something for a specific reason, only to find out it had nothing to do with it at all!

Has this happened to you? Comment below.

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