Skip

Recent research related to children
April 9, 2011 3:52 AM   Subscribe

Recent research on children. (1) Brothers and sisters who argue a lot can improve their language, social skills and outcomes: Guardian article; paper on part of the research (pdf). (2) First findings from Understanding Society. Conclusions include: the unhappiness of children’s mothers with their partners affect children’s happiness, but this is not the case if children’s fathers are unhappy in their relationships; having older brothers or sisters doesn’t appear to affect children’s happiness, but having younger brothers or sisters is associated with less happiness; not living with both natural parents has a greater negative impact on a young person’s life satisfaction than their material situation. (3) A longitudinal study on people now in their forties has found that for these people reading is linked to career success, though not necessarily to better pay, whilst playing computer games and doing no other activities was associated with less likelihood of going to university. In particular, those who owned a ZX Spectrum or Commodore C64 were less likely to go to university. thinq interview with researcher. Guardian article. Telegraph article. (4) Poll about children’s attitudes to losing in sport. Press release. Data from children’s survey. Data from parents’ survey. (All three are PDFs.)
posted by paduasoy (30 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
When looking up the research on children's interactions with their brothers and sisters, I also found a quiz on literary sibling relationships.
posted by paduasoy at 3:53 AM on April 9, 2011


In all cultures at all times right?

I love psychology. Proving the universality of the college student experience for decades and calling it science.
posted by spitbull at 4:29 AM on April 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


In particular, those who owned a ZX Spectrum or Commodore C64 were less likely to go to university
Well thank goodness my parents bought me a BBC Micro. All those hours playing Elite must have done wonders to prepare me for my university entrance exams.
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 5:09 AM on April 9, 2011


In all cultures at all times right?

From the Methods section of the second link:
Reflecting the local population, the sample was ethnically homogeneous (all parents identified themselves as ‘White British’). However, in terms of socio-economic status, the sample was quite diverse. This is demonstrated by the distribution of mothers’ educational qualifications: 7 mothers had no educational qualifications at all; 20 had only elementary qualifications (age-16 GCSEs); 14 mothers had secondary qualifications (age-18 A-levels); and 16 mothers had degrees. Of the 57 others, 9 (16%) were lone parents at the first timepoint and 13 (23%) were lone parents at the second time- point. The numbers of families with 2, 3 or 4+ children were 36, 13 and 8 at the first time-point and 26, 22 and 9 at the second
time-point.
I'm as fascinated by the egalitarian society of the !Kung as the next guy, but if you want to study the effects of the C64, you have to accept that the people you study will have potentially interacted with a C64. Then those who prefer to study cross-cultural differences can compare between the psychology of Western and non-Western people without their results being confounded by things like differential use of video games.
posted by topynate at 5:12 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


A longitudinal study on people now in their forties has found that for these people reading is linked to career success, though not necessarily to better pay, whilst playing computer games and doing no other activities was associated with less likelihood of going to university. In particular, those who owned a ZX Spectrum or Commodore C64 were less likely to go to university

That's interesting. I wonder what the impact of having that C64 is on future earnings? Maybe those people were less likely to go to school, but more likely to succeed in non-academic settings? I'm partly just thinking about whose parents would have had the money to buy a C64 when they were new. The earliest computers I saw outside of school were in wealthier friends' houses; it was quite a few years later before there was a computer in my own house.
posted by Forktine at 5:24 AM on April 9, 2011


I know this is a British study, but I wonder if the video game effect is going on here, too. We've been hearing for years about how women are slowly and surely outnumbering men in many areas of higher education. I know there are many factors for the rise in women's university attendance, but what causes the drop in men's enrollment and graduation?

By the way, I know that girls play video games, too (I did!). But, are boys more likely than girls to play video games to the exclusion of lots of other activities such as reading?
posted by swingbraid at 5:35 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just looking in from the outside, it seems to me that whole a whole generation of young men has been devoured by these toys, and that their souls are trapped in their crafted-to-be addictive worlds -- held hostage by their cheap satisfactions and pulse-tracked music. I know several of these sad, neutered fellows, who, between the thrill of murder and pursuit games, and continual whacking off to online pornography, are living what should be the most dynamic years of their lives as ghosts -- impotent "no face" ciphers -- to the bafflement of their parents and the despair of the young women who long to admire them.
posted by Faze at 6:52 AM on April 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm confused. Are video games the new novels, comics or rock'n'roll?
posted by Decimask at 6:55 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


One thing that bothered is the last part of the Method section.

It acknowledged that the demo was entirely "white British", and after stating the selection was diverse in regards to socioeconomic status, it goes on to describe mom's education level, marital status, then conspicuously (to me, at least) it doesn't mention income level or vocation/employment.

I guess the reason I'm bothered by this is because if mom's a lawyer, certain behaviors and mannerisms will be instilled in her children. Specifically, that everything is up for discussion. If mom's cleaning houses, it's "not now, I'm beat. Eat your pudding."

Also, it's as if we were supposed to draw our own conclusions from that info. "Well, mum's single, two kids, and has barely a high school education. Do you think her kids are going to Andover, and vacationing in Kennebunkport?"

[or whatever the UK equivalent]

I'd be curious to see a study investigating the correlation of arguing parents and social skills. If you were to use my family alone, you could put together an interesting t-table.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:04 AM on April 9, 2011


Actually, I thought about it more, and ANOVA would be the proper. Maybe I shouldn't criticize any more of these papers.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:07 AM on April 9, 2011


I can't find the videogame experimental methodology amongst the links. Can someone point me to it? Because I'm reading it as "people who self-reported that they really liked reading were more like to go to university, which is unsurprising since their parents would probably like them to go to university, and they are keen to please." We don't actually know how much the subjects played games or read, do we? Only what they reported they did. Which might just reflect their knowledge of what they would gain approval by doing - reading, going to university.

Also, I'm reading DELUSIONS OF GENDER by Cordelia Fine at the moment and she, I think, would argue that asking someone's sex at the top of the questionnaire will prime all the subsequent answers with gender-appropriate responses, so you're screwed from the outset. This is the case for the computing questionnaire, I think.
posted by alasdair at 7:13 AM on April 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bathtub Bobsled, my take on this is, it's a longitudinal study. Mum's job status is likely to change. Her educational status is far less likely to be altered. Because this is the initial findings of the first two phases, we have a ways to go in following these families. Moving from cleaning houses to being a cashier, isn't going to be easy to track/account for.

Secondarily, a portion of these mothers are staying home, whether they've got law degrees, or never set foot in a primary school. So saying "mum earns $0" doesn't give much insight into who mum is, or where she came from.

While it's true that some poor people go to college, it's more likely not an expected track. There is also evidence that parents education level has an impact on the child's education level. (This is in the general, remember, the plural of anecdote is not data, so responding that "neither of my parents went to high school, but I'm a doctor" doesn't change the aggregate, which is what this study is addressing.)
posted by bilabial at 7:17 AM on April 9, 2011


In particular, those who owned a ZX Spectrum or Commodore C64 were less likely to go to university.

Hmm, I doubt I'd have gone to university or has my current career without the thing, and I'm not alone in that.
posted by Artw at 7:55 AM on April 9, 2011


Well thank goodness my parents bought me a BBC Micro.

Pff. Those were for posh kids.
posted by Artw at 7:58 AM on April 9, 2011


In particular, those who owned a ZX Spectrum or Commodore C64 were less likely to go to university.

It would be interesting to know what sort professional / financial trajectory the owners of these personal computers took. Just about all the people I know who are highly successful now AND didn't go to college had some kind of personal computer growing up. Typically, they figured out how to self-educate and then went on to becoming professional software developers or launching their own successful businesses while bypassing college entirely.

My guess is that kids who grew up only playing sports would turn out to be good team players, but have relatively superficial problem solving skills. Kids who grew up playing video games probably have far better problem solving skills but potentially weak team skills (unless they played team-oriented online games). Both video games and sports are likely a winning combination.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:35 AM on April 9, 2011


playing sports would turn out to be good team players, but have relatively superficial problem solving skills.

I beg to differ.

Getting the ball from this end of the field to that end and into a net is a problem. And teams solve that problem in a variety of ways.

Kids who grew up playing video games certainly have different problem solving skills, which may be better in some situations than in others. But not necessarily superior in all situations.
posted by bilabial at 9:47 AM on April 9, 2011


Getting the ball from this end of the field to that end and into a net is a problem. And teams solve that problem in a variety of ways.

Well, it would also depend on what position was played, both in team sports and in team video games. Midfield generals and lieutenant-types would have different problem-solving skills than sprint-up-and-down-the-sideline backs and snipers/spotters.

Which is another way of agreeing with "not necessarily etc." which is I think a pretty valid response to these studies, as they seem to try to fit people into categories and point "aha!" to shared traits even though things left unconsidered probably break apart their preconceptions. Which seems to me inevitable.

I'm sure these studies are helpful to some or even a lot of people, too. Takes all kinds.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:03 AM on April 9, 2011


We've been hearing for years about how women are slowly and surely outnumbering men in many areas of higher education. I know there are many factors for the rise in women's university attendance, but what causes the drop in men's enrollment and graduation?

Is there a drop in the levels of male university education? Couldn't it be that, while a greater percentage of women are going to university, the percentage of men who go has remained the same?
posted by orange swan at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2011


I thought that well document research had shown conclusively that children would grow up to be bass players in heavy-metal rock bands if they didn't have a Banana Junior 6000 personal computers when they were young. It is the computer that Gene Simmons' mother wished she had bought for her son.
posted by autopilot at 10:31 AM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a sad, neutered fellow, I have to say Faze is on to something.
posted by nasreddin at 1:23 PM on April 9, 2011


Just looking in from the outside, it seems to me that whole a whole generation of young men has been devoured by these toys, and that their souls are trapped in their crafted-to-be addictive worlds -- held hostage by their cheap satisfactions and pulse-tracked music. I know several of these sad, neutered fellows, who, between the thrill of murder and pursuit games, and continual whacking off to online pornography, are living what should be the most dynamic years of their lives as ghosts -- impotent "no face" ciphers -- to the bafflement of their parents and the despair of the young women who long to admire them.

Quick observation:
Faze, agree completely about "souls ... trapped in their crafted-to-be addictive worlds -- held hostage by their cheap satisfactions and pulse-tracked music".

The taps into something I've been seeing for a while in my little corner of the world. Last week I took the kids of a friend to an Indian ethnic festival (called "Holi). There was a DJ playing Mumbai disco beats along with a crowd of several thousand (it was outdoors) participating *except* for the kids I brought (pre-teens) and most other kids their age ( the ones I could see) who were present at the festival. Instead, they were reluctant to dance or move to the beat - even a little, and the kids I was with indicated at one point that it seemed silly to be dancing. I could hardly believe it, given their addition to earbuds and ubiquitous beats from their personal phones and other machines.

Why do I bring this up? The kids didn't know what to do in the midst of a *few thousand* others who were dancing their heads off to the Mombai DJ's tracks. They were actually puzzled by the whole thing, even though they've *seen* people dancing in crowds before.

Yet, these same kids are always walking around their house and respective playgrounds with earbuds and iTouch listening to the latest beats, and spend every waking hour they can playing computer games. Yet, they largely don't *engage* anyone with these activities; it's all personal experience (personal "entertainment" is more like it) that shuts them out of interaction.

They always think they're so cool walking around their house looking like rappers with their backwards baseball caps and mouthed repetitions of what they're listening to that day. All this, but they were naive and afraid and embarrassed and disdainful of others who were dancing.. I also noticed a bunch of other kids their age of the same age who appeared to be surprised that anyone would actually *dance* to the music. It was a surprising moment, and somewhat disturbing.

It was a weird and enlightening experience. Eventually, after I had been dancing with wild abandon for almost 20 minutes, and urging them to do the same (trying to model the behavior for them, and having a blast doing it!), they finally let go and began to really enjoy the fruits of dancing to the beat. Mission accomplished.

Last, there is definitely a "disconnect" from the real world that is very easy to see occurring with a lot of these kids; they are plugged, but by definition "turned off" to what's going on around them. Makes one wonder.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:44 PM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow! Study #3 might as well be a study of me!

I read a lot when I was a child and I owned a C64 and we had some Spectrum ZXs at school. I never went to university but I have success in my career though unfortunately my pay is only moderately above average in my field. I'm in my 40s as of this year.

I'M IN UR SCIENCE PROVING IT!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:25 PM on April 9, 2011


We don't actually know how much the subjects played games or read, do we? Only what they reported they did. Which might just reflect their knowledge of what they would gain approval by doing - reading, going to university.

I suspect there is a subset of people who both played games and went to university. ;)

participating *except* for the kids I brought (pre-teens) and most other kids their age ( the ones I could see) who were present at the festival. Instead, they were reluctant to dance or move to the beat - even a little, and the kids I was with indicated at one point that it seemed silly to be dancing.

This might be more attributable to them being pre-teens than to their disconnection from the world.
posted by ersatz at 6:42 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seconding ersatz. Unless the kids in question have pretty phenomenal self esteem, embarrassment is a fate worse than death.

Also worth asking: Were the kids of your friend Indian, or outsiders?
posted by Decimask at 8:09 PM on April 9, 2011



Just looking in from the outside, it seems to me that whole a whole generation of young men has been devoured by these toys, and that their souls are trapped in their crafted-to-be addictive worlds -- held hostage by their cheap satisfactions and pulse-tracked music. I know several of these sad, neutered fellows, who, between the thrill of murder and pursuit games, and continual whacking off to online pornography, are living what should be the most dynamic years of their lives as ghosts -- impotent "no face" ciphers -- to the bafflement of their parents and the despair of the young women who long to admire them.


Wow. As someone who's spent far too much of their childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood in from of a Nintendo or Xbox of some kind, reading that comment hit pretty hard. It's a sentiment I've seen expressed before, but never quite as succinctly, or as well.

I have to take exception to some of what you said: video games can be really wonderful. When I was younger, video games served as a near-perfect surrogate for real adventures that the awkward, timid younger me was too anxious to have, or at least to enjoy. I have a lot great memories from playing video games: the first time I walked into Hyrule Field, or saw Aerith die, or took down the Contra 3's Geiger-esque final boss, or drove a Warthog down the Pillar of Autumn. And some of my best friends, to this day, are people I bonded with by playing Diablo or Goldeneye or Mariokart.

But as I grew older, the moments of real joy became rarer and rarer. It became too easy to see gaming for what so much of it is: artificial, formulaic entertainment, pointless distractions, designed to whittle away about $60 and 50 hours. And yet I kept playing, even as it became more and more obvious that the adventures I could be having, if I hadn't spent so many of my formative years silently staring into a cube and wishing I was somewhere else, were so much better than this.

Most of the problems you described aren't really endemic to video games, by any stretch: really, you could replace pretty much everything both of us said with books, video games, TV or movies. Yet at the same time, I think there's something that's different about gaming. There's something about it that feeds into the same, unfortunate skinner-box psychology that gets people plunking down dollars in front of a slot machine. That same element of chance and insecurity, of risk and instant reward, really blurs the line between hobby and compulsion.
posted by Green Winnebago at 5:26 AM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


In particular, those who owned a ZX Spectrum or Commodore C64 were less likely to go to university.

Can I bring it back to the core sociological qualification of this sentence?

Please?

LESS LIKELY.

Yes. I just shouted it.

The study does not contend that any child who owns or uses a C64 will not go to university. It does not assert that any child who owns or uses one will not get a job. It does not contend that any child who owns or uses one will never have a wife, or is destined to a low paying job.

It does say "less likely to go to university."

Those of us who are playing armchair sociologist need to remember that the plural of anecdote is not data. It's great that some (many!) played video games 8 hours a day for 15 years, completed a PhD in something and now make a kajillion dollars a year.

This study says it's "less likely," not impossible.
posted by bilabial at 8:56 AM on April 10, 2011


um. sub "any" to be "any particular" or "every"

whoops.
posted by bilabial at 1:52 PM on April 10, 2011


Kids who grew up playing video games probably have far better problem solving skills but potentially weak team skills (unless they played team-oriented online games).

...which did not exist in the days of the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:03 AM on April 11, 2011


The more I think of it the more I wonder if the ZX Spectrum is a bit of a social marker rather than a causative agent... As the first widely popular home computer in the UK it was pretty much The Peoples Computer, and cropped up in a lot of working class to lower middle class homes. it really was a huge democratizing influence in access to computer skills, but I don't know that for the kids of 1970 in those income brackets it would have really helped them get to University in the same way it would have 5 years later when the barriers were lower.
posted by Artw at 10:33 AM on April 11, 2011


I had a C64. I can only assume it was the hypnotic lines around the loading screens after having "pressed play on tape" that brainwashed me into not going to university. Can I sue the makers of the new Commodore 64?
posted by longbaugh at 12:23 PM on April 11, 2011


« Older Translation: It tastes like crap   |   If you build it they will .....er take photos Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post