Stuff has a story currently leading their site about ‘social commentator’ Celia Lashlie, who:
has lashed out at mothers who mollycoddle their sons, saying many teenage boys are killed on the roads because their mums smother them and refuse to let them discover the consequences of their own actions.
Speaking to a Traffic Institute conference in Hamilton yesterday, the former prison officer turned author admonished wealthy, so-called “helicopter mums”, who “hover” over their sons, refusing to accept they can be blamed for anything.
“I am saddened by how many boys we lose,” she said.
“Part of the reason, I think, why we have the carnage we have on our roads is because the first time he gets freedom from his mother is when he buys a car.
Mrs Lashlie believes the problem is worst in the middle and upper classes, where wealthy women who often do not need to work, are too heavily involved in their sons’ life.
So that’s what’s known as a ‘hypothesis’. And what serious commentators and researchers do when they have a hypothesis is go and look at the evidence to figure out if it’s true or not. I mean, any idiot can come up with a controversial theory, the hard part is figuring out if your theory is right or wrong.
So Lashlie might go and look at the demographics of teenage car crash victims and see if there’s a significant bias towards middle and upper-class fatalities. It takes about ten seconds to google the statistics at NZ Transport and see that Maori are seriously over-represented in car crash deaths, which kind of suggests that Lashlie’s theory is just wrong.
And is ‘helicopter parenting’ a new phenomenon? Or just a new buzzword? Are mothers more protective today? I suspect that with more middle and upper-class mothers working while their children are in childcare, they’re less protective because they just aren’t around as much. Could this contribute to risk-taking behaviour? Who knows: it’d be kind of interesting to have someone look at, say, longitudinal studies, or twin studies, or adoption studies, and see if there’s any correlation in the data, instead of just having people pull theories out of their asses and having the media regurgitate it.
Now that I’m a parent I’ve been reading a lot of essays and articles about parenting, and you see this a lot. Someone makes a bold statement about parenting styles, ie ‘babies should (or should never) be left to cry.’ And as a scientist I’d expect to see a statement like that backed up by a reference to a study, or a body of data. ‘20,000 Texas newborns, studied over three years . . .’ Instead the subject area is just polluted with self-appointed experts vomiting forth opinions based on their own anecdotal data. ‘As a Mother/social worker/paediatrician . . .’
It’s very frustrating. Media outlets shouldn’t encourage it.