I was quite fortunate to attend Greg Wilson's excellent talk on software development called Bits of Evidence at the Toronto StackOverflow Dev Days last fall. The premise of his talk was that as programmers we tend to hold certain "truths" as self-evident, when there is actual scientific data that refutes those ideas.

In the presentation, Greg explains that it wasn't until 1992 that we even had the idea of Evidence Based Medicine. That is, using the results of scientific studies to make medical decisions. Today, the idea that we would do anything else seems ludicrous.

As a parent, I look around at all the "parenting methodologies":

...and I think they're all interesting ideas worth exploring, but for some reason we aren't saying, "do we have any evidence that show they actually work?" To me, they all seem to smack of marketing, and call me weird, but I don't think parenting methodologies should be a popularity contest.

So I wondered, could there possibly be something along the lines of "Evidence Based Parenting"? It turns out I didn't coin the term. I recently read an excerpt from NurtureShock and was surprised that they backed up the claims with data. Fans of this website will not be surprised that I found this to be refreshing, to say the least! :-) I was most impressed by ceejayoz's answer about SIDS and the Back To Sleep Campaign. This is the kind of information that makes me more confident in my choices as a parent.

So I want to know more. Does anyone have any experience with Evidence Based Parenting, and can you recommend any good resources?

asked 06 Jan '10, 04:07

Scott's gravatar image

Scott ♦♦
accept rate: 10%

edited 06 Jan '10, 11:29


How coincidental - we just bought the exact attachment parenting and BLW books and just received Nurture Shock for Christmas and am very keen to get stuck into it!!

(06 Jan '10, 04:30) Lin

Is your "I didn't coin the term" link meant to simply take me to Google Canada?

(06 Jan '10, 09:42) Artemis

@Artemis: no - it has a search query built in. I wonder why it doesn't auto-redirect. Try it now.

(06 Jan '10, 11:29) Scott ♦♦

+1 I love the expression "Evidence based Parenting", it somehow helps reinforces my beliefs as a parent too.

(06 Jan '10, 11:44) Emi

I really like the idea of evidence based parenting but I'm wondering how many effective parenting approaches are dependent on the personality of the child.

(06 Jan '10, 15:52) Kiesa ♦

@Kiesa: True, not to mention the genetics of the child. I think we're close to a time when genetic testing will give us the ability to customize the upbringing based on genetic factors (with all the cool and scary stuff that goes along with that).

(07 Jan '10, 01:18) Scott ♦♦
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments

Doing some more investigation, I was really impressed by the site www.parentingscience.com. In an email exchange, the site's author, Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., said:

It is, as far as I know, the only rigorous, in-depth, general interest, fully-referenced, evidence-based parenting site available. I do a great deal of research and (perhaps even more important) analysis.

There is an excellent page on the scientific research related to attachment parenting.

There is also a page with links to other Evidence Based Parenting sites.


answered 13 Jan '10, 00:48

Scott's gravatar image

Scott ♦♦
accept rate: 10%


+1! The Parenting Science site is fantastic! I found some great information on breastfeeding there that was very helpful.

(13 Jan '10, 02:28) Artemis

+1 Very interesting site!

(13 Jan '10, 04:40) cat_g

I've read most of the two books you linked that were put out by the Sears family of doctors, Attachment Parenting and The Vaccine Book. Both books discuss the evidence for and against the recommendations they make. In the case of Attachment Parenting, by the husband and wife William and Martha Sears (a pediatrician and a nurse, respectively), they give mostly anecdotal evidence for their methods based on their own large family and on the experiences of their patients who used the same methods. Their son, Bob Sears, is the author of The Vaccine Book, and he claims to have read just about every journal article and research study on vaccines, and he references many articles in the book, so I feel like there is plenty of research behind the book. He also readily acknowledges that, despite all of the research he has done, there is not enough evidence to conclude that vaccines are inherently dangerous, but also not enough research to ensure that all vaccines are necessary or necessarily safe. I also read the first chapter of Nutureshock and, like you, I was pleased to see its use of peer reviewed studies for making recommendations on parenting. Another favorite science-based parenting book of mine that I've recommended on Moms4Moms before is Bright From The Start.

It would be great if all the research had been done to figure out the best way to raise a child. I think the problem lies in the fact that researchers have only just begun to study child rearing in the past few decades (starting in the 1960s, but not really being effective until the 1980s), as well as the fact that all children are different, and what works for some, even what works for most, won't work for all. The best course of action, in my mind, for parents to take is to be as informed as they can, so that they can then make informed decisions. Read books, review the evidence, talk to other parents, talk to your own parents, then do what you think is best for your child.


answered 06 Jan '10, 15:50

Scottie%20T's gravatar image

Scottie T
accept rate: 15%


+1 Absolutely agree with your second paragraph. Who you are, where you live and how you live are all unique factors that also contribute to how you raise your child.

(06 Jan '10, 15:55) Emi

The Baby Book by Dr. William and Martha Sears also promotes attachment parenting. They use the word 'research' when making claims about the benefits of this style of parenting. But unfortunately there is no list of references in the book. I'm going to dig a little deeper and see if I can't find some scholarly journals that support their claims. I believe in attachment parenting and it would be nice to also know the research backs it up.

(06 Jan '10, 16:13) cat_g

I'll definitely check out Bright From the Start. Thanks!

(06 Jan '10, 17:00) Scott ♦♦

@cat_g, we practice attachment parenting because it feels natural to us. I would certainly welcome more hard facts to show that it is worthwhile, but even if there's no evidence to say it's "better", we won't change our parenting style unless it's shown to be definitively harmful. @Scott, it's a great read.

(06 Jan '10, 17:15) Scottie T

+1 Scottie - for doing what feels natural. We also have an attachment parenting style - not from reading about it, selecting it and then following it, but for doing what came natural to us - creating a strong bond by following her cues, meeting her needs by nurturing, "wearing" her, breastfeeding her, sleeping with her and finding gentle ways to help her sleep rather than letting her CIO. We do what works for her and for us - instinctively.

(07 Jan '10, 00:03) Lin

@Lin: There are a lot of things that are now common sense, which were once the opposite (smoking while pregnant certainly came naturally to a lot of people until we had evidence it was harmful). It's those kinds of things that makes me want to question our current assumptions. Still, all seriousness aside, I think this is relevant: http://www.xkcd.com/674/ :)

(07 Jan '10, 01:25) Scott ♦♦

cf the vaccine book: Note that referencing many articles does not mean that a book is well researched. These could very well be cherry picked, irrelevant, misrepresented etc. Just a quick look round the net has plenty of critical articles about the book - I'm not saying they're right, just worth having a look at. It's also very well worth reading Bad Science by Ben Goldacre for examples of how people can give references etc inappropriately.

(07 Jan '10, 14:28) Jon Skeet

@Jon Skeet I think you touch upon a very important point here

(07 Jan '10, 18:22) Emi

@Jon Skeet: We have had the same criticisms of the back-it-up principle on moms4mom, but ultimately we just want to know where you are getting your info. Then we can make decisions for ourselves, or comment on the validity of the sources. Blatant dogmatic statements are just a pain to refute.

(09 Jan '10, 04:46) Scott ♦♦
showing 5 of 9 show 4 more comments
Your answer
toggle preview

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Markdown Basics

  • *italic* or _italic_
  • **bold** or __bold__
  • link:[text](http://url.com/ "Title")
  • image?![alt text](/path/img.jpg "Title")
  • numbered list: 1. Foo 2. Bar
  • to add a line break simply add two spaces to where you would like the new line to be.
  • basic HTML tags are also supported



Asked: 06 Jan '10, 04:07

Seen: 4,530 times

Last updated: 22 Oct '10, 07:07