3 Myths about Child Development Debunked
I never saw the movie ghost busters, but I always somehow got the theme song stuck in my head. They also looked so cool! Since I can’t be a ghost buster, I thought I would settle for… drumroll… a Mythbuster! (gosh, the older I get the more cheesy my jokes get…). All jokes aside, there is a lot of misinformation out there for parents that has been portrayed by the media. You see, the media wants to make scientific findings more “sexy” or catchy. That is not entirely their fault, since sexy sells. Sometimes, it isn’t even that they are trying to make things sound more catchy, but they really don’t understand the implications of some of the scientific findings. This is why there seems to be a bit of misconception or misinformation about certain things. Therefore, I thought that today, we would go over some of the biggest misconceptions in the realm of child development. And I can finally call myself a Mythbuster! Nananananana-nana-nana
Myth #1: Your baby comes into this world knowing nothing.
Before there even was a field of child development, people that that babies were born into this world as "blank slate". In other words, people though babies came into the world knowing absolutely nothing. However, as psychologists became creative in the way they did research with babies, we found out that in fact, babies come equipped with basic principles that guide their interpretation of the world. For example, from the moment babies open their eyes, they prefer things that look like a face, making it easier to connect and learn from their caregivers. Babies can also recognize and prefer to listen to their mother’s voice, even before they are even born! That’s right, from birth, your baby finds your voice rewarding (moms of teenagers shedding a tear yet?). By two months, babies become increasingly social, expecting you to interact with them and smile at them. By 6 months, babies begin to use eye gaze to collect information about the world. For example, they will start to follow others' gazes assuming that there is information to be seen. By 7 months, babies can distinguish between all of the basic emotions (happy, sad, angry) and by 9 months, babies will incorporate pointing and looking to share experiences with those around them. You see, babies do not in fact come into the world with a blank slate. They come equipped with basic preferences that allows them to connect with you! They are actually super smart, and have way more going on in their little head than you might think. Therefore, when you interact with your baby, remember all that they are already able to do.
Myth #2: Classical music makes your kid smarter.
Back in the 30’s, a group of scientists reported that teenagers who listened to Mozart before taking a test performed better than those teenagers who listened to different music or did not listen to any music at all. This finding was then taken by the public as “Mozart can make your baby smarter”. Notice how this study was done with teenagers, not babies? Yeah, this is how science can get a bad rep, because a lot of the times, people take a finding, and take a few liberties with their interpretation and application of the study. In addition to faulty interpretations, this finding has not been replicated across studies, casting doubt on how true this finding is. Regardless of the lack of evidence, this finding was catchy enough to be picked up by the public, and people, to this day, have the misconception that Mozart can make your baby smarter. In fact, back in the day, hospitals in Georgia used to give new moms a classical music CD (anyone still know what a cd is?). Now don’t get me wrong- classical music is great! and it is in fact soothing to humans and non-human animals alike. However, it will NOT help your child be any smarter. You know what will? Talking to your child (Click here to learn more about this).
Myth #3: Vaccines cause autism.
I know this can be a very controversial topic, so before anyone begins casting any stones or writing me strong-worded emails, let me just clarify that I am not trying to tell you to vaccinate or not vaccinate your child. As always, Adulting with Kids simply provides you with evidence-based information so that you can make the best decision for your family. This is simply to show you that anyone who has ever uttered the words “vaccines give children autism” is LYING to you. You know why? Because in order for anyone to say that vaccines cause autism, they would have to run a very specific study…which by the way, can never be done. In other words, in order for someone to conclude that vaccines cause autism, they have to have two groups of children in their study: one group that gets vaccinated and the other group that does not get vaccinated. The nature of this study would never get approved by the review board, which researchers have to get approval from before doings any studies. Also, the nature of this study would be so unethical, that no one would ever dream of doing such an experiment, and thus, this study cannot be done. Therefore, no one can ever claim that vaccines cause autism.
Now, they could say that autism has been linked to vaccines (which, by the way, most studies have found no such link, and the one scientist who did say he found a link between vaccines and autism, admitted that he MADE UP data. Yeah. Apparently he was getting paid by lawyers that were wanting to sue vaccination companies. Can you say conflict of interest?). To illustrate this point further, you know what else is related? Ice cream sales and murders. This isn’t me being sarcastic, this is literally a finding. Would you then conclude that ice cream makes people murderers? Or perhaps that a third variable, such as the temperature, accounts for this relationship (hot weather makes people more aggressive and hot weather makes people want ice cream). With links, or relationships, or associations, there can always be another factor that can explain the relationship. Again, this is not to say anything about vaccines. This is to show that saying that vaccines cause autism is not true, and to illustrate the fact that we all need be more critical when scientists say “ this is associated or linked to that.” Please don’t send me angry letters :D
Have any other myths or questions? Comment below!
Bangerter, A., & Heath, C. (2004). The Mozart effect: Tracking the evolution of a scientific legend. British Journal of Social Psychology, 43(4), 605-623.
DeCasper, A. J., & Fifer, W. P. (1980). Of human bonding: Newborns prefer their mothers' voices. Science, 208(4448), 1174-1176.
Ichikawa, H., & Yamaguchi, M. K. (2014). Infants’ recognition of subtle anger facial expression. Japanese Psychological Research, 56(1), 15-23.
Johnson, M. H., Dziurawiec, S., Ellis, H., & Morton, J. (1991). Newborns' preferential tracking of face-like stimuli and its subsequent decline. Cognition, 40(1-2), 1-19.
Plotkin, S., Gerber, J. S., & Offit, P. A. (2009). Vaccines and autism: a tale of shifting hypotheses. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 48(4), 456-461.