Absurdly naive study of the effects of marriage on children

Excerpt from a media report below. The researchers found that children tended to have similar levels of educational achievement to their parents regardless of whether the parents were married or not. Any student of IQ could have predicted that. IQ is overwhelmingly hereditary and negligibly influenced by the family environment. And IQ is the chief determinant of educational success. So the finding tells us nothing new or relevant

What is interesting is the socio-emotional progress of the child. What the study found was that parents reported satisfactory development in that respect regardless of whether they were married or not.

But that finding is entirely consistent with the children of marriages being better off in social development. It could well mean that married couples expect more of their children and so are less satisified even though the kids are quite good by objective standards

I note however that I have not been able to find online the full details of the study. The so-called more detailed report put online by the IFS is very scant on detail.

And what are economists at a fiscal studies body doing carrying out such research? When non-psychologists do psychological research they very commonly make methodological howlers. And even many psychologists can be psychometrically naive and end up using invalid measuring instruments. Being a psychometrician, I must have had a hundred or more academic publications pointing that out.

NO conclusions would seem warranted by this study

David Cameron's promised tax-break for couples has been dealt a blow after an influential think tank found that marriage actually provides few benefits to children.

Instead, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that parents' qualifications are more likely to help or hinder the educational and emotional development of a child. It found there was 'little or no evidence' to support the idea that marital status affects children in the commonly held belief, pouring cold water on Mr Cameron's plans to fix 'Broken Britain.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies concedes that there is a difference but says this is down to the education attainment of a child's mother and father.

The report from the IFS concluded: 'We can find no strong evidence that marriage leads to better cognitive or social outcomes for children than cohabitation. 'Policies aimed at encouraging parents to get married before they bear children thus require a rationale other than one based on the impact of marriage on child development.'

Ellen Greaves, research economist at the IFS, said: 'It is true that children born to married couples are on average more cognitively and emotionally successful than children born to cohabiting couples.

'But careful analysis shows that this largely reflects the differences between the types of people who decide to get married and those who don't. 'On average those who marry tend to come from more advantaged families, and are more cognitively and emotionally successful themselves, than those who cohabit.

'This explains the differences in outcomes for children. Marriage itself appears to confer little, if any, benefit in terms of child development.'

The children were broken up into three different age groups and then asked to carry out tasks. The three-year-olds had their vocabulary tested by being asked to identify pictures.

Five-year-olds had to recognise patterns and also had their vocabulary tested while the seven-year-olds were given basic maths problems and had to answer word recognition.

The second part of the study, sponsored by the Nuffield Institute, involved the questioning of parents to find out how they believed their child was developing through a series of 40 questions.

For their study the IFS used information from the Millennium Cohort Study, a sample of children born in the UK in the early 2000s; and the British Cohort Study, a census of individuals born in a particular week in 1970, whose children were surveyed in 2004.


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