Dear Internet: I hate your “new study”

by Janelle Hanchett

I sure love it when a “new study” hits the internet, particularly if it relates to some super-heated parenting topic. It’s just so fun. All of a sudden, all the people have new “evidence” to sling at the “other side.”

All the humans now have “irrefutable proof” that they were, after all, right as fuck and you were, absolutely 100% (as they always suspected!) WRONG. So they shall post it on Facebook with a barely perceptible shrug and smile, just so damn happy to have this “new science” validating their opinions.

No worries if it refutes 20 years of prior research. No worries if it’s profoundly biased and/or funded by a company with a vested interest in the outcome. No worries if it’s flawed in its research methodology or put together by high schoolers on mushrooms.

In fact, there’s no need to read any of the actual study! All you gotta do is read the article in the Huffington Post written by some asshat with as much relevant expertise as my toddler, summarizing the study and paraphrasing the “science” they don’t actually understand (or trying to, while remaining SEO effective, of course).

Forget they’re writing for a damn media source with a financial interest in sensationalism and the “latest trends,” (so they can trap new parents on Babycenter who are simply fascinated by this “new research”). And forget the emphasis on keywords and polarizing, extremist titles that will increase Google hits and traffic, translating into PURE CASH for the website. I mean, there’s nothing like a bunch of well-meaning parents to feed “latest studies” to by the spoonful.

Nothing sells like: “New Study Shows Breastfeeding is Over-rated” or “Research proves that homebirth kills” or “Study concludes pacifiers stunt emotional development.”

Here’s what they’re actually selling us:  You want to be “in the know?” You want to remain on the cutting edge of informed parenting? All you gotta do is read our 3rd-party interpretation of a “study” you’ve never glanced at, avoid  critical thinking at all costs and use what you read as “irrefutable evidence” to post all over Facebook, Pin, Tweet and email. This weekend, regurgitate at playdates. And then, bask in the glory of your rightness. All you need is a link, homie!

I mean how could you argue it? It’s science! It’s data! It’s REAL.

Obviously. There’s acronyms and shit.

Look, internet, unless you’re going to read the actual study, examine who funded the bastard, research the methodology (and have the ability to assess it in the first place), study what other experts in the field have to say about its outcomes, assess where this study fits into the larger picture (what else has been said over the years?)…I don’t give a flying rat’s ass about your “new study.”

Basically, one study means jack shit, even if it does validate your side of every flame war you’ve engaged in during the last 5 years.


You gotta look at overall flows, dude. You gotta look for patterns, for trends, for recurring information. I’m not a scientist. I get confused by words like “force” or “planet.”

My geology professor hired me in his paleomagnetic research lab because I got the highest grade in his survey course. I worked for him for a year or so while he tried desperately to explain to me 3-dimensional magnetic properties of rock (or some shit) – ultimately mumbling one day “Um I’m not sure science is your thing.”

Yeah, it’s not.

Neither is math. BUT I DIGRESS.

The point is that even a moron like me knows that science doesn’t work in giant, sensational sweeping movements, particularly if it involves lots and lots of humans. It’s not ALL GOING TO CHANGE because A study was published.

In other words, we’re getting played, people. They play on our desire to do right by our kids. They play on our devotion and love and profound fear of fucking up our offspring.

But you know what? These “new studies” may mean something significant within the field, but they are almost wholly irrelevant when it comes to my immediate, on-the-ground parenting decisions. They are contributing information to the discipline. They are lending new insights. They are donating to a body of research from which scholars can, over time, pull accumulated information that may actually inform my parenting.

But until then, it’s just “Oh good, another study I can completely ignore.”

And watch the shit-slinging begin.

Calm down, internet, it’s just one study.


Things are the same as yesterday.

in case you missed it the first time

  • Lyndsey

    OH GOD YES. My favourite of these is how France is the absolute pinnacle of child rearing. All French children are polite, quiet, calm, obedient, get good grades, make dinner, eat dinner without mess or complaint, use their allowance to buy designer handbags for their mothers, and are basically perfect angels because basically we know nothing about parenting over here.

  • SRB

    YUP. No study, no matter how well constructed, no matter how “free of bias” does not PROVE anything. Support, demonstrate, suggest, yes. Prove, NO. Nope. Science is a method by which we examine and collect knowledge, perhaps using it for good things. Hopefully. Mostly.

    As to the above post, as a professional medical writer, I approve this message. WORD.

  • Beth

    JESUS YES. If I have to read one more article that says “X may cause Y” when in reality the study it’s describing merely shows correlation, I’m gonna cut a bitch. Seriously, are there no people who understand science who write for news outlets anymore? Shit makes me CRAZY and I’m not even a scientist, just a reasonably educated person.

  • L

    So spot on like always! LOVE IT!

  • Vagina

    Yep! I like to call it the “Mob Mentality!” Sometimes people jump on shit they don;t even completly understand but they read this artivle and 500 hundred people shared it so it must be true!!! You can find an article that will back your stupid ass up anywhere on the internet about anything, it still doesn’t make it true!!My favorite is when these people post “sign this petition” bullcrap. um, first of all, signing a petition on the internet is NOT signing a petition. Secondly….it’s doing nothing! I have never seen these internet petitions actually work. The thing is…just like any butt reaming asshole can be a parent, the same applies to any butt reaming asshole can write a stupid ass article with their opinion and try to call it fact! Or maybe the saying goes….opinions are like assholes…everyone has one!! 😉 Something like that! But studies usually change every 5 to 6 months. So ultimately you get to pick and choose what works best for your opinion. Still doesn’t make it true! 😉 I always ramble on in the comments here and I know it never makes sense. so basically I am saying I love you Janelle…you always fucking get me!!

  • Kristina

    All the studies I need are raising my three boys and figuring out what works for us. Fuck studies and fuck random people’s advice.

  • Tracey a.k.a. KidLit

    Are you kidding me? It was soooo scientific. They used real kids, percentage signs, and shit. Probably had real charts too. *sigh* And this is why I fucking love you. So spot on. I mean, I am not knocking formula. It has been a life saver for many. And no one should ever feel bad for using it. But, in no way is it better than a mother’s milk! Insane to think other wise.

  • Tracey a.k.a. KidLit

    “X causes Y…” omgod yes. I just read an article in the local paper that actually made me feel guilty for taking Tylenol while pregnant, because there was a possible link between doing so and your child having ADHD, Autism, and Bipolar Disorder. My daughter has all 3. Ya, that was a shitty morning.

    Then I set the paper on fire and did the “fuck you random researchers” dance. Nekkid.

    Ok, no. Not really. But I did flip it off.

  • Layla

    As a former researcher, I give this so much yes! I love you!

  • Virginia

    I just wrote on my blog about my contention with the latest HuffPost article floating around the cyberworld and was looking forward to reading what you had to say about it! Thanks for not getting caught up in the hype and writing the truth of what’s really going on when a study article is released. You have such a way of cutting through all the b*llsh$t and I looove it!

  • C Smith

    I nearly had a screaming fit with a classmate recently over the validity of a study, I was reduced to yelling, “correlation is not causation”! Then he asked what correlation meant and I opted out of the conversation.
    I will admit that I have occasionally used a “study” to my advantage. My sister-in-law is a crazy neat-freak who is always implying that my kids are none too clean. I was thrilled to inform her, in my most condescending, holier than thou voice, that a recent study shows that the constant use of anti-bacterial soap and sanitizer not only interferes with the hormonal development of children, it’s also bad for the environment. And furthermore, I allow my children to interact with nature (get dirty) because studies show that it builds a healthy immune system.
    See, you just have to get the studies on your side!

  • workingmommawithababy

    I absolutely love your blog, but this post made me sad. I feel like you voice so many of the crappy issues that divide mommies and I get that this post could be seen as that. But, from what at least one commenter has already posted and from what I assumed from the beginning of the post was that you were referencing (slightly discreetly) the new study on breastfeeding vs formula. I honestly found hope in that study because I have been guilted heavily for giving my babies formula. I didn’t have a choice. I would never use that study to tell a breastfeeding mom that her hours of feeding, pumping, and bonding with a child were in vain. I do, though, think studies like that help those of us who formula fed feel like our path is valid, too.

    I just wanted to share that to give voice to the mommies who don’t use new studies to further mommy wars. Sometimes we just see the studies as support for a path taken among many right paths to choose.

    • Carlisle

      as a breastfeeding mom, when I read it, it was kind of like a slap in the face. “HEY. Sweetie, you didn’t need to work so hard to feed your baby by sitting with her attached day and night (that’s pretty much literal) making sure you had a GREAT BIG milk supply because that horrible pediatrician you first went to DEMANDED you switch to formula because the baby was on the verge of losing too much weight post-birth and you didn’t, but you were very scared. and you didn’t have to end up with pancake boobies at 20 years old. Not to mention the god-awful nipple pain. Looks like formula was the way to go all along. It’s the same thing. (You would just have had nicer boobs now.)”

      we all interpret things differently.

      workingmommawithababy, hasn’t anyone ever told you good job for making sure your baby didn’t starve? never feel guilty. chin up, lay off the baby forums, you did good.

      • workingmommawithababy

        I really hate that the study gave you that takeaway. Like I said, I would never want a mom who breastfed to feel that way. I wanted to breastfeed so badly. I bought the top of the line pump, read all the literature, hired lactation specialists, and then got mastitis so badly with both my children that my boobs never recovered. I wanted that experience so badly and that closeness that women feel to their children from it, but it wasn’t in the cards for me so it often feels like a slap in the face when moms tell me “breast is best!”

        Thank you for your kindness. I appreciate your sweet support. And again, it sucks to know a study that gave me comfort caused another person pain. You did good, too, momma. And I’m glad I got to read your thoughts.

        • sara

          With much love to both of you, the study did not make you feel that way, you did. The study was just presenting data, data is neutral. Your interpretations come from your own bias and experience. As the reigning queen of self inflicted chaos, let go of your own mama drama. You are BOTH good parents, love your children and have always done the best for them. Not study saying choice y is greater then/less than/equal to choice z will change that because they are both completely perfectly fine choices. Please don’t take this as a slam, just real heartfelt advice from a mama who has spent a whole lot of time beating herself up.

  • Amberiella

    Ugh, at least someone gets it- I have this argument with people all the time.

    I actually go out of my way to read a lot of these studies, and most of them are either poorly designed pieces of crap or somehow the summary conclusion of the “researcher” states exactly the opposite of what the data shows.

    The dirty little secret in academia presently is that institutions give very little attention to quality of research, and choose to focus of volume instead. Additionally, there are now a shit ton of activist professionals: activist geologists, activist psychiatrists/ psychologists…activist everything. Is there any wonder that all kinds of crazy “studies” are being pumped out and manage to make it past peer review?

    This isn’t the case for all fields. Business oriented research tends to be better designed, but then again, people in the business world actually have to achieve results; whereas, the average activist “researcher” will likely never have to suffer the consequences of their idiotic conclusions, but the uninformed public will.

  • Kristen Mae of Abandoning Pretense

    I JUST wrote a post about this (kind of – it was about all those stupid-ass list-posts that Huffpost parents keep putting out – all the crap you’re not supposed to say to your kids) but yours is a billion times better. I tried to go back to FB a minute ago but I had to come back to your blog. This is ridiculous.

  • Ddraig

    Today’s favourite subject is how amazing single mothers are and how us married mothers aren’t anywhere near as good. I was left feeling guilty for having a husband, I’m never going to be as good as them!