Azara Blog: Children with smaller vocabularies linked with depressed fathers

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Date published: 2008/05/10

The BBC says:

Children whose fathers are depressed have smaller vocabularies than those who do not, a US study suggests.

But the Eastern Virginia Medical School study of 5,000 families found language development in children whose mothers had similar symptoms seemed unaffected.

Researchers said by the age of two, children with depressed fathers used 1.5 fewer words than the average of 29.

This could be because depressed fathers spent less time reading to their children, they wrote in New Scientist.

This seems to be a classic case of confusing correlation and causation. The researchers could have checked a zillion things to see which correlated with vocabularies, and would have found perhaps a squillion of the zillion had correlations as least as large as this one. They could have then created a grand philosophical statement why each of these gave a "natural" explanation of their implied causation. Unfortunately, it is all rather meaningless.

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