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Genuinely Genius

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Post stepchildren
On page 215 Ridley says, "It is a fact that stepchildren are sixty-five times more likely to die than children living with their true parents..." Sixty-five more times likely seems like a big problem to me in light of how many children are living with parents or guardians who are not their biological parents. Pinker touches on this subject also. Has anyone read more about this? I was wondering if the same applies to adopted children. Does anyone have any comments on this subject?




Mon Oct 06, 2003 3:18 pm
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Ridley gets carried away sometimes. Its a very weak element in his argument.

There are just too many variables involved.
You are more likely to be a step-child if you are from a certain background because in the 'lower' socio-economic groups, divorce, pre-marital child birth etc. are more common occurances. If you are from a 'low' background, you are more likely to die young anyway.

If possible, it would be great if someone could do some in depth research on the matter, but we cannot use trust this figure to make any decisions as it stands.




Thu Oct 09, 2003 7:11 am
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Post Re: ---
Niall

65 times more likely? It sounds a pretty powerful argument to me.




Mon Oct 13, 2003 4:32 pm
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Post Re: ---
I have been thinking about my last post and I think that, on reflection, it might be a good idea to enquire about what other factors are taken into account when these studies are quoted.




Thu Oct 16, 2003 4:32 pm
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Heres a few things that should be taken into consideration.

You are more likelyto be killed by somebody you know well. Most violent crimes are commited by men. There is a bigger chance that men will be step parents than women. It does not measure the cases in which natural parents and biological relatives collaberated with the step-parent before/during/after the killing.
Relationships between step-children and step-parents can be difficult for many reasons. I doubt that you will find the same statistics if you looked at cases of adoption.




Mon Oct 20, 2003 3:40 am
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Genuinely Genius

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Post Re: ---
Niall,
I'm sure that you are correct in that there are other variables involved. Thank you for pointing this out. However, in my experience(as a teacher in America) I have not seen that there are more stepchildren in lower socioeconomic groups. My experience is limited of course, but I do know the occupations and marital status of around 50 parents every year. I actually see that there are more stepchildren among middle class families, than in lower socioeconomic families where often children are living with only the mother.




Tue Oct 21, 2003 4:07 pm
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Post Re: ---
I think Niall has made an excellent point. Statistics can be very misleading when looked at in a vacuum. Stepchildren may die much more frequently than children living with their true parents, but we have to be cautious not to make a causal fallacy, more specifically, the complex cause fallacy. I do not see Ridley making a logical error, but he does leave the door open for readers to do so.

Because death may be more common in stepchildren is it fair to say that being a stepchild increases the odds of dying? Or are we simply assuming there is a direct cause and effect relationship where one really doesn't exist. I'm just not sure, but I tend to think that stepchildren do come from less than ideal backgrounds (as a general rule) and, therefore, have a much higher probability of receiving poor nutrition, supervision, love, attention, medical care, housing, education, etc...

Tara has some experience with this due to being a teacher, so I'll take her word that stepchildren tend to come from middleclass families. I was both a stepchild and a fosterchild ...and almost an adopted child, and I came from a middleclass background. During my years in fostercare I did see kids coming from all different backgrounds, but it seemed to be more came from lower class than middle class. Perhaps its different with stepchildren than fosterchildren. I do think that a properly designed statistical analysis that included foster kids into the mix would see foster kids as having the very highest level of childhood death. A stepchild or adopted child is probably receiving a degree of love from one or both parents, while a foster child is more or less abandoned and alone.

Anyway....good point Niall. As skeptics it is important to extend our skepticism to all claims...not just the wacky ones. I have reread what Matt Ridley said on page 215 and I don't see him making any logical fallacies. He presents the information and provides his source, which was Daly & Wilson's 1988 "Homicide." He really doesn't go too far with drawing inferences - instead allowing the reader to take the information and process it.

Chris

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,for there you have been, and there you will always want to be."



Fri Oct 24, 2003 10:23 pm
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