Parents as Teachers Urges Parents to Enroll Their Children in Breastfeeding Study
This article describes neuroscience research that seeks to explain an observed correlation between breastfeeding and higher child IQ scores. What caught my eye was the fact that a Parents as Teachers program in North Carolina helps recruit subjects for the study. Here, a Parents as Teachers educator expresses her approval:
“It’s very interesting and has a lot of validity,” said Marcie Petty, an educator with Parents as Teachers whose office is in Cheatham’s lab. “It makes you think about what your children eat and what they’re taking in.”
Encouraging participation in medical studies goes beyond Parents as Teachers’ mission of promoting good parenting practices. It’s entirely possible to be conscious of what your children are eating without signing them up for research.
I see two problems with Parents as Teachers recruiting subjects for studies. First, parents may not understand the difference between enrolling in a study and the other activities that Parents as Teachers promotes. Playing and reading helps their children learn; research helps scientists do their jobs. Parents may feel pressured into joining studies that won’t benefit their children one way or the other. They also might feel guilty if they go against the educator’s recommendation to enroll their children in research.
Second, as you know if you’ve read the comments to my last post on breastfeeding, people disagree about the effects of breast milk. Some researchers think breastfeeding is crucial for children’s health; others dispute its importance. No one study can put this question to rest. If Parents as Teachers educators tell parents that a study is valid and that it’s a good idea to participate in it, that could be viewed as an endorsement of the study’s findings.
I’ve never heard of a Missouri Parents as Teachers program suggesting that children join research studies. And, although Parents as Teachers programs are connected by a national organization, they’re run individually by local people, so the fact that a program in another state did something is no indication that it will happen here. Still, people need to know about what the program does in other places, and to consider whether those aspects should be replicated in Missouri or avoided. Any publicly funded programs that go to people’s homes and endorse specific activities need to be closely scrutinized — and that includes Parents as Teachers.