PODCAST: How to Misuse Statistics for Dummies

by | May 5, 2022 | Podcasts | 12 comments

How to Misuse Statistics Podcast
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Our passion is to get evidence-based advice about marriage, sex and parenting into the hands of Christians.

But that means that we have to use science well! In the last of our three podcasts with Joanna where we talk stats, we tackle a few more ways that research is often handled poorly, using the research around spanking as one example.

And then we bring on Wendy Snyder from Fresh Start Families to talk about how to use discipline that connects with your child!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 Announcements
1:45 “But, I disagree!”
13:00 If you use the data, you have to use the conclusion
19:00 Not understanding math
24:15 Wendy Snyder joins to talk Gentle Parenting
48:45 RQ: My husband uses harsh punishment on our kids!

Main Segment: How We Can Misuse Research

Two weeks ago we gave a case study of how Josh Howerton misrepresented research and claimed it said things it didn’t say. We looked at how easy it is to jump to false conclusions. 

Today we’re looking at a few more ways we can misuse research, including:

1. Saying you “disagree” with a huge study

Your opinion does not trump a very large, well-conducted study. We talked about levels of evidence, with anecdotal data (like your personal experience) being lowest, and meta-analyses and controlled random blind trials being the best. Specifically we were referring to a kerfuffle over the huge meta-analysis about how spanking either has neutral or negative effects that many people were disagreeing with on social media.

2. Quoting the study data but ignoring the study’s conclusions–or omitting some of the data to slant it

We looked at how Emerson Eggerichs did this with Gottman’s work, and how Focus on the Family routinely does this with the results about divorce on kids

3. Misunderstanding basic math and probabilities

And we went through the math of Love & Respect!

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What is Gentle Parenting?

We then interviewed Wendy Snyder from Fresh Start Families, who has an amazing ministry teaching parents how to connect with your kids as you discipline. We’ll bring her back next week for a whole podcast to talk more about specific scenarios and how to manage them!

 

 

Wendy Snyder is a Positive Parenting Teacher & Family Coach, helping families parent with great purpose and intention by creating healthy, respectful & cooperative relationships. She is a Certified Parent Educator of Redirecting Children’s Behavior (RCB) and an advocate for families.

Wendy Snyder

Fresh Start Families

Get Wendy’s FREE GUIDE on raising strong willed kids with integrity!

I then tackled a reader question where a husband wants to use discipline techniques that are actually abusive. Please hear me on this: Protect your kids. This is not about submitting to your husband. This is like being an Esther when there is injustice being done and people are at risk, and stepping up. If that is unsafe to do, please call a domestic abuse hotline. But do not allow your children to be abused if you can help it.

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:

I then tackled a reader question where a husband wants to use discipline techniques that are actually abusive. Please hear me on this: Protect your kids. This is not about submitting to your husband. This is like being an Esther when there is injustice being done and people are at risk, and stepping up. If that is unsafe to do, please call a domestic abuse hotline. But do not allow your children to be abused if you can help it.

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:

 

Podcast on Misusing Statistics on Spanking

What do you think? Have you seen people misuse statistics like we’ve talked about? Are you a fan of gentle parenting? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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12 Comments

  1. Em

    I am a huge fan of gentle/respectful parenting. And asking experts in early childhood development to tell me what I don’t know!

    Reply
  2. Sue R

    Statistics are misused constantly, in every field. And when someone does call it out, the argument often becomes “he said, she said” because so few people know anything about statistics and are unable to make a valid evaluation of either side. Heck, a whole lot of people glaze over at just the word “math.” This is one reason why what you are doing is so helpful and important. Without undertaking an advanced degree or numerous courses in statistics, I think people could and should at least look at how trustworthy the source is. What is their overall approach? Do they keep things in context or just give snippets of select info? Are they self-serving and looking to gain power, money, career kudos, etc? Or do they have integrity and are seeking to help others? We should all keep someone’s overall, take-home messages in mind and think about whether it makes sense and is in line with the life, actions, and teachings of Jesus.

    Reply
    • anon for now

      I took Statistics 101 in college and remember realizing, after just a few classes, how easy it is to take REAL data and arrange it practically any way you want so the CONCLUSION changes to what YOU want (changing parameters is one, as is starting points). “Statistics don’t lie, but liars use statistics!”

      Reply
  3. Andrea

    I have a few friends who are psychology professors and they run into this all the time with their undergrads, where one will say about an article they read “oh well I disagree because when my brother/uncle/cousin…” and proceed to tell an individual story that contradicts the conclusions of the article. My friends then gently (yeay for gentle parenting!) explain to their students the difference between anecdotal evidence and a peer-reviewed study, but it gets so annoying sometimes they get tempted to respond with: “So, what your telling me is that your individual experience invalidates half a century of research on this topic?” And if a lowly undergrad can be that solipsistic, then the powerful leaders in the evangelical industrial complex will be all the more so, they even think God is speaking through them!

    “Theory of mind” is a term in developmental psychology that in plain English means realizing that other people’s experiences and, hence, views on the world may differ from yours. Healthy children start developing it around the age of four. Some of our evangelical leaders haven’t reached that stage yet.

    Reply
  4. Cynthia

    I loved how Wendy explained that discipline is based in the future, punishment is based on the past. Absolutely!

    Reply
  5. Jo R

    Keep thinking of “perfect love casts out fear” and “do unto others” but I can’t think of any place that says to “beat the devil out of your child” or to “break your child’s spirit.”

    Does God do either of those two latter things to His (adult) children?

    Reply
    • CMT

      Some people think he does do this to his adult children. That’s part of the problem.

      Reply
  6. Phil

    Hey Sheila, todays podcast reminded me. What ever happened to that dude with all the charts and data you had us look at? You were going to follow up on that. Did I miss it?

    Also – I just wanted to say how wackadoodle some of these books are that you bring up to the surface. Spank babies? WTH is the matter with people! Even me who has been around the block a bit is still amazed at some of the stuff you tell us about. 🤦🏼

    Reply
      • Phil

        Yeah – hmmm…I know I listened. I had a lot of interruptions during that one. Maybe I lost my spot and skipped ahead and missed it. Thats happened before. I will relook at that. Thanks.

        Reply
  7. A health librarian

    When evaluating a meta-analysis be aware that the best ones use systematic review methods to gather the included studies. This is a systematic process to ensure all relevant papers are found. Ideally there are no date or language limits, and unpublished research is also sought. (You can use stats to check for publication bias but in my view it’s still good to see if you can find that unpublished material so you can assess it and include in analysis or not as appropriate.) As a librarian I get really excited about systematic review search methodology. And also really sad when I see poor methodology. If anyone is interested in learning more, PRISMA is the main reporting guideline, and AMSTAR is a well-regarded assessment tool. I generally point people to the Cochrane handbook and their MECIR (meth expectations) for good methods guidelines. All 4 are free on the internet. Note my skills relate to the search process only, not other aspects of systematic reviews. This is not a comment on any specific meta-analysis, it’s just my general interest in SR methodology.

    Reply
  8. Emmy

    About the reader’s question:

    If her husband does things that a neighbor should report to the child protection services, well…it would be much better to have a most serious talk with him before one of the neighbors actually does it.

    I do not wish to scare or threaten her, but it is a very real possibility. When a child is regularly spanked, at a certain moment someone will notice it. I know about parents who lost custody of their child because they insisted on disciplining in a way that was illegal in the country they lived in.

    It might be also a good thing for her to find out about the local laws of her country.

    Reply

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