This is a brief summary of the edX course Scientific Parenting by Dr. David Barnes at the University of California at San Diego. I learned a lot about the current psychological research into parenting done worldwide. I enjoyed the scientific analysis of the research but for most I would just recommend that you audit the course for free and just watch the outstanding video presentations of the material which is comprehensible to the average layman and a joy to watch an excursion into very intelligent easily understood presentations.

The most impactful knowledge about psychological parenting research is that almost all the studies are correlational and that means that there are no provable cause effect relationships in this research. The result has been much controversy which suggests that the correlation between two variables A and B may in fact be incomplete and that variable C or D may in fact be better correlated with the gathered information from questionnaires.

Several myths were debunked and one of them was that bilingual students or children are in some way better at learning and smarter than monolingual children.

Another myth was that autism is caused by vaccines. Follow up scientific evidence simply does not support this. Still further the original source of the popularized myth article turned out to be Wakefield who had a very small sample in his testing and it turned out that he had a financial interest tied to the conclusions in his later debunked research paper.

Yet another myth was debunked and that is that learning to play a musical instrument increases your learning ability in academic areas which just isn’t so and is a false assumption.

Another myth that was based on unprovable research conclusions was that a sense of basic morality is innate or inborn in young children and that they inherently prefer humans with good over those with bad behaviors.

Another myth that was debunked was that there are unique learning styles which students primarily use to learn things such as visual, auditory, and verbal styles of learning. It was shown that there are no unique learning styles and that most learning is a combination of visual, verbal, and even auditory cues so no one unique style actually exists that is used to learn with.

There is another myth that accelerated learning, advanced placement, or grade skipping leads to students who are socially or relationship handicapped. While there are some exceptions which are evidence for social maladjustment the vast majority of gifted students are not socially handicapped in any significant way.

What I learned was that ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is on the increase in the US population largely because psychiatry has tried to officially label it as a disorder in the DSM-5 psychiatric handbook. The handbook has assigned symptoms to it which are now being very subjectively used to diagnose and treat children who show discipline, hyperactivity, and inability to concentrate problems in school. The result has been a precipitous increase in diagnosis of ADHD in children followed by what I think is an unethical medication of these students with pills that alter the brain chemistry often with adverse long duration side effects. Some states only insure diagnosed ADHD students so just like the psychiatric profession there is a money incentive to label someone as ADHD which is theoretically now a mental illness even though other societies in the world do not have such high rates of ADHD.

What I also discovered was that the Nature vs. Nurture or Genetics vs. Environment debate is still unresolved in much parenting research and there is some debate as to whether genetic inheritance from parents or environmental factors play a larger role in parenting success in specific areas of parenting which are discussed or investigated. For example in studies of aggression in children there is some debate as to whether aggression is primarily a function of the environment such as the kind of discipline, peer role models, financial poverty, etc. or is it primarily inherited parental genes with a tendency towards aggression compounded by aggressive parents as role models?

I really liked the course Scientific Parenting and would highly recommend it to present and future parents.

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