Posts Tagged ‘ Lisa Belkin ’

Dads, DNA, And Choices

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The scientific paper describing the increases in DNA mutations that correspond to increases in paternal age – published last month (click here to see my discussion of the scientific aspects of the study) – has generated lots of discussion about the need for reconsidering how age may affect paternity and fathering. See, for example, Lisa Belkin’s thoughtful discussion about the utility of men hearing the ticking of a biological clock.

It can be argued that the biological role of fathers, with respect to age, has not received as much attention because we think of the biological clock as primarily representing the probability of being able to reproduce – with those effects being, of course, most pronounced for females. What is now emerging into the public awareness (based on a number of studies conducted over a number of years) is that paternal age – like maternal age – may be associated with an increased risk for passing on certain genetic risk factors that may confer risk for disorders.

We may get to a point where there are risk charts that quantify the increasing probability of paternal mutations that correspond to age and associations with risk for various disorders in offspring (much of the interest right now comes from the potential links between paternal age and autism). Consider, for example, this chart showing the increasing probability of having a child with Down syndrome as predicted by maternal age.

The complexity here is that prospective parents have to consider, in most cases, probabilities rather than certainties (unless there is a screening for a known genetic disorder that runs in a family). Is a 1% chance, versus a .5% or a .01% chance, enough to change someone’s family planning? This is tough to answer. For some people, it may be highly influential. For others, social and personal factors may override such probabilities. What is clear is that genomic research will continue to deliver more and more probabilities in the future (near and far) – and the information that is generated will pertain to both prospective moms and prospective dads. And that prospective parents will have to make more and more complicated choices that are partially (but not fully) informed by genomics.

Statistics and probability via


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Would You Publicly Humiliate Your Child As A Punishment?

Friday, April 20th, 2012

No. I wouldn’t. But other parents are doing this with increasing frequency, as described in Lisa Belkin’s recent column in the Huffington Post. I urge you to read her column for the details – but the bottom line is that it’s becoming chic for parents to punish their kids by having them stand in a prominent public space wearing signs such as:

  • “I like to steal from others and lie about it!”
  • “I am a thief. I took money from a family member.”
  • “I was sent to school to get an education. Not to be a bully … I was not raised this way!”

Look, I get that out there in the world, you can find parents who do all kinds of things. What got my attention was her assertion (which I agree with) that this is becoming a trend – another form of extreme parenting that goes hand in hand with the tendency for promoting what I’ve described as Shock Parenting in books and articles. And this troubles me. Why? Because I’m seeing behavior that makes me feel that parents don’t really treat kids like they are dependents. Yes, dependents. They depend on us to treat them fairly, to respect them, and to shape their behavior in appropriate ways. Sure, this includes providing consequences to inappropriate behavior. But – and this is just my opinion – I doubt that having a kid wear a sign in public is any more effective than rubbing a dog’s nose in their poop to teach them to not mess in the house. Any reputable dog trainer will tell you that the dog only learns to fear you when they poop in the house – it teaches the dog nothing about going to the door as a signal that they have to go outside. And that’s because there is no training involved. Punishment only tells you what not to do – kids need to learn about the consequences of their behavior in a way that they learn what they should be doing, and why they should be doing it, so that they not only stop doing what’s wrong, but start doing what’s right.

I could go on and on about this, but I’d rather hear from you all. Would you use this form of punishment with your kids? Do you feel okay knowing other parents are doing this? Oh, and one other question. If you think it’s okay to do this … do kids get the option to ask parents to wear a sign in public when they mess up??

Image of question mark via

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