I’ve already recently ranted about the importance of different perceptions, but a recent article by the independent got me thinking again.

The headline claimed that “Children of divorce say their exam results ‘suffer’, while others turn to drugs”. Common sense tells you this may well be right, but, my inquisitive nature meant that I just had to look into this a bit further.

Divorce with children

The article went on to describe how 20% of young people whose parents had divorced said that their exam results suffered. Let me set the scene. Thousands of young people sit exams each year. Many of these don’t get the exam results they wanted. There could be countless reasons behind this: divorced parents, yes, or the latest xbox game, or a new boyfriend, or a rubbish teacher, or the well-known time wasting tool otherwise known as Facebook. 

Paragraphs starting with “Divorce was also found to lead to damaging behaviour” made me angry. This research was only conducted with young people with experience of parental separation or divorce. How do the researchers know that divorce led to this behaviour?

Making assumptions in research is always a dangerous game. This is probably one of the worst – if you only survey a distinct group of people, you will only understand the behaviours of that distinct group of people (if that). You cannot, under any circumstances, assume anything about anyone you haven’t researched.

I could be barking up the wrong tree here. These researchers might well have undertaken desk research first to gain some understanding of the difference between expected and actual grades for all young people. There could then have been a two stage research process in which they spoke to young people that had not been affected by separation or divorce issues, and those that had. It’s possible this data was then analysed side by side and compared using statistically robust techniques. The findings might well have been placed into a real-world context for use by the end client and measures put in place to help increase understanding, particularly if results were to be shared with the general public. I might be missing the details on the page of the article that point me in the direction of the researchers so that I can question their methodology.

Call me a cynic, but somehow, I don’t think so.

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