Could having a dad around keep you slim?

According to this study, having a dad around may help prevent childhood obesity.  Good old dad!  But before we go away with the message that ‘Parental Alienation makes your kids fat’, UKAP would advise caution.

This study is not science.  Like all such pseudo-scientific social commentary, it suffers from one glaring problem.  That is: causation.

That is, whilst we can infer from the study that kids who have their fathers in their lives are, as a matter of pure descriptive fact, slimmer, what we cannot conclude is that it is the fact of the father’s involvement that causes this phenomenon.   No causal link is evident.  This is why studies like this have such wishy-washy conclusions, like

“The findings suggest that encouraging fathers to increase their involvement with raising children and including fathers in childhood obesity prevention efforts may help reduce obesity risk among young children.”

Hmm…’may help reduce’…?  Well, anything ‘may help reduce’ anything!  The report of the study highlights an old logical fallacy – ‘post hoc, ergo propter hoc’ – just because B comes after A does not mean B was caused by A.

Now, if the study was based on, say, neuro-psychological research which clearly demonstrated that, somehow (?), having a dad around caused (directly, foreseeably, physiologically) those parts of the brain concerned with diet and weight to be positively affected such that kids ate less, then maybe that would be a starting point (only) to draw some preliminary conclusions or to serve as the basis for a theory/hypothesis…

At their very best such studies might show a casual link…but not a causal one.


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