Smoking Parents Cause Teenage Delinquency - Causation vs Correlation

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Often times the media incorrectly uses statistics to jump to conclusions about causation. These situations pop up constantly in newspaper headlines, news reports, and magazines. My example of causation vs correlation is about a newspaper headline claiming that parents who smoke cause their teenage children to be delinquents. While there may indeed be a strong correlation between parents who smoke and delinquency there may be another cause. The article fails to acknowledge the possibility of a third variable to be the cause of the correlation. It is possible the correlation is caused by social classes. Lower social classes are usually more likely to smoke and may also lead to a higher number of teenage delinquents. The cause may also be the opposite of the headline. Maybe parents with teenage delinquents are more likely to smoke in order to deal with the stress.

2 Comments

I agree one hundred percent with what you're saying. Modern media defianlty isn't something to base our lives off of and I feel like they shouldn't even be reporting any type of scientific findings to the public, especially if they can't convey it correctly. Also, props to you on thinking of the third variable they could have been leaving out, and turning the tables by saying that teens might already be delinquents and their parents just smoke to deal with their problem child.

Very succinct post! The third variable issue, as well as inferring causation from correlation, is a major issue in studies such as the one you mention.

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This page contains a single entry by stran569 published on October 3, 2011 11:12 PM.

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