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Friday, February 18, 2005
comes the latest breakthrough in the obvious. From the March 2005 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Psychology, Risk Taking as Developmentally Appropriate Experimentation for College Students". Some of the same problems as yesterday's example:
Here we go again. Can we trust the "data" gathered from 32 people when there were approximately 13.4 million undergraduates in 2002? What kind of "analysis" was performed? Oh well, it's not worth complaining about too much.
One of the important findings was:
Most students reported having few real world responsibilities. For example, most said they were not financially independent from their parents, thus, they did not have toworry about budgeting their money between leisure activities, such as buying alcohol and paying their bills. Emerging adults described college as an environment in which they were responsible for making their own decisions, relatively unburdened by real world responsibilities, surrounded by other young people making the same decisions.
So, college kids act crazy and take risks (alcohol, drugs, sex) because they have no responsibilities and everyone else around them is acting crazy. Kids engage in risky behavior at college more to fit in than to piss off mom and dad. This is surely the case and doesn't require a lot of investigation.
In high school, kids engage in risky behavior in order to piss off mom and dad. In college, mom and dad are absent and therefore pissing them off is not nearly as rewarding as being seen as "cool." Therefore, in high school Sally and Junior listen to Marylin Manson to drive the old folks up the wall. In college, Sally and Junior drink Stoli, smoke a joint, and debate the metaphysics of Tai Chi in order to be cool. If Sally and Junior end up in the sack, well for one or both of them it is a bonus.
Hopefully the NSF didn't fund this research.
The last page has a "disclaimer" however:
First, these students represent volunteers from one large public university and one community college, both in the same midwestern town. It is also cautioned that these results not be generalized to the experiences of emerging adults who do not attend college, the "forgotten half" ("The Forgotten Half," 1988), or to younger youth. Second, although the sample was relatively diverse in terms of gender and race and ethnicity, the small sample size does not allow for analyses within or between groups.
Oh, okay. Are the journals requiring a "veneer" of data and "analysis" in order to gussy up what are essentially op-ed "theory" pieces? If you want to posit that students act crazy to be cool, then just posit it. It seems that the "data" and the "analysis" are pro forma, intended to "confirm" or support the author's priors. We all have priors, and in and of themselves they are not dangerous. Priors become dangerous when they mold the researcher's approach in such a way as to guarantee a particular outcome.
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