Association Studies — Their Usefulness and Their Limits

Researchers must use more blunt scientific tools to understand the effects of things like Parental Alienation on kids. Many researchers use what are known as “association studies” to try to get this clarity. They compare populations against one another, looking for trends. What similarities can we find among kids subjected to alienation? How do these children, in general, differ from the population of non-alienated children?

Searching for these associations seems like it should be useful. However, this more blunt scientific tool can lead to dangerous assumptions.

First of all, it’s easy to find all sorts of what are known as “spurious correlations.” From 2001 to 2009, for example, the divorce rate in Maine correlated to the per capita consumption of margarine with an “r” of over 0.99! (If you’re not a statistics buff, just understand that that’s an incredibly tight correlation.) However, that association is obviously meaningless, since margarine consumption has no bearing on divorce rates and vice versa.

It’s important to keep this basic idea in mind whenever you read a news article about a scientific study that says that people who do X are at an elevated risk of Y. Yes, there might be a correlation, but that correlation might not tell you anything useful. Just like getting people to eat less margarine wouldn’t be likely to lower the Maine divorce rate, doing less of X won’t necessarily reduce your risk of Y.

Children who go through painful divorces might be at “elevated risk” for getting divorced themselves or for having other long term problems. But does this mean that the divorce made them at risk? Or could something else be responsible?

For instance, maybe there are genetic reasons why some people are more inclined to get divorced than others. If so, genetics could explain why certain children of divorce go on to get divorced. In other words, even if studies could determine that children subjected to parental alienation might be more likely to have XYZ problems, you still should avoid immediately blaming those XYZ problems on the alienation itself.

The bottom line is this. Rather than stressing out about long term effects that may or may not exist for your child, focus on healing your relationship with the child. Research shows pretty convincingly that that the relationship can be damaged by alienation, potentially forever.

For skillful, experienced assistance handling your Parental Alienation case, call the Williams Law Group, LLC immediately at (908) 810-1083.



Let us know how we can help
Contact Our New Jersey Family Lawyers Today