Theory Development

6. Common Sense

Exercise 3

Below is a list of concepts with potentially linked causal explanations. Read each concept and select the one that is most likely to have a rational causal explanation.

The goal of this exercise is for user to understand how statistical associations do not actually explain behavior (for example, A and B may be linked but that is not to say that A causes B).

The concepts are as follows:

Long term receipt of welfare by a household is associated with low self-esteem for adolescents. An explanation of this is that the low-self esteem of the child is the product of the low self-esteem of the parents, not of receipt of welfare itself.

Among the variables associated with early adolescent sexual activity is parental demandingness (rather than responsiveness). One explanation is that demandingness leads to substance use which leads to early sex.

Job training programs designed to improve skills and train the unemployed in work habits and professional demeanor report success rates in placing students. Successful placement is evidence that the programs are effective.

There is a strong inverse relationship between family income and childhood smoking. So improving the economic status of a family should leads to a decline in smoking.

Answers:

Long term receipt of welfare by a household is associated with low self-esteem for adolescents. An explanation of this is that the low-self esteem of the child is the product of the low self-esteem of the parents, not of receipt of welfare itself.
Remediation. Not Likely Causal Explanation. While plausible, this is apparently not true. The direct effect of welfare receipt is itself a source of low self-esteem. One can imagine a variety of mechanisms by which this might operate: negative attitudes toward the family as a whole by members of the extended family; negative attitudes by peers; the shaming effects of public receipt of welfare associated benefits, and the like. Each of these could be further investigated.

Among the variables associated with early adolescent sexual activity is parental demandingness (rather than responsiveness). One explanation is that demandingness leads to substance use which leads to early sex.
Remediation: Likely Causal Explanation. Research indicates that parental demandingness leads to substance use, and this is associated with early sexual activity. Consider how this might work.

Job training programs designed to improve skills and train the unemployed in work habits and professional demeanor report success rates in placing students. Successful placement is evidence that the programs are effective.
Remediation: Not Likely Causal Explanation. Unfortunately, the evidence is not evidence of the efficacy of the programs. The type of person who completes such a program is likely to have the personal qualities that will enable them to find work anyway. Thus, the programs likely add little.

There is a strong inverse relationship between family income and childhood smoking. So improving the economic status of a family should leads to a decline in smoking.
Remediation: Not Likely Causal Explanation. Some evidence suggests that this is not the case: increases of income within families are actually associated with increases in children smoking. The general relation between income and healthy behavior is probably due not to income itself, but to features of individuals or families that influence both healthy behavior and income.