Sunday, December 12, 2010

Adopted Kids as Guinea Pigs

If you've been hanging out here for a while you know I love research studies.  It's part of my job, admittedly, but it goes much deeper than that. It's that geeky need for knowledge for knowledge's sake.  I've admitted to being a research-based parent -- mother-instinct?  phooey!  Give me something empirical!

But this study, How can we boost IQs of “dull children”?: A late adoption study, bothers me.  Here's the crux of it:

Our study contributes in a direct manner to the question of the extent to which environment, defined by the SES of adoptive parents, can alter the cognitive development of disadvantaged children after early childhood. Late adoption represents the only human situation that provides a scientific opportunity to conduct a methodological evaluation of the impact of a total change from a deprived environment to an enriched one.
What's bugging me about the study, I think, is that it really isn't about adoption.  It's simply using adopted kids to prove some unrelated point about the malleability of IQ.  At least in other studies where adopted kids are the guinea pigs, we're studying adoption, and hopefully coming up with a better understanding of adoption that will directly benefit the guinea pigs.  Here, the adopted kids are merely instruments who happen to inhabit "the only human situation" that allows for a study of something unrelated to adoption.  There's just something icky about that, to my mind.


Amanda said...

I agree. It's super icky.

I remember being in a psych class where my professor was talking about research and concluded his speech with something to the nature of..."and studies of twins separated at birth and adopted into different families are especially helpful to research."

Really? Good grief. I almost fell out of my chair.

Von said...

Sadly for us it's been that way for us for a long time as we're seen as second rate.When will it change?

Meia Yao said...

I am not bothered by this kind of research. In psychology and anthropology classes when these kinds of studies have been mentioned, I felt that it was an interesting approach to understanding the effects of environment (which is what adopted individuals are used for the most, in research, for obvious reasons). While adoption-related research that benefits "the guinea pigs" is great, other kinds of research (i.e. on IQ malleability) is also informative. I believe it is fine to do research involving informed individuals who are willingly participating in a study, regardless of what the study is on and who the individuals are (adopted, or whatever "characteristic").

My issue with these kinds of studies, unrelated to your qualms, are the many factors and few participants involved.

Also, in this particular study, the indelicate/brusque phrasing ("dull children") and question-title, which implies that there is some kind of set-in-stone answer + the importance of IQ (which I believe is questionable, as in not all that important. I think I believe in thresholds, as in Malcolm Gladwell's book, though I'm not sure...). I also don't like the phrases "enriched" and "deprived" environments. I know they mean socioeconomically, but still...Maybe this is overly anal of me though.

travelmom and more said...

I don't have too many issues with this study if like Meia Yao said it includes informed consenting individuals. But maybe my bias is because I am very curious about the effect of environment on individual intelligence; if the study is large enough it could provide some interesting information.

"Enriched" and "deprived" may be environments with stimulus vs. no stimulus instead of socioeconomic.

Amanda said...

I think what bothers me the most about this is that I would hope that a study focusing these children with such tragic circumstances, would be for the purpose of benefitting those children.

I was fostered for a brief period of time and I would hope that research doing any sort of retrospective analysis on my files (files that most adoptees do not even have the right to view about themselves) would use it to bennefit those children who will some day walk in my shoes.