Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Stuttering is colour blind

I am wondering whether this research was necessary. They looked at whether African American kids are stuttering more or less than "European American" (poor US whites they are now labelled after us Europeans!). I guess to see whether black kids are discriminated. I would not be surprised  (but I do not know for sure) if this was a clever move by the researchers to get funding for their stuttering research by tapping into the racial equality money, and use some of the overhead for other projects. I am wondering whether we could somehow link stuttering to global warming, and we could get more money for stuttering! Or, even better for terrorism, no lets make it bioterrorism (that's closer to stuttering which is also bio) because then we can kill any criticism to our stuttering-makes-terror theory by calling  our critics unpatriotic or liberals! Seriously, the matter of the fact is that lots of money is dedicated for research that 99% of the politicians know are ineffective but politicians need to show that they care for the topic. But what really happens is that neighbouring fields jump on the bandwagon by re-writing their grant proposals to fit the political dictat. So if we want to get more money for stuttering, we need to either make us important enough to get big pots of research money or to tap others.

Actually on a second glance, this piece of research is very interesting! So I am glad it was done. Why? Well, it confirms that stuttering is roughly similar across at least two races, which fits with what we have been known anecdotally for a long time: people stutter in any culture or race. But, I am actually struck by the fact that the numbers are so similar. Yes, I would have expected that kids stutter in all races, but that the numbers are so close is interesting. It is well-known (that is a phrase I use when I have heard it somewhere but I am too lazy to look for a reference!) that different races have illnesses at different prevalence. The fact that stuttering seems to be remarkably constant might well point to the interpretation that there are many ways to start stuttering (many gene combination and no single gene) unlike for some illnesses which depend on one gene which could easily be selected out in one race. You can also argue that the same culture made them stutter in same numbers, but I do not pay this because the frequencies of illnesses is different for different races even though they live in the same culture (well do they really? There are very distinct sub-cultures in the US.)

But wait, why don't we do the same for gender and see whether one of them is discriminated! Wow, four times more boys stutter than girls! So there is a clear discrimination by society here, isn't there? But of course because the discrimination goes against the common urban myth "that women are discriminated", no-one bothers about it. Just imagine more girls had stuttered, everyone would be talking about it....

Here is the abstract:

J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2008 Jul 29. [Epub ahead of print]Links

Prevalence of Stuttering in African American Preschoolers.

Department of Speech and Hearing Science, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

PURPOSE: This study sought to determine the prevalence of stuttering in African American (AA) two to five year olds as compared to same age European Americans (EA).

METHOD: A total of 3,164 children participated, 2,223 AAs and 941 EAs. Data were collected using a three-pronged approach that included investigators' individual interaction with each child, teacher identification, and parent identification of stuttering.

RESULTS: No statistically significant difference for stuttering was found between AA and EA children. Using the investigator and teacher method of identification, the prevalence of stuttering was 2.52% for the entire sample. For both racial groups, boys exhibited a higher prevalence of stuttering than girls. Of the three predictors (age, race, sex) of stuttering, only sex was a significant predictor.

CONCLUSIONS: AA two to five year olds are not overrepresented in the stuttering population for this age group. When data are combined for both racial groups, the prevalence of stuttering is 2.52%. More boys than girls stuttered in this sample of preschoolers.
PMID: 18664698 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

6 comments:

ac said...

What's with the diatribe about "discrimination" at the end. Are you talking about a real person's argument? Sounds like a strawman to me.

I'm with your original comment - I don't see why the research was done. I don't think it makes sense to compare different populations unless there's prior evidence of a difference, or a theory as to why there should be a difference.

However, I can't agree with your suggestion that this was a cyncial way for the researchers to get their hands on "racial equality money". That's pretty close to an accusation of research misconduct.

And 99% of publicly funded research is useless? Got any real examples, or are you just pissed at being knocked back on too many grant applications?

Tom Weidig said...

>> What's with the diatribe about "discrimination" at the end. Are you talking about a real person's argument? Sounds like a strawman to me.

I was just trying to allude to my observation that every time a statistics shows that women are in the minority if it's good (like career) or in the majority if it's bad (like an illness), then society aka men are automatically accused of being discriminatory. But when it is men who are worse off, then it is ignored, attributed to nature,.

So the fact that we die FIVE years earlier and are FIVE times more likely to stutter is "bad luck" for us, it's nature, but to say that pregnancy for women is also just nature and bad luck for them is of course outrageous. Result is that there is very little money going into men-related issues.

Similar things happen in racial studies. For example, lower school performance by blacks was often attributed to discrimination. But then a UK study looked at ALL minorities, and found that Asian minorities were at the top of the class and black males on the bottom. Whites and black females in the middle. So was it really discrimination?

Anyway it's a complicated topic

>> However, I can't agree with your suggestion that this was a cyncial way for the researchers to get their hands on "racial equality money". That's pretty close to an accusation of research misconduct.

Why research misconduct? Everyone writes research proposal to fit the focus of the research money pot. They supposedly did exactly what was in the proposal, and a nice effect is that they have overheads, I guess?

I do not apply for grant applications. I take the 99% back! Back take for example bioterrorism. It got billion in research money. Result? Money diverted from useful projects like virus infection, renegade scientists having their own deadly spores, brains diverted from useful projects.

In general, societies have no clue about research. They think that if you spent money on something, you also get a return. That is not always like that in science at all. Like you shouldn't expect to be cured after the visit to a doctor.

Olivier said...

Bonjour Tom,
Désolé je n'arrive pas à t'écrire par mail.
Sans rapport avec le message :
Je viens juste de traduire en français, sur mn blog, le rapport des 4 patients du Dr R.K. Jones (1966). Je voulais savoir si tu avais déjà lu ce rapport, et ce que tu en pensais.

Anonymous said...

Re: ac's response to "Stuttering is colour blind."

It is highly probable - in fact I would say certain - that this "research" topic was undertaken for the purpose by the named researchers "to get their hands on "racial equality money".

I believe Tom is absolutely correct in his observation to ac regarding research misconduct. Researchers do write their grant proposals to fit the focus of the research money pot. And absolutely, as well, to fit their "overhead". It is not "research misconduct". It is just how research funding works.

Perhaps ac is a researcher who has missed out on some grant? Or related to one of the researchers who did the project? Maybe ac is just pissed off that Tom may have it it on the head?

And Tom - Don't get started on women in this blog. You should know the rules on that. You can't win it - No man can!

ac said...

>> I was just trying to allude to my observation that every time a statistics shows that women are in the minority if it's good (like career) or in the majority if it's bad (like an illness), then society aka men are automatically accused of being discriminatory.

Like I said, this is a strawman. Has anyone ever actually said that a higher prevalence of some particular disease among women is discrimination?

And does this 'racial equality money' itself even exist?

The amount of dog whistle politics around here says to me you've got a chip on your shoulder when it comes to liberal notions of equality.

Reading this crap irritates me because I come here for news about stuttering research, but I seem to have to take it with a dash of dodgy politics.

Tom Weidig said...

>>> Like I said, this is a straw man. Has anyone ever actually said that a higher prevalence of some particular disease among women is discrimination?

OK. I referred more to situations where discrimination is claimed for intangibles like "few women in science -> discrimination" or "lower average pay -> discrimination". Researcher X found Y which shows that women and men are no equally distributed so discrimination exists.

Re illnesses, I do seem to notice that much more money is spent on "breast cancer" and other women diseases but less on men diseases like stuttering. So taking about it is important in this context. Women also seem to spend more money on health care: at least I read somewhere that they go to the doctor more often.


>> And does this 'racial equality money' itself even exist?

I guess not under that precise name but there are plenty. Who on Earth would have a reason to fund this study then?

>> you've got a chip on your shoulder when it comes to liberal notions of equality.

Absolutely, there is no equality at all. It's this illusion of babies being all born equal. That is non-sense. Nothing to do with ideology; just plain science.

So it has NOTHING to do with being liberal or not. Considering US political standards, 99% of European including myself would be considered highly liberal.

But I am for EQUAL TREATMENT of people (giving everyone the same opportunities in life especially in health care and education), but don't start social engineering to make everyone equal.

>>> Reading this crap irritates me because I come here for news about stuttering research, but I seem to have to take it with a dash of doggy politics.

I guess you are from the US and highly politicized. Here in Europe, we are a bit more relaxed and at times even change our opinions. And here in old Europe, life is not black and white not the political spectrum! :-)