You Bad Parent!

My wife and I are in the middle of potty-training the boy. It’s going well, and he responds excellently to bribery. A small bit of chocolate is the reward he gets for doing the business. So he’s a pretty regular consumer of sweet things at the moment.

But that may have to stop, because it turns out I’ve been creating a serial killer. Here’s what the Herald has reported:

Banish the chocolate bars and lock up the gobstoppers – letting your children eat sweets could turn them into serial killers, according to psychiatrists.

The surprising claim is made by researchers who found that children who ate sweets and chocolate every day were more likely to be violent as adults.

It was bad enough worrying about his teeth. Now I have another thing to fret over.

I wonder what lasting damage we’ve already caused. Is it too late to turn his life around? If we put a stop to the chocolate reward system now, can we hope that the worst thing we’ve created is a serial burglar? Maybe he won’t actually kill anyone. Attempted murder doesn’t sound quite as bad, does it? As a parent I could probably come to terms with that (eventually, after much torment and soul-searching).

As if modern life isn’t already too stressful (every damn thing we eat will give us cancer), now this.

The original study may well have referred to serial-killers (I wouldn’t know, having not read it). But the real story seems to be the increased likelihood of children who eat confectionery daily becoming violent offenders. So why did the article* mention serial killers in the first paragraph, other than to deliberately shock?

And let’s not assume that just because there is a correlation between sweet-eating as a child and violent offending in later years, one must therefore cause the other. It’s my uninformed guess (caveat: I haven’t read the paper) that in fact one doesn’t cause the other. What is actually occurring, I suspect, is just old-fashioned bad parenting. Adults with poor parenting skills are less likely to feed their kids well, but they’re also more likely to be abusive, poor, violent and poorly educated. It is fairly well accepted that a child who grows up in that kind of environment faces a higher probability of becoming an offender.

Finally, I’ve been eating confectionery in large quantities all my life, and it’s done me no harm at all. In fact, you must try my favourite treat – authentic Eskimo Pie. It’s simply to die for.

*  To be fair to the Herald, they sourced the article from the UK Independent newspaper.