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Myths of Childhood by Joel Paris

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1

CHAPTER

Establishing Cause and Effect

Behavior does not follow simple laws. This is why psychology does not resemble classical physics. The simplest outcome can emerge from a complex matrix of factors. The same outcome can result from many different causes. The same causes can lead to entirely different outcomes.

All these complexities make it difficult to determine whether a risk factor, such as an adverse event during childhood, is the true cause of an outcome, such as problems during adulthood. This chapter will describe a series of problems in scientific methodology bearing on this difficulty:

1.  the base rate problem,

2.  the difference between risk factors and causes,

3.  the difference between correlation and causation,

4.  the difference ...

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