Sad but credible

From the NYT:

arents would certainly deny it, but Canadian researchers have made a startling assertion: parents take better care of pretty children than they do ugly ones.

Researchers at the University of Alberta carefully observed how parents treated their children during trips to the supermarket. They found that physical attractiveness made a big difference.

The researchers noted if the parents belted their youngsters into the grocery cart seat, how often the parents’ attention lapsed and the number of times the children were allowed to engage in potentially dangerous activities like standing up in the shopping cart. They also rated each child’s physical attractiveness on a 10-point scale.

Of course, this would fly in the face of the assertions that all parents love their children equally…. Although I find the notion credible based on how the prettiest child often is often an attention magnet in a family, I do have some doubts about the study, given the researchers’ inability to correctly diagnose one parental behavior.

“Although the researchers were unsure why, good-looking boys were usually kept in closer proximity to the adults taking care of them than were pretty girls. The researchers speculated that girls might be considered more competent and better able to act independently than boys of the same age.”

Apparently the possibility that boys of all appearances are significantly more likely to topple the pile of soup cans at the end of the aisle or whack their brother over the head with a loaf of bread than girls never occurred to them. It’s not a question of competence or ability, but behavioral probability.