Parenting Techniques, Nature, and Nurture
The role of parents in the lives of the developing child would seem to be pretty obvious. But whether parenting matters has been an issue of some controversy. In the provocative book the Nurture Assumption, Judith harris (1998) argues that what parents do does not make a difference in their children’s behavior. Spank them, hug them, read to them, ignore them. Harris says it will not influence how they turn out. She argues that children’s gene and their peers are far more important than parents in children’s development. In addition, Harris emphasizes that children learn from many sources and that their learning is specific to certain contexts. Although children imitate their parents to learn how to behave at home, they imitate other people to learn how to behave outside the home. Harris singles out children’s peer relations as an especially important aspect of the nurture part of the nature/nurture equation. For Harris, children would develop into the same types of adults if we left them in their homes, schools, neighborhoods, peer groups and culture but switched their parents around.
How far-fetched is harris’s view? Some psychologists believe that it is more plausible than it first appears. Sandara Scar (1992,2000) has said it all before. A retired professor and a well known developmental researcher, Scar suggests that “super parenting’ is unnecessary. She asserts that while behaviorists believe that experience is crucial to behavior, the active genotype is so strong that it makes most environmental experiences unimportant. Scar suggests that the only parenting that has a negative effect on a child is parenting that is far outside the normal range.-for example chronic physical abuse. Apart from such extreme cases, Scar asserts, genes are the primary determinant of developmental outcomes. Thus, once parents have passed on their genes to their children, the most important work is done. Parenting that is “good enough” is all that is required for the development of healthy, well-adjusted children. Even behaviors that psychologists often see as negative ( such as spanking) are not necessarily damaging, Scar maintains.
But Scarr’s claims encountered a firestorm of criticism. Diane Baumind (1993) countered that “good enough” parenting wasn’t good enough and cited evidence that highly demanding and highly responsive parents are more likely to have high-achieved and socially well-adjusted children. A longitudinal study by W.Anderew Collins and his collegues supported Baumrind’s claims. It showed that even with genetic influences taken into account, parenting practices made a difference in children’s lives. Baumrind also expressed concern that Scarr’s opinion might lead parents to give up the important responsibility of child rearing or to conclude that their efforts on behalf of their children are not worthwhile. Others joined Baumrind in voicing worries that Scarr’s views might lead public policymakers to reduce support for intervention programs that help children and parents.
Indeed, studies of positive intervention especially have the ability to demonstrate whether parenting plays an important role in children’s development. In one study training low income mothers to respond sensitively to their infants both changed the negative responses of mothers when their infants became irritable and reduced the likelihood that distressed infants would avoid their mothers. In another study parent’s participation in 16-week discussion groups of effective parenting just prior to their children’s entry into kindergarten resulted in better school adjustment and high academic achievement for their children than for children whose parents attended discussion group without the effective parenting emphasis.
What do you think?
1. Do you think that your personality was formed more by nature or nurture? In other words was your personality shaped more by your genes or by your life experiences?
2. in you have children or decide to have them in the future how do you think this information might affect your approach to parenting?
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