Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Do Parents Matter?


In recent years there has been much debate about whether or not parents actually matter in the life of a child. There are some people who believe that parents have no impact on their children. They believe that children become who they are solely from the influence of genetics. Consider the following quote:

"Ordinary differences between families have little effect on children's development unless the family is outside of a normal, developmental range. Good enough, ordinary parents probably have the same effects on their children's development as culturally defined super-parents... children's outcomes do not depend on whether parents take children to the ball game or to a museum so much as they depend on genetic transmission, on plentiful opportunities, and on having a good enough environment that supports children's development to become themselves" (Scarr, 1992, p. 15).
This author argues that as long as children have good enough parents then what children end up doing in their life is completely up to their genetic make-up. This makes me wonder though what does it mean to be a "good enough" parent?

Here is another quote for you to think about:
"Parenting has been oversold. You have been led to believe that you have more of an influence on your child's personality than you really do" (Harris, 1998, p. 351)
What do you think about these two quotes arguing that parents don't matter?

These authors (among others) believe that parents don't really have much of an influence; however they are many researchers who do believe (and have found in their research) that parents do in fact, matter. Consider the following quotes:
"...the details of socialization patterns are crucial to an understanding of normal and deviant development...what normal parents do or fail to do crucially affects their children's development... better than "good enough" parenting optimizes the development of both normal and vulnerable children, and ... parents' belief in their own effectiveness further enhances their caregiving, whereas causal attributions that assign responsibility for child outcomes to genetic factors that parents cannot change undermine parents' belief in their own effectiveness" (Baumrind, 1993, p. 1299).
"Children would not--could not--grow up to be members of a civilized culture if they were simply left to the example of their peers... A social science--or a layman's guide--that largely left out parents after birth would be absurd. So would a society. Whether on the scene, or behind the scenes parents have jointly created the institutions that train and inspire children: apprenticeships, schools, works of art and literature, religious classes, playing fields, and even forms of resistance and rebellion . These institutions, and the adults who run them, sustain civilization and provide the disciplines--however fragile they may seem, that keep our societies from reverting to barbarism" (Gardner, 1998, p.22).
These authors argue that parenting does impact children. The way a child is raised contributes to the development of that child's interests, beliefs and the way they interact with the world around them. I agree that parents do make a difference in their child's life. Do I think that genetics are involved? Absolutely, however, I think that as parents we teach our children how to interact in society and we provide them with opportunities that may lead them to take different directions in their lives.

What do you all think? Do parents really matter or is it just up to genetics?

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