15 October 2012

Tabula Rasa

This is part of a larger parenting shift that breaks down along class lines. Through in-depth observation of family life in select homes the sociologist Annette Lareau has identified clear differences in parenting across the socioeconomic spectrum. Among the poor and working-class families she studied, the focus of parenting was on what she calls "the accomplishment of natural growth." In these families, "parents viewed children's development as unfolding spontaneously, as long as they were provided with comfort, food, shelter, and other basic support."

College-educated parents have taken on a much more ambitious role - one that Lareau calls "concerted cultivation." "In these families, parents actively fostered and assessed their children's talents, opinions, and skills," Lareau writes. "They made a deliberate and sustained effort to stimulate children's development and to cultivate their cognitive and social skills."

The findings of Lareau and the Rameys document the emergence of a growing class divide in American family life. But the fissure is actually much wider than the work of these scholars shows it to be. The parenting gap isn't just about how much time parents spend with their kids. It's also about whether they live together with their kids. [Emphasis added.]

Give that it’s nearly impossible to separate nature from nurture, it’s incredibly shortsighted to argue that one specific set of parental behaviors makes the difference in a child’s development, especially since it is hypothetically possible that behavior may have some sort of genetic element.  Really, when you see anyone argue that some parental action or behavior makes a significant difference in a child’s life in spite of the massive variety of variables that play a role in shaping a child’s life, you can rest assured that the argument is based primarily on projection.  Basically, one is simply arguing that reality is what they secretly hope it to be.  This doesn’t make the argument or conclusions wrong or invalid, but it is probably wise to take them with a grain of salt.

Incidentally, it’s worth pointing out that the traditional family structure unsurprisingly leads to the best results for children.  It’s almost as if this is by design.

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