Friday, September 16, 2016

Do Parents Matter?

An Atlantic mag essay asks:
How Much Do Parents Matter?

“Parents in every culture at a given moment think they’re doing the optimal thing for their kids.” ...

Their response: Parents don’t matter as much as many parents think they do. ...

I’d been working with schizophrenic children, or autistic children, and so on, and the [since-discredited] theory in those days was that these American children who were autistic — their mothers had done that to them. I thought: This is perilous what’s going on with this little child.

I observed a lot more children, and it was the same in every case: that the young mother did not look at the child and did not talk to the child. And yet all around me people were perfectly fine. They were warm, they were humorous, they were engaged. They were not autistic! [I came to] understand that these little children got their socialization and the affection that they needed to grow psychologically from other people. It didn’t have to come from the mother. ...

In general, if you go outside of the Western world, you will find that interdependence is the goal of psychological development rather than independence, which we Westerners emphasize to a huge degree, starting in infancy.
So maybe parenting does not matter in the way that the American textbooks say, but it still matters in other ways. For example, the parents can teach the child to be independent or interdependent.

Here is a recent video interview on Why Spanking Does Not Work | Elizabeth Gershoff and Stefan Molyneux. This claims to be scientific knowledge on parenting, but if you listen carefully, there is nothing scientific at all. There are no controlled studies, so the studies are very limited, and there is no discussion of the limitations. Furthermore, Gershoff seems to make no distinction between research findings and her own personal unsupported opinions. She says that spanking does not work, but her reasoning is mostly ideological, and she cannot cites studies showing that any other method of discipline works any better.

Such is the sad state of parenting research. Experts will claim that a parenting practice damages children while other cultures use the practice all the time with no apparent damage.

Molyneux has posted other interviews on twin studies that show that differences in common parental practices like spanking have no measurable effect on outcomes. And yet he has also posted rants against spanking as being against research. It is also against his philosophical beliefs about an ideal society where no one ever takes an aggressive act against another. He calls it the non-aggression principle.

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