Do Parents Matter?
Parents Don't Matter.
We oftentimes hear old people blame the misfortunes and "misconduct" of the younger generation to their parents. Even to this day, adults tend to blame their parents for some of the things they don't like in themselves. Some people respond that poiting fingers is useless, or that these people should start taking responsibility for their actions, but a few have a different perspective.
Judith Harris believes that childhood development is guided by only two factors - genes and peers, no parents. In her controversial book, "The Nurture Assumption" (1998), she states that genes make up for the biological aspect of development, while peers comprise the social and cognitive dimensions of development. She acknowledges that parents matter, but that their influence is stuck in the home, whereas peers make up the outside (and wider) social world of children. She says that when children start to go out and socialize, they are deliberately influencing, and at the same time, are being influenced and shaped by their peers. Harris adds that this is the reason why children act differently at home and when outside. Parents oftentimes don't know this. All the while they think that they solely paint their children's developmental path. Judith cites in her book Johnson and Newport's (1989) finding that children learn second language faster than their parents. She reasons that this finding shows how peers significantly influence a child's social and cognitive development.
Parents Do Matter.
Many psychologists were intrigued with Harris's ideas. Not only were her ideas unconventional, but they were also extremely simplified and deterministic. Critics point that Harris deliberately neglected research findings supporting the significant influence parents have on their children. For example, a lot of psychological research show that positive intervention on parenting is effective. Educating parents how to handle their children show marked change in children's behavior. Additionally, Judith Harris was also criticized for fostering a kind of black-and-white thinking when it comes to parenting. Even if the degree of influence of parents and peers on a child's cognitive and social development has not yet been precisely measured, it is widely recognized that both exert influence on a child's development. Thinking in terms of "Parents don't matter" and "Parents do matter" ignore the complexity of social influence and interaction. To this day, it is not safe to assume that one exerts more (or even no) influence than another. What we do know is that their degree of influence depends upon many factors - personalities, context, and others.
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