The Nurture Assumption

By Judith Rich Harris

TouchstoneNew York 1999


Opens with a poem from Kahlil Gibran


Your children are not your children

They are the sons and daughters of Lifeís longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot

visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them

like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

††††††††††† -Kahlil Gibran


CH 1 Ė ďNurtureĒ Is Not the Same as Environment

She changed her mind about nurture, not nature.There are thousands of books that say nurture is right.How can she deny it?She used to write textbooks for this point of view!


4 Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, usually gets the credit for the phrase ďNature and Nurture.ĒBut it was in the Tempest by Shakespeare before that.


The behaviorists rejected almost everything of the Freudians except the idea that the parents are responsible.The basic premise was not challenged!


If you look at developmental psych books written before Freudian theory and behaviorism became popular, you will find little or nothing about parent influence on the childís personality.

††††††††††† The modern variant comes from the 1950s.They started looking for evidence that rearing practices had effects.The goal of the latter yearís researchers was not to find out whether parents influence their childrenís development, but how.

††††††††††† Some observations bothered her:Children of immigrants follow their neighborís ways.British upperclassmen donít raise their kids and they come out top of the charts.Third, her own children are so different from each other.

††††††††††† The Nurture assumption is based on Western European middle class values. Pg 12.



CH 2 Ė The Nature (and Nurture) of the Evidence

Correlational studies do not prove causation.Broccoli e eaters live longer.

First they get this after testing millions of veggies and diseases and something is going to turn up statistically significant.

Secondly, these studies do not control for other variables. Broccoli eaters are possibly more likely to be married.That may have caused it.

If this doesnít produce results, you can parse the data.What of male broccoli eaters in Northern climates?Keep parsing for significance.It will come.


There are trends that have been shown by researchers that study parenting and child personality correlations.

1)                          Parents who do a good job of managing their lives tend to have children that also do.And vice versa.

2)                          Children who are treated with affection and respect tend to do better at managing their lives and their personal relationships than those treated harshly.

But the causal arrow isnít there.The parenting does not cause the child.


Genes have an effect.To investigate properly we must look at twin studies. Similarities that are greater in identical twins more than fraternal or regular siblings are genetic.

The results of such studies are clear and consistent:overall, heredity accounts for roughly 50 percent of the variation in the samples of people that have been tested, environmental influences for the other 50 percent.

This does not mean that effects could not still be one hundred percent genetic.To clear this up think of corn.The variation around a type of cornís offspring may vary by fifty percent but whatever turns up will be nearly 100 percent genetic determinism.But soil and other environmental factors will affect the expression of that genetic potential.

Two children Audrey and Mark on her street.Audrey wants to pet the barking dog, Mark is terrified.Mom has to treat them differently.The parent child relationship is a two way street.

Autistic children donít focus on the outside world, canít really give love and so generate less enthusiasm.Nice children are more likely to be hugged.Brutal children are more likely to be treated harshly.That is a different way of looking at generalization two.

With identical twins, there is a different description of their childhood.Happy folks have happy memories, sad have sad.

Researchers have also found that childrenís cuteness or homeliness has a measurable effect on how parents treat them.Pg 29.Homely children are punished more harshly.They have different environments.Shy children are bullied at school, good looking kids are popular.These are indirect genetic effects. Pg 30.Should these be attributed to heredity, she says yes, but it is arbitrary and not a real division.

Here we see how treating timid children carefully could lead someone under the nurture assumption to think that the treating carefully caused the timidity.†† It is more likely the other way around.


CH 3 Ė Nature, Nurture, and None of the Above

There are eerie tales of identical twins separately reared apart being similar.They are true.But there are many reared apart that are dissimilar too.†† Overall, they are no more different than identical twins raised in the same house. Pg 34.

The correlation of personality traits (as estimated by scores on personality tests and in various other ways) is only about .50 for identical twins reared in the same house.

Though differences must be identical, similarities could be genetic, environmental or a combination.Study after study showed that homes didnít determine nor genes.What could it be?

For intelligence there is evidence of a transient effect of the home environment during childhood.But by late adolescence all nongenetic resemblances have faded away.

Maccoby and Martin did big studies of this sort and gave two possible interpretations:

1)      The home and the parents have no effect.


2)      The differences are due to the different ways that children are reared within the same home.

The first way kills the nurture assumption.The second rescues it.


Birth order studies were tried as a source to show that childhood microenvironments have predictable affects.†† Among subjects coming from families of three or more, there was one small difference, probably a fluke: the lastborn scored slightly lower on masculinity.But, Ernst and Angst, found the birth order studies were ďÖa sheer waste of time and money.ĒThat even though 87 percent of mothers and 85 percent of fathers favored the younger child.

SO the nurture assumption and option two above, is killed.


But socialization researchers keep looking for that meaningful factor in the microenvironments that can explain child differences.They lay down advice claiming to show that not too hard, not too soft parenting (just right) produces just right kids.

In fact what weíve found is that Asian Ė American parents are the most likely of all American parents to use the Too Hard style and yet they are, in many ways, the most competent and successful of all American children.


What of unconventional families?When the unconventional arrangement is the result of a consciously made lifestyle choice no differences in child outcome have been found.Many of the conventional family children are accidents (over 50 percent) pg 51.

By looking at children conceived through donor insemination, the children of these mothers were well behaved and perhaps above average.The ones with no fathers were doing as well as the ones with fathers.

Studies over the past fifteen years have found no difference in only children and those with siblings.


CH 4 Ė Separate Worlds

Cinderella learned when she was still quite small that it was best to act meek when her stepmother was around, and to be unattractive to avoid arousing her jealously.

Her step sisters didnít recognize her at the ball because it was her out of the house personality.The prince didnít recognize her inside the cottage, because she had her inside the cottage personality on.Pg. 55.

William James said, properly speaking a man may have as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their mind.

There is no convincing evidence that people spontaneously transfer what they learned in one situation to a new situation unless the first closely resembles the second.Detterman has pointed out that it is evolutionarily safer to assume that new situations have new rules.

Babies will treat a mobile differently if you just exchange a few doodads. They do not generalize rules.Pg 57.

A child that cries at home may get attention.At school heíll get mocked.Clever remarks at home may get you sent to the Principalís office at home.

Children play more complicated fantasy games when their mothers join them.But this doesnít carry over when the mother is not there.

The somber faces and muted movements common in the babies of depressed mothers are ďspecific to their interactions with their depressed mothers,Ē Pg 60.

Few relations have been found between sibling relations and those with peers.Unless they are twins, the elder child tends to be the leader and dominate.The younger tries to avoid domination.Peers are more equal, and often more compatible than siblings.Conflict is more common among siblings than peers.

When parents describe their firstborn they say they are more serious (no effect on the adult child found) and the younger siblings say they are bossy.This is a picture of the subject at home.The birth order effects do not transfer outside of the home.


Indirect genetic effects are the only ones thatgo outside the home.Cinderella got in trouble because she was pretty inside the home and praise for it outside.

North Americans talk to their children an inordinate amount because we think we must teach our children to be verbal.We talk to them in the womb!!! Pg 63.

Children who find a different language outside the home do not get surprised.They just assume there are different rules for different places.They code switch.This is linguistic but Cinderella looked pretty outside and homely inside. This is code switching too.

Children really desire to speak with other children.This is a powerful incentive to learn new languages.The child will use whatever bits of the outside language it can to fit in.

The children of immigrants end up ditching the old country language.They will usually bring the new language in the old home.They will reply in the new language when the parents speak in the old.They will, if the parents insist, retain a child like command of the old world language.But they will not be fluent.

In many societies, mothers do not speak to prelinguistic children at all, except for occasional demands and rebukes.The children donít understand so why talk to them?The children of the deaf speak perfectly well.

Parents hide their home life from their peers if they are different.They children teas those who have accents.Children who play house make very normal stereotypical, Ozzie and Harriet homes.

Children donít want mom and dad to come out of the home.They let the outside world in the home, but not vice versa.

When adolescents misbehave they are sometimes said to be unsocialized.They are, but by their peers.

Personality tests are reflective of the home life if you are reminded of it first.When you arenít it completely disappears on the results.


CH 5 Ė Other Times, Other Places

In other countries babies are not objects of anxiety. P. 78.The idea is that they have a fate.The parents cannot change that.Anyhow, their life is plotted out for them.

Wearing proper clothes is much more important outside the home.People now have different rooms.Before, children were never left alone.

The super emotional attachments we now seek (at the same time that we prize independence) is a modern thang.As economic attachments waned, emotional ones took on more importance.More valued for themselves than free labor.With men working outside the home and women staying in it, childrenís well-being became a full-time occupation.

Watson told people not to love their children too much.B.F. Skinner told her not to reward her childís crying with attention and love.

Traditionally many babies are not kept, but it is sad.They are loved all around the world.Children were not taught anything as babies traditionally.They are blobs until they start their social lives with other babies.In play they are socialized.Boys in particular spend most of their time with their peers.

If there are enough kids in the society, the boys and girls divide.Girls play closer to home and are more likely to care for younger childrenThe older children raise the younger and have the right to dominate.Parent in our society violate this pattern, try to get the kids to be equal and end up with constant squabbling. Pg. 93.

Early societies are big on punishment due to outcome.

CH 6 Ė Human Nature

During the 1930s child development psychologists didnít look for fine distinctions between homes, but universals.So Winthrop Kellogg tried to raise an ape in his home with his kid.The kids got along very well.Gua, the ape, was advanced and the leader of the human brother Donald.Donald took to following and using ape language.They were trying to make the ape a human, he was making their son an ape instead.

According to researchers, children have a Ďtheory of mindí by the time they are four.They have theories about what other people are thinking.At six weeks babies have eye contact.By the middle of the second year when he points to an object, he checks to see if him mother is looking.They point a lot.Chimps and other apes do not.

Absent from the infant Apeís reaction to an object is the delight the human infant has in contemplating the object and sharing it perceptually with the parent.

Goodall noted that all chimps have at a female who is in heat.No one knows whose kid is whose.Moms have close relationships with kids, not dads.Sibling relationships are close

Chimp communities are 30 to 50 in number.They spread out but know each other.Strangers are not liked.If a foreign female with a baby strays into their area they will certainly attack her and likely kill and eat the baby.

They donít like strangeness from within either.One ape got polio and the others tried to kill him.He was no longer one of us, but one of them.†† Goodall noted that chimps have all the Ďpreadaptionsí necessary for war, group living, territoriality, hunting skills and an aversion to strangers.Moreover, male chimps are strongly attracted to scenese of intergroup violence. Pg. 106.

Until recently we also lived in a group of close relatives (in the case of males) or our mateís relatives (in case of females).

We are born to be nice to our groupmates because for millions of years our lives and the lives of our children depended on them.And we are born to be hostile to the members of other groups, because six million years of history taught us to beware of them.

Jane Goodall said, ďThe early practice of warfare would have put considerable selective pressure on the development of intelligence and of increasingly sophisticated cooperation among group members.This process would escalate, for the greater the intelligence, cooperation, and courage of one group, the greater the demands placed on its enemies.Ē Pg 109.

Groups have problems of free riders, that creates mechanisms for trust and cheater detection.But it is not as strong as the in-group out-group distinction.When your tribe is attacked and loses all the free riders and cheaters die too.

Often a groupís mortal enemy is the group from which it has recently split.

Babies become afraid of strangers at about six months.We are not born selfish, as Dawkins says, we are born xenophobic as Eible-Eibesfeldt points out.

When chimp groups split they tend to do so along family lines.When humans split they do it with groups that are most compatible.In humans, hostility between groups leads to the exaggeration of anypreexisting differences.Furthermore, the ones the newly split groups have are augmented by language and dress change.

This process is called psuedospeciation.P. 113.

The difference between Scandinavians and Italians happened so rapidly it is unlikely to be due to chance.They were likely helped along by sexual preference.

Neanderthals probably didnít have our verbal ability and they were covered in fur.They were built for cold.We didnít get to cold until we had invented the needle.We killed them without thinking of them as similar.

By the time of Joshua, human groups were so large that folks in them didnít know each other.The group had become a concept.Even a chip raised with humans will never be as good a mind reader as a four-year old human.

We already had a social module when we split from the apes.We got a better way of using it.All was the result of our adapting to group lifestyle.Language for example.We treat toasters like humans.It is strong.

There are four reasons a child should not, within evolutionary thinking, be overly influenced by its parents.

1)      It would stop us from picking up new information.

2)      It would stifle variety.Variety increases survivability in times of change.

3)      Children canít count on having parents.

4)      Parents and children often have conflicting interests.Weening and wanting the children to spend their lives taking care of us for example.


CH 7 Ė Us and Them

In Lord of the flies one problem is that the children would have come to blows, but it would not have been picking off individuals.It would have been groups against group.

The Robberís Cave experiment was carried out by Muzafer Sherif in Oklahoma.He took boys as alike as possible and gave them different teams.It got ugly really fast.Fistfights turned to raids and socks full of rocks as weapons.Noncompetitive situations didnít lessen the hostility, only a common cause did.But the tension remained under the surface. Pg. 126.

Henri Tajfel divided groups into overestimators and underestimators.Folks gave more money to their group and underpay the other group.P 128.

What makes a category is not a word, but a concept.Kids get night and day really quickly (am and pm are harder).Of the three ways we categorize people, babies know two of them Ė gender and age Ė before they are a year old.

Rattlers and Eagles (the two groups in the Robberís Cave experiment) divided their cultures.One became very good, the otherís identified themselves as bad language guys.They punished behavior that didnít fit the norms.A culture is born.

The nyah-nyah song is heard all over the world.Peer pressure is from childhood on, not just teen years.Teenagers are not pushed to conform Ė they are pulled by their own desire to be a part of the group.

Hostility increases differentiation between groups and assimilation within them Pg. 134.

By defining a group we pigeonhole the folks within it.

It was the success of social psychology, not its failure, that led to its decline after the 1950s.Skinnerís behaviorism being successful lead to its demise also.Today the tables are turning.

Chimps cannot be grouped by whispering you are an overestimator.

We are designed to live in groups.John Turnerís theory, that we are motivated to prefer our own group and denigrate others to increase our self-esteem seems too puny to account for why people will die for their group.As a motivator it wonít even make an eleven year old do homework!

We recognize groups, not on smell, but on familiarity.The strange is distrusted.What if the stranger is a cannibal?The baby must be wary.Fear and dislike lead to successful differentiation.

The good thing about Turnerís theory is that it deals with salience.If we are with mixed genders, gender becomes a big deal.If we are only with men, which team you like becomes a big deal.This is done by self-categorization.Salience determines your psychological group (what used to be called your reference group).

Even apes and chimps use a common enemy as a way of reducing within group tensions.Frans de Waal has seen wild baboons resolve tension by jointly attacking members of another troop.Chimps in captivity will make threatening noise towards other species in far off cages for the same purpose.Pg. 143.

Children do not perceive adults to be like them.†† We are of another species.When at home families fall into salient groups.When they travel the family becomes the salient group.Her theory is called ďgroup socialization theoryĒ.


CH 8 Ė In the Company of Children

Infant monkeys, as soon as they are able, will leave their mothers for rollicking with peers.

Year old babies, with the mothers and researchers in the room spend the most time looking at each other.They look back at mom for reassurance only.Pg 148.

It is a psychological leash because the jungle is a dangerous place.As the creature gets larger the leash gets smaller.

Chimps are eight or nine before they are ready to be out of earshot of mom for any length of time.Most three year olds will part with their mother at a nursery school or day care center after first wailing willingly.

They child learns what to expect from mom, but would be foolish to generalize this to strangers.Toddlers who are securely attached to mom arenít necessarily attached to dad as much.The attachment is in the relationship, not the toddler.

Harlow found that monkeys reared from birth without a mother in a cage with three or four other infant monkeys are miserable babies, but turn out to be normal by a year and okay adults.P. 153If raised with mom and no peers, they are happy babies but miserable adults.They do not adjust when they are later caged with other adults.Only monkeys raised in total isolation are more abnormal.

Prodigies that are taken from their peer groups can end up dysfunctional.

Babies can play peek aboo with their parents, but have trouble with peers cause there is no leader.At first when they try to touch each other they poke each other in the eye.When left in play rooms steadily use imitation as a means of getting along with others.Between one and three true friendships start happening.

In traditional societies, older kids take care of the younger and they are not gentle.Ridicule and teasing are the common methods.The children learn the language in this play group.

Parents are for food, comfort, protection and advice.It is a long lasting bond.But the kids teach.Like with chimps the young woman leaves her tribe.It is hard to get the kids to come home so we have to set curfews.

It is about seven in traditional societies when kids shift away from parents to gender segregated peer groups.

Children who move to other societies are like those societies, not the ones they and their parents came from. P. 162

Donald imitated his ape sibling Gua, not his parents.He learned ape.

Polynesian kids learn the rules for behaving with adults by watching children a little older than themselves.

The social module in the brain, she believes, has two parallel systems.One that specializes in dyadic relationships Ė this one is ready to go at birth Ė and one that specializes in group things Ė this one takes a little longer to assemble.P. 167.

Groupness is involved whenever there are long-term changes in the childís behavior.The department that deals with personal relationships may give rise to some very powerful emotions, but it produces only temporary changes in behavior.

Three year olds will correct you if you get the gender wrong.They also are amused if you mistake them for a grown up and deeply offended if you call them a baby.Age and gender are on line.Race hasnít hit yet.††

In childrenís groups it is majority rule.The minority must change to fit the majority.

Laughter is the groups favorite weapon.It is used world wide to keep nonconformers in line.

Even though she was ostracized by her fifth grade group, she still identified with them. You neednít interact with your psychological group for them to influence you.

Peer group acceptance is associated with ďoverall life adjustmentĒ in adulthood; having or not having a friend is not.

Sex typed play is not something you get from your parents.Dad does not usually play with guns.They donít get socialized to behave like an American.They get socialized to behave like an American girl or an American boy.P 173.

The most troublesome effect of self-categorization is the tendency to dislike the categories the self isnít in.Hostility to the opposite sex is detectable in nursery school and increases during the elementary school years.This hate is strong even though some boys have girlfriends (but those are relationships!).

Children love some adults (parents teachers) but those are relationships.They are outside of Groupness. As a child gets older demonstrating fealty to their own age group becomes more and more important. Even though some of their best friends are grown-ups.

Older children have more status than the younger ones.Boys have more of a dominance hierarchy and girls have an attention structure.This more modern term is more accurate because it doesnít only manifest in boys.

Height is important for this reason.Slow maturers have problems that persist even after they catch up in size.P. 180.

Around seven if you ask boys who is the toughest, they all yell me me me.If you ask them at eight they point to the one that is.That is when comparisons really start.†† In middle school we are type cast and these characteristics get stronger (differentiate).You then congregate with others of your group and take on similar attitudes towards academics and such.


CH 9 Ė The Transmission of Culture

††††††††††† Margaret Mead misreported a connection between child rearing practices in New Guinea too! P. 184.The Arapesh she pegged as gentle beat their wives with sticks if theyíre a bit slow to fetch dinner.

††††††††††† Roughly half the variation in aggressiveness within our culture can be explained by genetics too.Yanamamo have been breeding warriors forever.But it does not explain the millions of other cultural differences in cultures.Besides heredity four differences in aggressiveness could have four other causes:

1.      Parents encourage aggressive behavior.

2.      Children imitate their parents.

3.      All the children imitate all the adults.

4.      Children imitate other children, preferably those a little above them in age or status (which she prefers).


It is hard to tell which is right.All parents tend to use the same parenting styles in cultures.Imitating all the parents or just one is hard to suss out.

But kids definitely adopt the cultures of their peers when they migrate.Donít be fiscale pop tells the young American immigrant to his father.The last part of the parents culture to die out is the stuff done at home.Styles of cooking may last for generations as this is not normally done in the presence of peers.

Groups that wish to keep their culture, like hassids, in this country have to form private schools where all the kids are alike.

The kids do not take their parent cultures to their peers, the do the opposite.They lose their home language and continue to develop their new cultureís language.

When in Rome they become Romans.

The language of the economically and culturally more prestigious group tends to replace that of the minority language.

Children in deaf schools who were forbidden from using ASL eventually invented their own form of it rather than adopt the adult lip synching.

In Hawaii multiple linguistic groups were brought together for work.The kids created a pidgon language that they still knew into old age.

Cultures do not go from adult to children.A childís goal is not to become a successful adult it is to become a successful child!!!!!!

Prisoners do not want to become guards.They delight in outwitting them.When told to throw something away, children will saunter to the trashcan to show allegiance to their group and defiance of the adult group.

Kids play school yard games that date back to Roman times.Older kids deny having ever known them and indeed seem to forget them.

People rear their children the way their friends and neighbors do, not the way their parents did.Fads in child rearing are generational.

This is how culture is normally transmitted.Not parent to child, but from group to group.Parent group to child group, via gradations of age approximations.P. 210

Preventing a child from watching television would not protect that child against its influence, because televisionís impact is not on the individual.What is on the screen is incorporated into the culture of the age group.††

A kid was taken from the Bronx to Arizona due to delinquency.He became a good Arizonian.His former friends said he was a wuz.They are not unsocialized, they are differently socialized to aggression and rebellion.

Social scientists like to say the plural of anecdote is not data.If everyone in the neighborhood is becoming a doctor the kid will too.When you see kids behaving like their parents it is not proof that they taught them.They are like all the other adults around too.

In an experiment about morality, a researcher found that kids who resisted the temptation to cheat when no one was watching at home, didnít resist at school.The morality of the home is that of the home.

In traditional societies, kids culture and adults culture are more similar.There are no alternative models.Here . . .


CH 10 Ė Gender Rules

††††††††††† Over the past century adult culture has grown steadily more egalitarian, but kids culture is as sexist as ever.Sexism amongst the kids is often blamed on the parents, teachers or community as a whole.But if adult society is less sexist than that of the kids how can this be?

††††††††††† Boys raised in fatherless homes are just as masculine.Girls raised in homes by lesbians are no less feminine.

††††††††††† Men and women have 45 chromosomes in common because invention is expensive.Men have nipples even though they do not need them, because it is easier to duplicate than to vary.

††††††††††† The same baby given different names was sex stereotyped and that was seen to be proof of the power of adult sexism.But in films that showed babies without names or genders indicated the females were rated as more sensitive and the males as stronger.

††††††††††† There were opposite sex identical twins due to the corrective castration of one.It showed that a girl isnít just a boy without a penis.It is not a coincidence that all over the world people have similar stereotypes about males and females. P. 224


††††††††††† Stereotypes are not necessarily negative.Some kids are stereotyped as model minorities.We are good estimators of the differences between groups but not good estimators of the differences within groups.

††††††††††† Most like members of their own category best.

††††††††††† Children between the ages of 2 Ĺ and 3 were put together in a room.†† When it was girls and boys, the boys dominated and the girls became onlookers in play.Segregation by sex gathers momentum over the years of childhood.The dividing line is sharpest right before puberty, just when it begins to fade.


††††††††††† Males are larger and more hierarchical.Boys together are covertly sexist and homophobic.Girls are more into cohesion and mutually supportive relationships.There are exceptions to every rule, even the rule that there are exceptions to every rule.P. 229.

††††††††††† Most girls that play with boys do it in the neighborhood, not at school.In the neighborhood there are less people to choose from.And they play boys games.Relationships form, but boys pry themselves away from these to defend the group.Groupness seems to be stronger in boys.The games they play all over the world seem to be preparation for warfare.

††††††††††† The Robberís cave was also done after the boys were allowed to become friends.They still became bitter enemies after having been friends.What might have happened if they had used girls?

††††††††††† Two cultures?Boys donít show weakness.They donít ask for directions because they donít want anyone to know they are lost.When there are no boys around, girls donít act so girlish.Girls wonít play well and lose at sports to boys even when they are bigger.††

††††††††††† If you punish a child unfairly, the sex difference groups collapse and the youth / adult becomes more salient.If you have an all girls situation, reading level becomes more salient.With no other group around, competition within the group gets stronger.Hazing happens.

In one setting boys and girls is the salient group in another adults and children are.

††††††††††† Boys start dominating others around two and a half.This is nearly universal in mammals.Girls find out early that they do not have much influence on boys.Adolescent cliques are mostly run on boyís terms.

††††††††††† Girls lose self-esteem in adolescence.In elementary school they could avoid domination by boys.They are parts of groups who status spots are dominated by boys.To get status she must be pretty or good at something.She cannot control these well.

††††††††††† Females from early adolescence on are twice as likely to become clinically depressed.Pg 238


CH 11 Ė Schools of Children

††††††††††† More than parents, teachers have power because they are in control of an entire group of children.And this is where influence is likely to have long-term effects: in the world outside the home, where they will spend their adult lives.

††††††††††† When teachers divide by good readers and bad readers, the differences become more salient and the kids act their part.Even the bad readers like their group best.They come up with pejoratives for the good readers. African Americans do worse in school than whites.They do not have lower self esteem. Pg. 243

††††††††††† In school group alliances are often made on the basis of academic performance or motivation.In a school in the Bronx they think up flags and anthems for each class.That way the group identity is controlled.Japan also uses this cohort method.

††††††††††† Around three kids realize that they can be categorized by race.Often both blacks and whites see the whites as the achievers and the blacks as the resistors.The parents of both groups want their kids to achieve.Including race and gender categorization on tests can have a negative priming effect P. 252.

††††††††††† Intervention programs that try to change the parentís behavior have no effect. Pg. 253.They may modify parentís behavior at home and reduce abuse, but the kidís behavior outside the school isnít changed.

††††††††††† She traces one kid who came from Poland and had a tough transition, started behind and by 14 was equal with his peers.If there had been a bilingual program he would have had an easier transition, but he would not have learned English as rapidly.P. 255. Bilingual programs have been ďa dismal failure.Ē P. 256.The teachers speaking perfect English doesnít matter.That is not who they learn language from.Even an excellent English teacher will make little headway until they convince the kids that speaking English is the norm for the group.††

Numbers are important.Big groups split up more readily than small ones.A few kids from a different background will assimilate.†† If there are enough of them to form their own group, they will do so. At intermediate numbers they may assimilate (who to whom) or they may just split into two groups.259.

You do better if your home has a dictionary and a computer.But it isnít your home.Everyone in the neighborhood does.Big high schools allow more groups.Where as the minority of blacks and Asians acted huddled with the whites, they now can differentiate into their own little groups.Kids who had trouble can join into anti-social cliques.

Once these groups split it is hard to put them back together again.One way to facilitate it is to make the groups homogeneous.All girls do better.Black colleges produce stronger black students.You can also come up with cross cutting harmless groups.Dolphins versus porpoises.When all else fails you can do the chimpanzee common enemy strategy.

She believes that the teacherís job is not to emphasize the cultural differences among the students (that can be done at home by the parents) but to down play them.A teacherís job is to unite the students by giving them a common goal.

CH 12 Ė Growing Up

††††††††††† Delinquency is not kids way of acting grown up.Grown ups donít tag.They are distinguishing themselves from adults.Why do children grow up?They are emulating the next age group.

††††††††††† When a youngster plays adult or cowboy, it is not to be that but an idealized version of it.††† When it is not play or joking, people are to behave in a way appropriate to their age category.

To make it easier for young people to know which group they are in societies generally have rites of passage for boys (girls have their own marker).In them several boys are initiated together in a group, they are removed from the rest of society, they get secret knowledge, have arduous preparation and pain.After they come through, maybe not as first class adults, but as adults.

††††††††††† Eibl-Eibesfeldt says it is to tear the boy away from his family to the tribal loyalty.But the boy left his family a long time ago, he and his playmates are now in the adult role camp.

††††††††††† Human children grow much at first and then sort of stagnate for a long time and then have a burst towards adolescence.It is if they were to be kids for a long time.In tribes there were two groups, children and adults.Now we have the teenager.Then you have the extended adolescence of young adults who never trust anyone over thirty.

††††††††††† Hostility between kids and adults in tribes had to be muted.They are designed to evoke nurturing.Once past a certain age, teenage, the cute thing isnít as irresistible.Dependence and nurturance lessened, hostility can flourish.

††††††††††† Warring tribes differentiate themselves with different styles.When we lower social standards, they have to go to further extremes to differentiate and so having adult standards does serve a purpose of limiting youthful indiscretion.(my point) pg. 274.

††††††††††† Teens become more of a force to be reckoned with when they are gathered together as in a high school.But a group of people who are not children and not adults can be a mechanism for tremendous social change.Children cannot change a culture, they are learning the ropes, adults are status quo.And the teens take their culture with them into adulthood.

††††††††††† Some things are always kept as it wouldnít make sense for every generation to completely reinvent the wheel.The larger high school can have more niches, artists who donít like sex.That is why male homosexuality is so much greater in city than rural districts with smaller schools.

††††††††††† It is hard to leave your status place once you attain it.Peer pressure is less a push to conform than a desire to participate in experiences that are seen as relevant to group identity (they learned to conform in childhood).Peers smoke if their peers do, not their parents.But those with a genetic disposition from parents will get hooked.

††††††††††† Adult reasons not to smoke donít work with kids.Nor does hiring a patsy of their age group to lecture them as an adult.Media should take cigarettes away from the cool dudes.

††††††††††† Delinquency is not something kids do on their own.They do it with their peers.Teens to the age of 25 do it.††† Adults control media so that is a leverage we do have.It shows the way that grown ups are supposed to act.

††††††††††† Untangling the causes of delinquency will require an understanding of the four factors that are involved: the culture, the age category within the culture, the peer group within every age category, and the individual.

††††††††††† Some cultures promote aggression.Reform schools and prisons donít work cause they put kids in with a tough group of kids and peer conformity.

††††††††††† Children learn what kind of people they are Ė smart, soft Ė by comparing themselves.In adolescence, if society provides for one, they put it to use.They sort and emphasize and choose a direction they will be on for a long time.You may never get back on the straight and narrow, the self-image will persist to the grave.


CH 13 Ė Dysfunctional Families and the Problem Kids

††††††††††† We may not hold teens tomorrows in our hands, but we hold their todays.†† And they can also make our lives miserable.

We think that they get their bad eating habits from us.No.Maybe from our genes.Heredity is one of the reasons that parents with problems often have kids with problems.Is is a simple, obvious, undeniable fact yet often ignored by psychology.

Oliver Twist had more going on than Skinner.Fagan segregated the kids and made it us versus them.But it didnít work on young Oliver.

Recall that kids who were observed to break rules at home when they thought they were not being watched were not noticeably more likely than anyone else to cheat on a test or on the playground.

Those who had honest biological parents but were raised in criminal homes had 15 percent criminal activity.If the parents were biologically honest and the parents were honest it was 14 percent.The home doesnít make the difference.

Of those with biologically criminal parents raised by honest folks 20 percent became criminal and when both were criminal it went up to 25 percent.

But that is not all!!!The increase in criminality was only found of those who were in a neighborhood that had high crime (the city).Those raised in small towns and rural areas were around 15 percent.

Criminality is often a teenage phase that goes away.Those that will be lifelong criminals start showing signs much earlier.Almost all their behavior would have been useful in a hunter-gatherer society.

My daddy can beat yours up is a relic with meaning.Ache Indians killed the children of a loser in a club fight. Pg. 300.Adolescents who do not live with both their biological parents are more likely to drop out of high school and more likely to be idle (either working nor going to school) and the girls are more likely to become mothers while still in their teens.

A stepfather does not help the kid, neither does contact with the biological father outside the home.Nor does having a grandma in the home. Those who had a dad that stuck around to the brink of adolescence are no better off than those whose dads split early.The fatherless who are better off are those whose fathers have died.

This might be due to genes and it might be due to mom having to move into a shitty neighborhood cause Ĺ the single moms live below the poverty line.

By far the most important thing you can do for your child is choose their neighborhood.

Within poor inner-city neighborhoods, those who live with both parents are no better off than those who live with only one.The higher income of a two family home means that the kids are more likely to live in a middle class neighborhood with middle class values and peers.

Why doesnít this work with step father families?Too many moves.They have been shifted and moving is rough on kids (whether with dad or without).They have more behavioral and academic problems.

All similarity in divorce amongst children of divorce can be accounted for by genetic causes.Divorce might be the kids fault.Divorce happens less often in families that contain a son than those that contain a daughter.Boy makes the parents happier or the father more reluctant to walk out.But a bad boy . . . P. 309.

Divorce is bad for kids in several ways:

First it has a huge financial penalty.Second it means moving.Third it increases the likelihood of physical abuse, Fourth it disrupts their personal relationships.

The fourth is painful but it doesnít make for life-long problems outside of the home, or on their personalities.It does make for pain because relationships are much closer to the surface of our thoughts and emotions than Groupness.

Studies on divorceís harm are often done at home.

Physical punishment is world wide and in other species.It is part of the built in repertoire of parental behaviors.If you have occasionally lost your temper and hit your kid it is unlikely that you have cause them any lasting harm.On the other hand, it is possible that youíve harmed your relationship with them.

Child rearing techniques change rapidly.It is middle class European Americans who abjure spankings.Studies that say that it leads to an increase do not take into account that the kids may have been aggressive in the first place.Cinderella had a miserable home life, but she didnít inherit any genes from the stepmother who abused her.

Children who are abused have problems.They cling tighter to their parents!And they are unpopular at school.They seem to be victims where ever they go.Is this due to home life.Donít assume.†† Priming in research has a big effect.

When asked what made their lives unhappy many more point to peer abuse than parental.

Babies need parents, but above five, they need a stable peer group more.And foster care shiftings donít go by this theory and do harm.

Parents get a lot of blame nowadays, and what they say they did and their delinquent kids say they did rarely matches.

Truth.Howard Gardener said that kids have different sorts of intelligences and each has a gift.But the sad fact is that people who score low on tests of one kind usually do so on the other kinds.Nature is usually unfair to the retarded by giving them no gifts at all and making them physically clumsy.††

Studies that link parental bond to children doing well do not show direction or causation and would not pass peer review in medical science.It asked adolescents for a subjective report of family life only.Weak.A study that showed it cost 25 million and was poorly done.

It is easy to get losers to blame somebody.Therapists have no data that the parents caused damage.Depressed people are more likely to remember their parents as not being good to them.Parents distressing us does not have the power to make us mentally ill.


CH 14 Ė What Parents Can Do

††††††††††† Identical twins reared apart.One became a concert pianist, the other canít play a note.The one whose mother was a piano teacher canít play anything.The one whose mother didnít play at all became the concert pianist.

††††††††††† Parents influence the way kids behave at home and the tools they take with them to school.Children learn exactly the things at home that they do not bring to their peer group.Nowadays that would be religion and cooking.

††††††††††† Somethings are retained even if brought to the peer group because conformity demands are only on some points.Language is a conformity demand.Talents hobbies political preferences and career plans are areas where peers donít usually demand conformity.These kinds of identity have repercussions through out life.

††††††††††† Us seldom makes an appearance at home.The family is not a salient group when alone.This may be different with Asian homes.In precolonial China if a man committed a crime his whole family was killed.

††††††††††† Where Groupness is weak or absent, differentiation triumphs over assimilation.The members of a family diversify to fill empty niches.This reduces head to head competition.A family will only have one pianist (mom was already it in the first example).But this has no personality or social behavior consequences though out life.

††††††††††† A parent can be a leader.She tells the story of a father that made his girls feel like a team.They did everything together and were convinced they were superior and all did well.

††††††††††† Parents can choose the playmates of their young children.Teenagers will not conform to this command.If a child were being rejected in a school, it will stick, they should be removed and put in a new one.

††††††††††† Feeling good about yourself may be counterproductive.P. 339.People that have such high self-esteem may think themselves invulnerable.ďviolence happens most often as a result of threatened egotism Ė highly favorable views of self are challenged.ĒOnly those who feel they can succeed at violence (high self-esteem) bridge it.

††††††††††† There is evidence that those with high self-esteem are more likely to drink and drive.Women in college with high self-esteem underestimate their chances of getting pregnant.It canít happen to me.

††††††††††† Low self-esteem ainít so great either.

††††††††††† Self-esteem in general Ė only travels well if it is peer group status based.Parents thinking you are great doesnít travel well outside of he home.

††††††††††† Parents should make their kids look as normal as possible.Dress them as other kids dress.Donít give them goofy sweaters.Take them to dermatologists and get them braces.

††††††††††† The real effect of parent child relationships is whether or not youíll be friends with your kid in twenty years.You cannot control how the world will treat them, but you control how happy they will be at home.

††††††††††† Fancy mobiles with babies donít work.The research is Correlational.It is done by smarter parents.Being a parent isnít supposed to be work.Do it naturally and enjoy.That is a good life.

††††††††††† In chimp groups males dominate smaller males.They beat them up if they donít show proper respect. Older animals do the same to younger.Parents are meant to be in charge of their kids.Parents have a right to be happy too.In traditional societies parents are not pals or playmates.They donít want quality time, they want to be with their friends.

††††††††††† The older one is expected to dominate the younger.Fairness leads to trouble, the older has been displaced and the younger has the cute innocent factor going for it in reports back to the parent.

††††††††††† The problem with advice givers is they take the joy and spontaneity out of child rearing and you cannot nail down the outcomes like a scientist.Donít worry so much.


CH 15 Ė The Nurture Assumption on Trial

††††††††††† Parenting has been oversold.You think you have more influence over them than you do.You worry about messing them up.Kids are not that fragile.They must be tough.The world out there does not treat them with kid gloves as you do.What they hear out there from their peers is brutal.

††††††††††† Parents today have become guilt ridden servants to their kids.The nurture assumption puts all the blame and responsibility on the parents.It has made obligatory expressions of love more prevalent than real expression.

††††††††††† It also leads to bad study topics.Here is what we should be researching:

1)      How can we keep a classroom of children from splitting into two dichotomous groups, preschool and anti-school?

2)      How do some teachers, some schools, some cultures, manage to prvent this split and keep the kids united and motivated?

3)      How can we keep kids who start out with disadvantageous personality characteristics from getting worse?

4)      How can we step in and break the vicious cycle of aggressive kids becoming more aggressive because they are rejected by their peers and in adolescence they join others like them?

5)      Is theree any way to influence the norms of childrenís groups for the better?

6)      Is there any way to keep the larger culture from having deleterious effects on the norms of teenagers?

7)      How many does it take to make a group?


The nurture assumption is untenable.It states that parents have different effects on kids in the same home. Parents do treat each kid differently, but this is because they are different.Birth order and only child effects donít happen.The home life is not that influential.

What of extremely bad and great homes.We are clasping at straws.There is no evidence though.It is the neighborhood.Only the super bad parents that beat or abuse their children have lasting impact.


Five wrong ideas about children

1)                            The natural environment of kids is the nuclear family.In 80 percent of the cultures studied by anthropologists men who could afford to have been allowed extra wives.

2)                            Children are not learning to be adults.They are learning to be parts of the categories to which they belong.

3)                            Learning is taken from school to home in a backpack.It is the school life that matters more.

4)                            Fourth the power of genes has still not been given its due.

5)                            We ignore our evolutionary history at our peril.We have lived in groups for thousands of years.


The alternative is ďGroup Socialization TheoryĒ.Socialization makes us less strange, but the disguise wears thin in alter years.It is like an hourglass.You start off disparate, get pressed together and then diversify as adults.The differences reassert themselves because the penalties are not so severe.

Children learn what they need to know from other children.A boy can whine at home but not at school.

There is a department for personal relationships and another for groups.

The group department has a long history as it is in many species.Fish have to adapt their behavior to the group but they donít need to know everyone.They donít even know their own children.

Primates have learned to keep track of individuals, but they still have groups.Humans know who did them a favor and have word of mouth.We hold grudges.The department of the brain that does relationships keeps them conscious to our minds.The part that adapts us to groups is no less important, but less accessible.

We identify with a group of folk.We learn to speak and act like them.We take on their attitudes.We change our behavior depending on the group situation.We develop stereotypes of our group and otherís.But this isnít always conscious.

The bond between parent and child lasts a lifetime.We remember them long after our teen friends have scattered to the wind.Each home visit allows us to look back.When you think about childhood you think about your parents.That is because the relationship part of your brain is closer to consciousness.Donít blame what is wrong with you on them.