Originally Posted by tacomancer
Here's my point - just because a parent engages in the practice of socializing her child to a parental norm doesn't imply that the lesson has stuck, even if the child begins to behave in the desired manner. This is so because we haven't controlled for the heritability of behavior. Does the parent hold that value because they too were socialized into holding that value or does the parent hold that value because it feels right, because there is something innate in the parent which allows that value to be expressed?
So as children mature, parents tend to have to be the ones to say things like "stop kicking your brother!" or "we need to learn to share" which are lessons in morality.
Here's Scientific American interviewing Harris:
But my primary motive was scientific. During the years I spent writing child development textbooks for college students, I never questioned the belief that parents have a good deal of power to shape the personalities of their children. (This is the belief I now call the ďnurture assumption.Ē) When I finally began to have doubts and looked more closely at the evidence, I was appalled. Most of the research is so deeply flawed that it is meaningless. And studies using more rigorous methods produce results that do not support the assumption. . . .
There has also been some improvement in research methodology, due not to my nagging but to a greater awareness of genetic influences on personality. Itís no longer enough to show, for example, that parents who are conscientious about childrearing tend to have children who are conscientious about their schoolwork. Is this correlation due to what the children learned from their parents or to the genes they inherited from them? Studies using the proper controls consistently favor the second explanation. In fact, personality resemblances between biological relatives are due almost entirely to heredity, rather than environment. Adopted children donít resemble their adoptive parents in personality. Iím not particularly interested in genetic effects, but the point is that they have to be taken into account. Unless we know what the child brings to the environment, we canít figure out what effect the environment has on the child. . . .
The belief that parents have a great deal of power to determine how their children will turn out is actually a rather new idea. Not until the middle of the last century did ordinary parents start believing it. I was born in 1938, before the cultural change, and parenting had a very different job description back then. Parents didnít feel they had to sacrifice their own convenience and comfort in order to gratify the desires of their children. They didnít worry about boosting the self-esteem of their children. In fact, they often felt that too much attention and praise might spoil them and make them conceited. Physical punishment was used routinely for infractions of household rules. Fathers provided little or no child care; their chief role at home was to administer discipline.
All these things have changed dramatically in the past 70 years, but the changes havenít had the expected effects. People are the same as ever. Despite the reduction in physical punishment, todayís adults are no less aggressive than their grandparents were. Despite the increase in praise and physical affection, they are not happier or more self-confident or in better mental health. Itís an interesting way to test a theory of child development: persuade millions of parents to rear their children in accordance with the theory, and then sit back and watch the results come in. Well, the results are in and they donít support the theory!