Parents vs. Peers

In this blog post, the man in the business of modern epiphanies – Gladwell, reviews Judith Rich Harris’ take on the nurture assumption.

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11 comments
  1. madhuri said:

    Very nice. With increase in social networking and staying connected to peer group 24/7, her theory makes even more sense. Even when they are not physically present around peers, people look at facebook/twitter updates and want to match/outperform peers.
    If this theory flies, will we talk about peers rather than parents on shrinks’ couches? Does that mean that what shrinks think is important becomes important to us?

    • unawoken said:

      madhuri,

      “physically present around peers, people…”

      — I think her theory applies only to child development. I mean, among adults, it is not much in doubt that parents are not a factor..

      — yeah i think if the theory catches, which I hope it will (although probably not soon), I think yes, people will talk about peers on shrink couches.

      “Does that mean that what shrinks think is important becomes important to us?”

      — this has always been important, classically going all the way back to Sigmond Freud. See for example the phenomenon of “transference”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transference

  2. gn said:

    interesting article. as I was reading it, seemed like I agreed with everything the author said. However , I felt that parents’ influence on children’s life is being completely disqualified (the extreme opposite of nurture assumption). (based on the colorado study?)

    The child is ‘attached’ to the parents (& siblings) & hence more prone to be affected by the changes that happen within the family- both positive and negative, whether one likes it or not.

    Also, all other factors being equal (genes etc), parents help (?) steer the child towards a particular peer group (by relocating?, chosing different schools?) that they may think will be most “beneficial ” to the child even when the child is too young to choose his/her own. Again, the child (& parents) may resent this later
    I think their role is being underrated.

    • unawoken said:

      ” I felt that parents’ influence on children’s life is being completely disqualified ”

      — Hmm, if the evidence shows so, then it should be disqualified, I think

      “the extreme opposite of nurture assumption”

      — If peers are a dominant environmental influence, then this also falls under “nurture”, just not classical nurture…

      “The child is ‘attached’ to the parents (& siblings) & hence more prone to be affected by the changes that happen within the family”

      — This has been the working assumption of classical psychological development theories. However, this study shows that this behaviour of the child is limited to confines of the home/presence of the parent, and “outside” behaviour is not so much dependent on this attachment. Yes, siblings are a different matter, perhaps, because they constitute the peer group as well, in fact they are the primary peers methinks.

      “parents help (?) steer the child towards a particular peer group ”

      — this is true, and I don’t think the article disputes this. I think the article primarily takes on the “direct parental influence on child development/behaviour”: which tends to be taken for granted classically.

      • gn said:

        i wasn’t concerned about it being disqualified, but about the ‘completely’. I read a review article from annual reviews of psychology that refers to Judith Harris’ book.

        I think you will find it interesting.

        the link doesn’t open without a password. will send by e mail.

  3. madhuri said:

    GN, good point about parents steering children towards peer groups.

  4. gn said:

    then this also falls under “nurture”, just not classical nurture…
    Agree but I thought it was used only for classical nurture in this article.

    ‘attached’ to the parents (& siblings) I did not mean it in the psychological sense. I think parents provide the first & not necessarily the strongest influence on a child. The child just processes the data & draws conclusions that he/she is comfortable with & acts accordingly. (just like he/she would, later on when exposed to the peer group)

    “outside” behaviour is not so much dependent on this attachment.

    But may be affected by it. The child does not have to be the same as parents to prove their influence.
    The child born to unauthoritative parents who becomes authoritative. here the child may have seen/percieved something negative about their parents & hence tries not to become like that.
    Extending the same arguement peers affect the behavior but again depends on whether the child has a positive or negative perception of what he/she is exposed to in the peer group. –> leadng to several “groups of peers” in a school or in a neighborhood.

    Rather than parents vs peers may be it should be parents then peers.

    as a child becomes an adult don’t parents also become “peers” ?

    • unawoken said:

      the evidence in that article seems to be that “parental influence does not matter in how children behaviour outside of home is shaped, and in later life” and “peer influence matters in how children behaviour outside of home is shaped, and in later life”

      And no i do not think parents become peers. It is “social wishful thinking” if you will, that this “ought” to be true. In reality, people continue to perceive only those with whom they interact in what they consider as “equal situations” (like classrooms, workplace) as peers. Anyway. This is not about what I think vs. what you think, but for what is there evidence.

      • unawoken said:

        I think the central perspective with which I view this is that “classically, parental influence is considered the resoundingly important factor in determining future behavior. And apparently from this article, parental influence is not just not the most important factor, but it is a weak factor if at all.

  5. Lakshmi said:

    Good article! I think in the western societies with the nuclear families, people are told that their behaviour with children is key to that child’s future so her article brings the much needed alternative perspective. What I was surprised by, in this article, was how early these peer influences matter in a child’s life because the general consensus is that it happens later in a child’s development. (However, I had read somewhere that whatever influence parents have on a child ends at about 3 years of age but at the time I didn’t think much of it) I also agree with her about children being not as fragile as we think them to be.

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