Why Rich Parents Don’t Matter

Annie& Daddy WarbucksInteresting article from Jonah Lehrer in the Wall Street Journal:

How much do the decisions of parents matter? Most parents believe that even the most mundane acts of parenting — from their choice of day care to their policy on videogames — can profoundly influence the success of their children. Kids are like wet clay, in this view, and we are the sculptors.

Yet in tests measuring many traits, from intelligence to self-control, the power of the home environment pales in comparison to the power of genes and peer groups. We may think we’re sculptors, but the clay is mostly set.

A new paper suggests that both metaphors can be true. Which one is relevant depends, it turns out, on the economic status of families.

For a paper in Psychological Science, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Virginia looked at 750 pairs of American twins who were given a test of mental ability at the age of 10 months and then again at the age of 2. By studying the performance of identical versus fraternal twins, the scientists could tease out the relative importance of factors such as genetics and the home environment. Because the infants came from households across the socioeconomic spectrum, it also was possible to see how wealth influenced test scores.

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  • Andrew

    Leave it to the WSJ to frame the results in such a twisted way at the beginning of the article. That’s how true professionals skew perception.

    • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

      Didn’t you know? your parenting doesn’t matter; let us make sure that the majority of kiddies contacts are hollywood-educated zombies, and all their teachers are middle-aged hollywood-educated zombies. That way the contagious culture will proliferate, and the cycle can be repeated until the end of time.

      I think i need to figure out how to administer cultural vaccines in mass.

      • Andrew

        I don’t think Hollywood is the main source of culture.

        • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

          well i guess i misspoke: TV-educated is more like it. In any case you’d be surprised how much of the US culture is synthetic rather than organically formulated. I think (hope) the transition from a force-fed TV culture to a free-searching internet culture can turn this around.

  • Andrew

    Leave it to the WSJ to frame the results in such a twisted way at the beginning of the article. That’s how true professionals skew perception.

  • http://www.nickmeador.org/ ndmeador

    A) Twin studies are not reliable: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_study#Criticism
    B) Correlation does not imply causation—so a connection between family wealth and effects of parenting doesn’t necessarily mean that family wealth contributed directly to the effects of parenting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation
    C) This is really sloppy nature vs. nurture reporting. But then again, most science reporting is this bad. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature_versus_nurture

  • http://www.nickmeador.org/ ndmeador

    A) Twin studies are not reliable: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_study#Criticism
    B) Correlation does not imply causation—so a connection between family wealth and effects of parenting doesn’t necessarily mean that family wealth contributed directly to the effects of parenting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation
    C) This is really sloppy nature vs. nurture reporting. But then again, most science reporting is this bad. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature_versus_nurture

  • WhiteRose

    I have a lot of wealthy friends and their parents made them insane. Very rarely does a wealthy family teach their child how to respect money and help those less fortunate. The children that come from “good” homes have expectations those kids on welfare are expected to end up failing. When you haven’t got anything thing to lose then there is no pressure, those rich kids have a whole lot of pressure to show off to their “good” families and friends.

    • Andrew

      Disrespect for “money” isn’t a form of insanity.

  • WhiteRose

    I have a lot of wealthy friends and their parents made them insane. Very rarely does a wealthy family teach their child how to respect money and help those less fortunate. The children that come from “good” homes have expectations those kids on welfare are expected to end up failing. When you haven’t got anything thing to lose then there is no pressure, those rich kids have a whole lot of pressure to show off to their “good” families and friends.

  • WhiteRose

    I have a lot of wealthy friends and their parents made them insane. Very rarely does a wealthy family teach their child how to respect money and help those less fortunate. The children that come from “good” homes have expectations those kids on welfare are expected to end up failing. When you haven’t got anything thing to lose then there is no pressure, those rich kids have a whole lot of pressure to show off to their “good” families and friends.

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    Didn’t you know? your parenting doesn’t matter; let us make sure that the majority of kiddies contacts are hollywood-educated zombies, and all their teachers are middle-aged hollywood-educated zombies. That way the contagious culture will proliferate, and the cycle can be repeated until the end of time.

    I think i need to figure out how to administer cultural vaccines in mass.

  • Andrew

    I don’t think Hollywood is the main source of culture.

  • Andrew

    Disrespect for “money” isn’t a form of insanity.

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    well i guess i misspoke: TV-educated is more like it. In any case you’d be surprised how much of the US culture is synthetic rather than organically formulated. I think (hope) the transition from a force-fed TV culture to a free-searching internet culture can turn this around.