- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (September 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684857073
- ISBN-13: 978-0684857077
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,531,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The NURTURE ASSUMPTION: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do Paperback – September 1, 1999
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Whether it's musical talent, criminal tendencies, or fashion sense, we humans want to know why we have it or why we don't. What makes us the way we are? Maybe it's in our genes, maybe it's how we were raised, maybe it's a little of both--in any case, Mom and Dad usually receive both the credit and the blame. But not so fast, says developmental psychology writer Judith Rich Harris. While it has been shown that genetics is only partly responsible for behavior, it is also true, Harris asserts, that parents play a very minor role in mental and emotional development. The Nurture Assumption explores the mountain of evidence pointing away from parents and toward peer groups as the strongest environmental influence on personality development. Rather than leaping into the nature vs. nurture fray, Harris instead posits nurture (parental) vs. nurture (peer group), and in her view your kid's friends win, hands down. This idea, difficult as it may be to accept, is supported by the countless studies Harris cites in her breezy, charming prose. She is upset about the blame laid on parents of troubled children and has much to say (mostly negative) about "professional parental advice-givers." Her own advice may be summarized as "guide your child's peer-group choices wisely," but the aim of the book is less to offer guidance than to tear off cultural blinders. Harris's ideas are so thought-provoking, challenging, and potentially controversial that anyone concerned with parenting issues will find The Nurture Assumption refreshing, important, and possibly life-changing. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Harris, author of a college-level textbook on child development, offers a contribution to the increasingly popular trend to absolve parents from feeling responsible for the rearing of their children. The inability of psychologists to demonstrate that parents have predictable effects on children, it is argued, vitiates the long-standing assumption of parents' crucial role in children's personality development. While the author's skepticism of the view that parents' behavior produces necessary and direct effects on children is itself well founded, her counterpoint to the "nurture assumption" is not. Rather than attempting to examine the evident complexity of parental influence on children, the author instead avoids the problem altogether, asserting that one must recognize "that children learn separately, in each social context, how to behave in that context." By consequence, the primary influence on a child's social development, Harris asserts, is not the family setting (in which the author thinks children merely learn how to behave toward other family members), but rather the peer group. Pleasant as this theory may be to some parents, this book contains not a shred of empirical research to support it. What substitutes for research are numerous anecdotes and pages of opining. Here, for example, is one of many personal observations the author uses to bolster her own argument: "I believe high or low status in the peer group has permanent effects on the personality. Children who are unpopular with their peers... never get over that. At least I didn't." While this kind of evidence is unlikely to sway the critical reader, it will undoubtedly find favor among those parents who, like the author, find in this book's thesis a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, which will mitigate guilty feelings about how they treated their children?feelings that, as the book implies, need not be analyzed. First broadcast to 20/20. BOMC alternate, QPB selection.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Don't believe it? I didn't either - until I read this book, which made me consider the possibility seriously.
The author is a former writer of child psychology textbooks. The book reports the surprising facts and research that the author discovered in the course of her work that led her to the above conclusion, which she substantiates thoroughly. The book is also very well-written, and interesting to read. The real-life examples of children who had problems that originated with their peer group, and not with themselves, and the simple changes that these children's parents made in their environments to change their peer group, and which radically changed their lives for the better, were remarkable.
While I initially scoffed at its counter-intuitive premise, this book may have been the best book on child psychology that I read during my graduate studies at Columbia University. It contained well-substantiated, important information that most people don't know, in a very entertaining read. At a time when parents invest so much time and energy in their decisions with respect to their children, this information could be invaluable by helping parents recognize when a problem is not with their child, or in their home, but in their child's peer environment, and what they can do to fix it.
If there's a fault with this book and this line of thought, it's that it doesn't give any room for nurture at all. It seems unlikely to me that if we evolved to care for children that caring has no impact on their lives.
But, this is is something everyone should read and think about. Even if you don't agree with the author, you will enjoy the writing and the clarity of thought.
I think this is a significant contribution to biogenetics and the social sciences and an amazing start to an incredibly important theoretical advance.