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cherubs I spent a bit of this morning on a playground with my daughter, and tried really hard not to hover around her, as is in the norm among parents of my socioeconomic status in the United States (this behavior should most certainly be obviated by the fact that this is a “child safe” playground). This always gets me to thinking about variation in child rearing over history and across cultures. There seems to be an instinct to assume there is one true way to raise children, and this tendency is often quite costly in time and mental energy. The New York Times highlights this nicely with an article titled The Only Baby Book You’ll Ever Need, where the author relays the insights from a academic work by an anthropologist, The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings. The basic observation is pretty straightforward, in some cultures very young children are not cossetted, they are either non-persons, or, they are small adults with non-trivial responsibilities. By “some” cultures what you really mean are the vast majority of societies known across human history, including in the recent past the ancestor of developed Western societies. The contrast here is mostly between WEIRD cultures and non-WEIRD cultures.

nurture But there needs to be a bit more precision here, because the behavior that is alluded to in The New York Times refers to the core readership of that periodical, and don’t reflect all Western societies, or even all American social strata. Before my daughter was born my wife read Bringing Up Bébé, which highlights how different French and American parenting wisdom can be. And even within American society there is variation. Much of what is defined as “American” in these comparative studies actually reflect the folkways of upper middle class cosmopolitans, the sort of people who write and read books on parenting (though this segment of the populace is often the leading indicator of social norms more broadly). And even within living memory the parenting wisdom of the American upper middle class has changed a great deal.

So not only does parenting wisdom vary across cultures, it varies within culture (or perhaps more precisely across subcultures, and over time within a culture. But there’s a final piece of the puzzle which is important to note, a fair amount of the variation in outcomes of children is not due to parental choice in any case. More precisely, about ~10 percent of the variation in outcomes of your children on many metrics is due to the choices you make in a distinctive sense as against what other parents do, while ~40 percent is due to variation in genes, and ~50 percent is just unknown (and often referred to as “environmental”, but in a sense that it isn’t accounted for in additive genetic variance; it could be developmental stochasticity, and so still biological). If you read The Blank Slate or Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids you’ll know this, though perhaps the best primer on this topic is Judith Rich Harris’ The Nurture Assumption.

Meanwhile, there are serious social and legal consequences for raising your kids in a way which wouldn’t have been atypical up until the 1980s. The culture can be irrational longer than you can resist….

Addendum: Two points I forgot to bring up. First, it strikes me that the expected number of children you are going to have shapes these mores. The “high investment” strategy probably doesn’t scale well. It is probably harder to cosset kids when you have half a dozen. Second, the behavior genetic work often focuses on variation within a population. So obviously the cultural context might matter, equalizing outcomes across many families. The key isn’t to think that NOTHING you do matters, but the return on the margin in comparison to peer cohorts for extra effort probably is pretty low. That being said, my daughter is starting Kumon this week so she can read early. Less for academic preparation than for the fact that both her parents are readers, so it seems she’ll enjoy herself more if she can read to herself as early as possible.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Behavior Genetics, Parenting 
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  1. “That being said, my daughter is starting Kumon this week so she can read early.”

    I can say, as a parent who took two kids to Kumon for 7 years, for math and reading, Kumon does nothing to help them read early or keep the reading habit through school. Kids do what they feel like and what they want.

    However, I took them to sports, and thy enjoyed it much more.

  2. (1) I will be interested to hear your experiences with Kumon for reading. Our own experience (with our son, now in first grade) is that after a lot of time spent “working” on reading with him — mostly unsuccessfully — progress came rapidly and suddenly, around age 5.5. It’s like someone flipped a switch. Other parents I have spoken to report the same thing.

    (2) Re: children as non-persons — I recall that there are some cultures (perhaps native South Americans?) where children are not even given names until age 4 or 5.

  3. This reminds me of when John Derbyshire got into it with one of the “pod” people at NR (I forget who it was) about this issue. John finally responded by citing statistical data from Charles Murray and the other guy’s response was that “John dropped the C-bomb on me”. He refused to concede the argument claiming that arguing solely on the basis of objective data was “scientism” (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean).

    The denial of reality is not limited to the left.

  4. For those of you not in the know, “C-bomb” apparently refers to “Charles-bomb” in that Charles Murray is good at using lots of statistical data to support his arguments.

  5. My daughter learned to read by watching the old PBS program “Electric Company” at age 4 during the 1970’s. She started reading aloud words in newspapers and road signs…

  6. For me personally, learning to read was apparently effortless. I don’t remember it that well, but some time during kindergarten I learned how to read all on my own (neither my parents, not my school, were instructing me in the matter). When I asked my teacher when I could read, she told me that I would learn to read in first grade. I interpreted this to mean it was wrong of me to read in kindergarten, and thus kept it a secret from everyone. After the last day of school that year, my mother came home to me with a copy of The Economist cracked open. She didn’t believe I was actually reading it until I began reading the article aloud.

    My daughter is in kindergarten now, and unlike me is enrolled in a school which is making a serious attempt to have full literacy before entering first grade. She has phonics down, and knows around a hundred sight words, but it’s still clearly not enough for her to independently read any books but the really inane phonics ones she sometimes gets for homework. In general, the learning process seems like more of a struggle for her than I remember it being for me (when it comes to reading, she has math down pretty cold) but she has a perfectionist desire to succeed that I’ve typically lacked, so I’m guessing the higher conscientiousness will win out in the end.

    As to the more general point of the OP, I obviously have views pretty close to your own on parenting, and my wife leans towards the “free range kids” movement (although she refuses to read the Nurture Assumption, which frustrates me). Sadly, our daughter so far has a very dependent, clingy personality. She simply will not play in the yard or the playroom by herself. We’ve found ourselves having to be increasingly firm with her about not always being her playmate. I’ve made it my goal this spring to try and find her a few friends within the nearest block or two she can play with, since our new neighborhood is absolutely crawling with kids.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    good luck on finding friends! one thing with parenting guidelines is that children differ. some of them need encouragement/instruction in basic things, while others are like fish in water. with two children you can even see that in one's own family. though comparisons are hard in my case since the dude is less than one year old right now.
    , @Bill P

    In general, the learning process seems like more of a struggle for her than I remember it being for me (when it comes to reading, she has math down pretty cold) but she has a perfectionist desire to succeed that I’ve typically lacked, so I’m guessing the higher conscientiousness will win out in the end.
     
    Don't worry too much about it. I was a natural reader like you, but most people aren't and they do fine in school. Things like reading and math are pretty general skills at that level of school anyway, so if you want to teach her something that will give her a bit of an edge for life try some art like music or dancing. It's much easier to learn that stuff before puberty, and you can enjoy it for the rest of your life.

    My oldest son can read, but unless it's a comic book or a diagram of some mechanical device he has no interest in it. Just the other day he was complaining to me about how chapter books are "boring," and here I am, his dad who read Moby Dick in second grade (not that I understood the philosophical meaning and religious metaphors, but I really liked whales at the time). I just said "well, son, some people like them." His expression suggested that he thought that was a pretty weak defense. Silently, in my heart, I was glad to know that my boy is normal.

    I’ve made it my goal this spring to try and find her a few friends within the nearest block or two she can play with, since our new neighborhood is absolutely crawling with kids.
     
    Why not make her some friends? It's easy and fun. Until they're born, that is...

    But seriously, I can toss the kids out the door and they'll find a way to keep each other amused. So just have another one. Or two.
  7. Something that is often forgotten in debates about how to raise kids is that the present matters as well as the future. I understand that “outcomes” are important, but how you raise your kids is an expression of your family’s values right now. For example, if a study proved conclusively that letting kids watch eight hours of TV a day had no long-term effects, I still wouldn’t let my kids watch TV eight hours a day. Regardless of its implications for their future, we just aren’t going to spend our time that way.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    yes, i've pointing this out in so many words. e.g., even if child abuse is unlikely to change the long term outcome of your child's life, in the short term i'm still opposed to beating the shit out of kids. the same thing is true when it comes to having a 'broken' home or not. i think most kids recover from this, and suspect that lots of causality showing divorce causes problems doesn't control for the type of people who divorce and such. but divorce still is crappy when you are a little kid caught in all of it.
  8. A consistent 10% shared environment is worlds away from a 0% shared environment with respect to
    implications, the latter of which is the correct number. A >0 shared environment would leave the door open to the existence of “gene-environment interactions” (such as the idea that certain types of parenting have certain effects on certain types of kids and different effects on others). We would expect that such interactions would leave some main effect on net even their effects were highly variable from person to person. A 10% shared environment would suggest this (that is if direct tests for such interactions didn’t fail to turn up anything).

  9. The attachments and love shown to the child during the first year of life might be more significant than Harris’ book suggests.

    Prenatal exposure to toxins might also be as significant as exposure in the first year, and there is some evidence that poverty, neglect and abuse negatively effect cognitive development. See for example an interesting paper on effects of poverty.. quoted here is the abstract: “Growing up in poverty is associated with reduced cognitive achievement as measured by standardized intelligence tests, but little is known about the underlying neurocognitive systems responsible for this effect. We administered a battery of tasks designed to tax-specific neurocognitive systems to healthy low and middle SES children screened for medical history and matched for age, gender and ethnicity. Higher SES was associated with better performance on the tasks, as expected, but the SES disparity was significantly nonuniform across neurocognitive systems. Pronounced differences were found in Left perisylvian/Language and Medial temporal/Memory systems, along with significant differences in Lateral/Prefrontal/Working memory and Anterior cingulate/Cognitive control and smaller, nonsignificant differences in Occipitotemporal/Pattern vision and Parietal/Spatial cognition.” (Childhood poverty: Specific associations with neurocognitive development by Martha J. Faraha, , , David M. Sherab, Jessica H. Savagea, Laura Betancourta, Joan M. Giannettac, Nancy L. Brodskyc, Elsa K. Malmudc, Hallam Hurtc in Brain Research
    Volume 1110, Issue 1, 19 September 2006, Pages 166–174 – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006899306019378)

    Anther interesting essay appeared in National Geographic: “The First Year. A baby’s brain needs love to develop. What happens in the first year is profound. By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/01/baby-brains/bhattacharjee-text

    Also of some interest is this article: “Violence Exposure, Trauma, and IQ and/or Reading Deficits Among Urban Children” by Virginia Delaney-Black, MD, MPH; Chandice Covington, PhD, RN, CPNP; Steven J. Ondersma, PhD; Beth Nordstrom-Klee, PhD; Thomas Templin, PhD; Joel Ager, PhD; James Janisse, PhD; Robert J. Sokol, MD Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002;156(3):280-285. doi:10.1001/archpedi.156.3.280.http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=191640

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Prenatal exposure to toxins might also be as significant as exposure in the first year, and there is some evidence that poverty, neglect and abuse negatively effect cognitive development.

    toxins aren't relevant for this conversation. that's pretty granted that that might have an effect (e.g., lead).

    the other stuff, usually it's badly controlled whenever i look at the underlying research, though people tend to accept it on face value.

    the issue to think about is how middle class parents raise their children in the USA today vs. france or USA today vs. 1980, and if that makes much of a difference in final life outcomes. most parents seem to think it does. i doubt it does.
  10. I don’t know how literally you meant your headline, but it’s wrong in a couple ways. Even Judith Rich Harris has vigorously rejected that summary of the findings. For instance, how you raise your kids probably has a strong influence on your later relationship with them. I’m sure you didn’t mean it that literally, but the thing is, there are people who do tend to think of it in such literal terms (John Derbyshire, for instance).

    Also, Harris herself makes claims that go wildly beyond the evidence she cites, or any behavioral genetic evidence I know of. The evidence is that the variation due to shared environment is low. That doesn’t mean that shared environment doesn’t matter! It could be that there are some parenting styles that have an enormous effect on later personality as measured by the Big Five or by whatever yardstick Harris or the psychometricians prefer. There’s nothing in the evidence to cast any doubt on that possibility. I’ve gone into this before, so I won’t go into it any more now.

    The other point has been raised pretty often, that psychometric measures are an awfully thin description of a person. That’s a cliche, I know, but people tend to forget that it’s true. What’s the shared-environment effect for virtue? For goodness? There’s a lot of philosophy hidden under that OCEAN. Harris responds that it’s moving the goalposts, that these experiments were done to explain psychometric scores in the first place. But the objection remains, that there are problems with the psychometrics themselves.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    your objections seem reasonable. then i realize you are the asshole who said that i couldn't judge someone's scholarship in any way unless i read their ouvre. so that's enough for you, asshole. you're just here to waste my time in bad faith.
  11. @Aaron Gross
    I don't know how literally you meant your headline, but it's wrong in a couple ways. Even Judith Rich Harris has vigorously rejected that summary of the findings. For instance, how you raise your kids probably has a strong influence on your later relationship with them. I'm sure you didn't mean it that literally, but the thing is, there are people who do tend to think of it in such literal terms (John Derbyshire, for instance).

    Also, Harris herself makes claims that go wildly beyond the evidence she cites, or any behavioral genetic evidence I know of. The evidence is that the variation due to shared environment is low. That doesn't mean that shared environment doesn't matter! It could be that there are some parenting styles that have an enormous effect on later personality as measured by the Big Five or by whatever yardstick Harris or the psychometricians prefer. There's nothing in the evidence to cast any doubt on that possibility. I've gone into this before, so I won't go into it any more now.

    The other point has been raised pretty often, that psychometric measures are an awfully thin description of a person. That's a cliche, I know, but people tend to forget that it's true. What's the shared-environment effect for virtue? For goodness? There's a lot of philosophy hidden under that OCEAN. Harris responds that it's moving the goalposts, that these experiments were done to explain psychometric scores in the first place. But the objection remains, that there are problems with the psychometrics themselves.

    your objections seem reasonable. then i realize you are the asshole who said that i couldn’t judge someone’s scholarship in any way unless i read their ouvre. so that’s enough for you, asshole. you’re just here to waste my time in bad faith.

  12. @Helga Vierich
    The attachments and love shown to the child during the first year of life might be more significant than Harris’ book suggests.

    Prenatal exposure to toxins might also be as significant as exposure in the first year, and there is some evidence that poverty, neglect and abuse negatively effect cognitive development. See for example an interesting paper on effects of poverty.. quoted here is the abstract: “Growing up in poverty is associated with reduced cognitive achievement as measured by standardized intelligence tests, but little is known about the underlying neurocognitive systems responsible for this effect. We administered a battery of tasks designed to tax-specific neurocognitive systems to healthy low and middle SES children screened for medical history and matched for age, gender and ethnicity. Higher SES was associated with better performance on the tasks, as expected, but the SES disparity was significantly nonuniform across neurocognitive systems. Pronounced differences were found in Left perisylvian/Language and Medial temporal/Memory systems, along with significant differences in Lateral/Prefrontal/Working memory and Anterior cingulate/Cognitive control and smaller, nonsignificant differences in Occipitotemporal/Pattern vision and Parietal/Spatial cognition.” (Childhood poverty: Specific associations with neurocognitive development by Martha J. Faraha, , , David M. Sherab, Jessica H. Savagea, Laura Betancourta, Joan M. Giannettac, Nancy L. Brodskyc, Elsa K. Malmudc, Hallam Hurtc in Brain Research
    Volume 1110, Issue 1, 19 September 2006, Pages 166–174 - http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006899306019378)

    Anther interesting essay appeared in National Geographic: "The First Year. A baby’s brain needs love to develop. What happens in the first year is profound. By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/01/baby-brains/bhattacharjee-text

    Also of some interest is this article: "Violence Exposure, Trauma, and IQ and/or Reading Deficits Among Urban Children” by Virginia Delaney-Black, MD, MPH; Chandice Covington, PhD, RN, CPNP; Steven J. Ondersma, PhD; Beth Nordstrom-Klee, PhD; Thomas Templin, PhD; Joel Ager, PhD; James Janisse, PhD; Robert J. Sokol, MD Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002;156(3):280-285. doi:10.1001/archpedi.156.3.280.http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=191640

    Prenatal exposure to toxins might also be as significant as exposure in the first year, and there is some evidence that poverty, neglect and abuse negatively effect cognitive development.

    toxins aren’t relevant for this conversation. that’s pretty granted that that might have an effect (e.g., lead).

    the other stuff, usually it’s badly controlled whenever i look at the underlying research, though people tend to accept it on face value.

    the issue to think about is how middle class parents raise their children in the USA today vs. france or USA today vs. 1980, and if that makes much of a difference in final life outcomes. most parents seem to think it does. i doubt it does.

    • Replies: @Helga Vierich
    Middle class parenting is what you are focussing on? Well then, I agree with you there. Peer environments become pretty important as children grow up because middle class parents in most industrial countries are working hard and often stressed. Women today are more isolated from networks of female kin, at a time when expectations of breast-feeding may be thwarted by lack of supportive care. The system of support for new mothers is especially poor in the United States: http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/08/15/america-s-postpartum-practices.html

    This is associated with perinatal and postpartum depression: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10995-014-1591-z
    This, in turn, is associated with sleeping difficulties in infants: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090401101743.htm; and may contribute to other behavioural problems in child-parent interaction: http://www.physorg.com/news109333875.html; http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-02-baby-blunted-response-depressed-mom.html, and can have long lasting effects: http://www.physorg.com/news193035872.html, effects which may show up as structural differences in the brain of the child later in life: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-08-children-depressed-mothers-brain.html !

    The precipitous rise of birth induction and caesarian procedures in the U.S.A. is not strictly speaking a “parenting” issue, but it can have health consequences that affect how parents cope with their offspring. http://sciencenordic.com/giant-study-links-c-sections-chronic-disorders

    Middle class parents are often encouraged to use technology to help develop their babies brains, but for children under 24months, this does appears over-rated compared to interaction with parents: http://www.physorg.com/news105693370.html; http://www.physorg.com/news129878451.html; http://www.physorg.com/news165500537.html; http://www.physorg.com/news192907116.html; http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-kid-mental-health-sake.html; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-05-brain-circuitry-role-moral-sensitivity.html; http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-parents-math-early-children-video.html. Even stress and depression of fathers can have an impact: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-11-depressed-fathers-depression-offspring-behavioral.html !

    Middle class parents in industrial countries are also discouraged form co-sleeping with infants. they might even keep infants and small children in separate nursery rooms: http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-not-and-should-not-sleep-alone/#comment-15867; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-10-parents-linked-baby-stress-dutch.html. This is often linked to concerns that baby should learn to sleep through the night very early in infancy, and parents are advised to let the baby learn to “self-comfort” by allowing them to, essentially, cry themselves into an exhausted sleep. But what is the child really learning? It is learning that emotional support from the parents is unreliable. In a sense, this kind of parenting advice constitutes a vast separation anxiety experiment in human babies. Now we can find a hint about what this does to brain development form rat studies, but it appears that maternal separation causes increased stimulation of the adrenal-cortical axis, effecting nerve cell growth to brain regions important in impulse control and aggression: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0037820. It seems to me that early experiences of separation are stressful; surly this much is obvious. What is not obvious is whether our middle class culture recognizes the long term consequences of such stress on the brain and behaviour of their children. There is a rather elegant presentation of the interrelations of stress and neural tissue function here: http://robertsapolskyrocks.weebly.com/molecular-genetics-ii.html.

    There is also the feeding issue. When mothers have to go back to work, breast feeding is curtailed, and pre-school children must be left in daycare, which exposes them to more infections and, often, poorer supervision of antagonistic interaction with other young children. Their children might be well cared for but not often involved in long conversations or joint activities with their parents; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-06-dads-good-parenting-difference.html. This tends to produce much greater peer group dependence.

    “The other stuff” - you mean poverty, neglect, and abuse I take it? In terms of of overall outcomes, especially for a whole population, socio-economic status tends to covary with toxin exposure, nutrition, and experience of stigma and racism. There was a recent report, in the Washington Post, of research on how differently low income children were fed compared to middle class children: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/04/the-stark-difference-between-what-poor-babies-and-rich-babies-eat/.

    The variation in personality found in human beings, even among siblings in the same family, is well understood. There is evidence of such variation in a wide range of organisms, from stickleback fish to humans. Effective parenting is that which can adjust to the individual infant’s needs, to form secure attachments. The question is: which children and what proportion of children are being negatively effected by current middle class parenting fashions?

  13. @Karl Zimmerman
    For me personally, learning to read was apparently effortless. I don't remember it that well, but some time during kindergarten I learned how to read all on my own (neither my parents, not my school, were instructing me in the matter). When I asked my teacher when I could read, she told me that I would learn to read in first grade. I interpreted this to mean it was wrong of me to read in kindergarten, and thus kept it a secret from everyone. After the last day of school that year, my mother came home to me with a copy of The Economist cracked open. She didn't believe I was actually reading it until I began reading the article aloud.

    My daughter is in kindergarten now, and unlike me is enrolled in a school which is making a serious attempt to have full literacy before entering first grade. She has phonics down, and knows around a hundred sight words, but it's still clearly not enough for her to independently read any books but the really inane phonics ones she sometimes gets for homework. In general, the learning process seems like more of a struggle for her than I remember it being for me (when it comes to reading, she has math down pretty cold) but she has a perfectionist desire to succeed that I've typically lacked, so I'm guessing the higher conscientiousness will win out in the end.

    As to the more general point of the OP, I obviously have views pretty close to your own on parenting, and my wife leans towards the "free range kids" movement (although she refuses to read the Nurture Assumption, which frustrates me). Sadly, our daughter so far has a very dependent, clingy personality. She simply will not play in the yard or the playroom by herself. We've found ourselves having to be increasingly firm with her about not always being her playmate. I've made it my goal this spring to try and find her a few friends within the nearest block or two she can play with, since our new neighborhood is absolutely crawling with kids.

    good luck on finding friends! one thing with parenting guidelines is that children differ. some of them need encouragement/instruction in basic things, while others are like fish in water. with two children you can even see that in one’s own family. though comparisons are hard in my case since the dude is less than one year old right now.

  14. @Jean Cocteausten
    Something that is often forgotten in debates about how to raise kids is that the present matters as well as the future. I understand that "outcomes" are important, but how you raise your kids is an expression of your family's values right now. For example, if a study proved conclusively that letting kids watch eight hours of TV a day had no long-term effects, I still wouldn't let my kids watch TV eight hours a day. Regardless of its implications for their future, we just aren't going to spend our time that way.

    yes, i’ve pointing this out in so many words. e.g., even if child abuse is unlikely to change the long term outcome of your child’s life, in the short term i’m still opposed to beating the shit out of kids. the same thing is true when it comes to having a ‘broken’ home or not. i think most kids recover from this, and suspect that lots of causality showing divorce causes problems doesn’t control for the type of people who divorce and such. but divorce still is crappy when you are a little kid caught in all of it.

    • Replies: @unpc downunder
    I've read in mental health literature that children from moderately unstable or abusive family upbringings do tend to have higher rates of some mental health problems such as depression than they otherwise would, but don't really suffer in terms of cognitive skills and learning ability. Hence, things like IQ and attentive skills aren't greatly hampered by bad parenting unless it's really extreme (eg, brain damage from physical abuse)
  15. I suspect a lot of life outcomes depend quite a lot on whether skills and personality traits complement each other. The more traits and skills clash the more problems.

    For example, something who has social anxiety but is good at math will probably do okay in life, but someone who has social anxiety and is verbally quite smart but poor at math will tend to struggle because most jobs for people with verbal intelligence tend to require more social skills (such as working in PR or being a salesman).

    A more serious example would be someone who is physically weak and not good at fighting but is hot-headed and impulsive – a combination which could get you beaten up on a regular basis.

  16. @Razib Khan
    yes, i've pointing this out in so many words. e.g., even if child abuse is unlikely to change the long term outcome of your child's life, in the short term i'm still opposed to beating the shit out of kids. the same thing is true when it comes to having a 'broken' home or not. i think most kids recover from this, and suspect that lots of causality showing divorce causes problems doesn't control for the type of people who divorce and such. but divorce still is crappy when you are a little kid caught in all of it.

    I’ve read in mental health literature that children from moderately unstable or abusive family upbringings do tend to have higher rates of some mental health problems such as depression than they otherwise would, but don’t really suffer in terms of cognitive skills and learning ability. Hence, things like IQ and attentive skills aren’t greatly hampered by bad parenting unless it’s really extreme (eg, brain damage from physical abuse)

  17. I for one am not in favor of using a Kumon for anything. I don’t believe in sending children to “grind” schools at all.

    In terms of reading: my eldest daughter, who is now 11 yo, had noticed that books had alphabetic characters as a 1 yo and was anxious to read before she was a 2 yo, so I went over the alphabet with her and by 2 yo she could write her own name and knew about 20-30 sight words, but she didn’t formally learn to read till she was 5 yo. Today her lexile scores are 3 grades in advance of her age. My 6 yo son is Autistic and still struggles with the alphabet, but knows a few sight words. My 4 yo daughter knows the alphabet and about 10-15 sight words, but can’t write her own name, however her verbal comprehension is maybe that of an 7-8 yo.

    I attempt to allow each of my 3 kids to reach their own level, and move at their own pace. I don’t restrict them from watching TV, YouTube or Books. My personal philosophy is to talk to my kids about whatever they are interested in and encourage them to try new stuff and explore their interests. So my 11 yo daughter now wants to talk about Syria/IS and American foreign policy, and equity investing, so we talk about these things. She also likes to play minecraft and so spends some time looking at YouTube videos of minecraft exploits. My 5 yo son is interested in Power Rangers, Ben 10, ALF and Happy Days, and will sometimes talk about these. He watches Netflix a lot and discovered those older TV shows himself. My 4 yo loves the iPad, and occasionally will play a phonics game, but mostly watches Frozen, the movie, and plays Toca Boca hair Salon and Scribblenauts. She has figured out how to make online purchases too, so I had to put a Pass Code on Credit Card purchases. The next day she said, “Dad you ruined my app?” So I asked her how, and she said, “I can’t buy any more accessories!”. Then I checked Scribblenauts and saw that she had purchased a whole bunch of avatars and backgrounds for the game?!

    I have no idea how the younger 2 kids will work out academically, but my eldest is in the top 3 students in all subjects, and consistently an honor student.

  18. I worked as a grader for a Kumon center in college. My personal conclusions were (a) the math program is probably a fine way for your kid to learn extra math; (b) the reading program is worthless. The reading worksheets I saw were much like dumbed-down versions of SAT reading comprehension questions, which I guess appeals to the audience, but there was no effort made to instruct anyone. When I found some kids obviously submitting answers that were copied from the answer guide, the boss’s response was “grade them correct and let it go”.

    And in my view, you don’t get test-style reading comprehension questions right because you were trained on similar questions; you get them right because you learned how to read in the normal way and then spent a lot of time reading whatever you felt like, which builds up speed. Whereas just grinding in math, in my experience, actually does improve your understanding of the material, and even shallow questions are quite helpful to work if you feel like you need improvement.

  19. My elder son I think learned to read because I always had the subtitles on when he watched DVDs and Netflix. Although, both my husband and I learned how to read pretty effortlessly at a young age, so maybe he just comes to it naturally.

  20. Razib,

    My son is 16 months old now, so some elements of his personality are starting to show. He’s also at the same day care my daughter was at that age, and the workers comment that his personality is very different – more outgoing, happier, and much more laid back.

    The biggest difference we have noticed so far is in terms of language acquisition. My daughter basically didn’t go through a babbling phase. She said her first words and sentences reasonably early, but initially she spoke rarely but perfectly intelligibly. In contrast, my son already talks a lot everyday (he’s already saying short sentences like “I like this” and “I don’t want a hat”), but over half the time it’s still so slurred and garbled we can’t make out a thing. We can already have something approaching a conversation with him at times however, which is a refreshing change.

    • Replies: @JayMan

    My son is 16 months old now, so some elements of his personality are starting to show. He’s also at the same day care my daughter was at that age, and the workers comment that his personality is very different – more outgoing, happier, and much more laid back.
     
    That's cool. :)

    Aspects of my son's personality were evident from day one.
  21. But then what we do about the considerably large literature that shows differences in outcomes across different learning models, like Montessorian Schools against Non-Montessorian Schools, for example?

    http://www.montessori-tours.fr/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Science-2006-Lillard-1893-4.pdf

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    disagree: t. Another variable, ethnicity, was not surveyed because parent income contributes more to child outcomes than does ethnicity

    wealth, not income, controls for interethnic differences. poor white and asian students have higher SATs than middle class blacks.

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/2999198?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    also, many of these impacts are short/medium term in efficacy. i'm talking mostly about >18 yr stuff, when there is often less lasting outcome. the perry pre-school is the best of these as an example, but the sample was small and non-replicated so far. so jury out.
  22. @Razib Khan
    Prenatal exposure to toxins might also be as significant as exposure in the first year, and there is some evidence that poverty, neglect and abuse negatively effect cognitive development.

    toxins aren't relevant for this conversation. that's pretty granted that that might have an effect (e.g., lead).

    the other stuff, usually it's badly controlled whenever i look at the underlying research, though people tend to accept it on face value.

    the issue to think about is how middle class parents raise their children in the USA today vs. france or USA today vs. 1980, and if that makes much of a difference in final life outcomes. most parents seem to think it does. i doubt it does.

    Middle class parenting is what you are focussing on? Well then, I agree with you there. Peer environments become pretty important as children grow up because middle class parents in most industrial countries are working hard and often stressed. Women today are more isolated from networks of female kin, at a time when expectations of breast-feeding may be thwarted by lack of supportive care. The system of support for new mothers is especially poor in the United States: http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/08/15/america-s-postpartum-practices.html

    This is associated with perinatal and postpartum depression: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10995-014-1591-z
    This, in turn, is associated with sleeping difficulties in infants: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090401101743.htm; and may contribute to other behavioural problems in child-parent interaction: http://www.physorg.com/news109333875.html; http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-02-baby-blunted-response-depressed-mom.html, and can have long lasting effects: http://www.physorg.com/news193035872.html, effects which may show up as structural differences in the brain of the child later in life: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-08-children-depressed-mothers-brain.html !

    The precipitous rise of birth induction and caesarian procedures in the U.S.A. is not strictly speaking a “parenting” issue, but it can have health consequences that affect how parents cope with their offspring. http://sciencenordic.com/giant-study-links-c-sections-chronic-disorders

    Middle class parents are often encouraged to use technology to help develop their babies brains, but for children under 24months, this does appears over-rated compared to interaction with parents: http://www.physorg.com/news105693370.html; http://www.physorg.com/news129878451.html; http://www.physorg.com/news165500537.html; http://www.physorg.com/news192907116.html; http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-kid-mental-health-sake.html; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-05-brain-circuitry-role-moral-sensitivity.html; http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-parents-math-early-children-video.html. Even stress and depression of fathers can have an impact: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-11-depressed-fathers-depression-offspring-behavioral.html !

    Middle class parents in industrial countries are also discouraged form co-sleeping with infants. they might even keep infants and small children in separate nursery rooms: http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-not-and-should-not-sleep-alone/#comment-15867; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-10-parents-linked-baby-stress-dutch.html. This is often linked to concerns that baby should learn to sleep through the night very early in infancy, and parents are advised to let the baby learn to “self-comfort” by allowing them to, essentially, cry themselves into an exhausted sleep. But what is the child really learning? It is learning that emotional support from the parents is unreliable. In a sense, this kind of parenting advice constitutes a vast separation anxiety experiment in human babies. Now we can find a hint about what this does to brain development form rat studies, but it appears that maternal separation causes increased stimulation of the adrenal-cortical axis, effecting nerve cell growth to brain regions important in impulse control and aggression: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0037820. It seems to me that early experiences of separation are stressful; surly this much is obvious. What is not obvious is whether our middle class culture recognizes the long term consequences of such stress on the brain and behaviour of their children. There is a rather elegant presentation of the interrelations of stress and neural tissue function here: http://robertsapolskyrocks.weebly.com/molecular-genetics-ii.html.

    There is also the feeding issue. When mothers have to go back to work, breast feeding is curtailed, and pre-school children must be left in daycare, which exposes them to more infections and, often, poorer supervision of antagonistic interaction with other young children. Their children might be well cared for but not often involved in long conversations or joint activities with their parents; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-06-dads-good-parenting-difference.html. This tends to produce much greater peer group dependence.

    “The other stuff” – you mean poverty, neglect, and abuse I take it? In terms of of overall outcomes, especially for a whole population, socio-economic status tends to covary with toxin exposure, nutrition, and experience of stigma and racism. There was a recent report, in the Washington Post, of research on how differently low income children were fed compared to middle class children: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/04/the-stark-difference-between-what-poor-babies-and-rich-babies-eat/.

    The variation in personality found in human beings, even among siblings in the same family, is well understood. There is evidence of such variation in a wide range of organisms, from stickleback fish to humans. Effective parenting is that which can adjust to the individual infant’s needs, to form secure attachments. The question is: which children and what proportion of children are being negatively effected by current middle class parenting fashions?

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    HV, the main issue i would have with many of these studies is that i'm of the opinion that the downside of effect of many things (aside from extreme abuse, toxicity, etc.) decays over the whole life. that's not a huge objection to me personally, but, on a sociological level i think it modules the idea that the choices we make for a 2 year old is going to echo down to an 50 year old, and perhaps their grandparent (via epigenetics). epigenetic effects are real, but i think they're overplayed. on the margin a few big dumb choices (e.g., feed sufficiently, don't hit to injury) probably will result in a typical adult. that doesn't mean that there aren't small effects on the margins, but in america today the middle class thinks EVERY small decision has enormous outsize consequences, as if children are an experiment in chaos theory.
  23. “That being said, my daughter is starting Kumon this week so she can read early.”

    This is perfectly rational though IMHO. Even if the benefits don’t spill over into other spheres, the brain does seem to be exceptionally well wired to acquire certain skills at a young age. Will acquiring skills like language and music at an early age make your child smarter? Apparently not, but it still makes them better at those specific skills.

    If I had the opportunity to go back in time and give my parents advice on how to raise me, you bet your ass I’d want them to enroll me lessons to acquire a third language, or in piano lessons, or anything else of a similar nature. And I would thank them profusely for enrolling me in French Immersion at a young age.

    Curious on this post though – I assume this doesn’t examine the role of nutrition, and sticks to just the whole sink-or-swim vs special snowflake debate.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Curious on this post though – I assume this doesn’t examine the role of nutrition, and sticks to just the whole sink-or-swim vs special snowflake debate.


    i don't think nutrition is developed nations is that big of an effect. the poor are fat, and that impacts health, but the effect on cognitive development isn't that great i think. i suspect there is SOME, but most of the variation in outcome is not due to corpulence. the fat are not dumb do to fatness, but correlations with other factors. i know there there's research on this area how nutrition, etc. etc. effects poor kids and life long outcomes. but how plausible you find this is almost always conditional on your priors, since these are randomized field trials (which would be unethical).
  24. @Hermenauta
    But then what we do about the considerably large literature that shows differences in outcomes across different learning models, like Montessorian Schools against Non-Montessorian Schools, for example?

    http://www.montessori-tours.fr/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Science-2006-Lillard-1893-4.pdf

    disagree: t. Another variable, ethnicity, was not surveyed because parent income contributes more to child outcomes than does ethnicity

    wealth, not income, controls for interethnic differences. poor white and asian students have higher SATs than middle class blacks.

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/2999198?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    also, many of these impacts are short/medium term in efficacy. i’m talking mostly about >18 yr stuff, when there is often less lasting outcome. the perry pre-school is the best of these as an example, but the sample was small and non-replicated so far. so jury out.

    • Replies: @Hermenauta
    "wealth, not income, controls for interethnic differences"

    Maybe, but don´t you think that "wealth", that can be inherited, is more prone to be affected by luck, while "income" reflects more meritocratic outcomes?

    "many of these impacts are short/medium term in efficacy"

    Interestingly, a lot of studies show this pattern recurring again and again. Are you aware of any general explanation for this besides genetic influence determining "reversal to average"? If theories of "cognitive burdens" have a grain of truth, maybe old age brings a different, and more encompassing, set of preocupations that should impact the availability of processing power for any individual task.
  25. @Helga Vierich
    Middle class parenting is what you are focussing on? Well then, I agree with you there. Peer environments become pretty important as children grow up because middle class parents in most industrial countries are working hard and often stressed. Women today are more isolated from networks of female kin, at a time when expectations of breast-feeding may be thwarted by lack of supportive care. The system of support for new mothers is especially poor in the United States: http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/08/15/america-s-postpartum-practices.html

    This is associated with perinatal and postpartum depression: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10995-014-1591-z
    This, in turn, is associated with sleeping difficulties in infants: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090401101743.htm; and may contribute to other behavioural problems in child-parent interaction: http://www.physorg.com/news109333875.html; http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-02-baby-blunted-response-depressed-mom.html, and can have long lasting effects: http://www.physorg.com/news193035872.html, effects which may show up as structural differences in the brain of the child later in life: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-08-children-depressed-mothers-brain.html !

    The precipitous rise of birth induction and caesarian procedures in the U.S.A. is not strictly speaking a “parenting” issue, but it can have health consequences that affect how parents cope with their offspring. http://sciencenordic.com/giant-study-links-c-sections-chronic-disorders

    Middle class parents are often encouraged to use technology to help develop their babies brains, but for children under 24months, this does appears over-rated compared to interaction with parents: http://www.physorg.com/news105693370.html; http://www.physorg.com/news129878451.html; http://www.physorg.com/news165500537.html; http://www.physorg.com/news192907116.html; http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-kid-mental-health-sake.html; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-05-brain-circuitry-role-moral-sensitivity.html; http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-parents-math-early-children-video.html. Even stress and depression of fathers can have an impact: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-11-depressed-fathers-depression-offspring-behavioral.html !

    Middle class parents in industrial countries are also discouraged form co-sleeping with infants. they might even keep infants and small children in separate nursery rooms: http://neuroanthropology.net/2008/12/21/cosleeping-and-biological-imperatives-why-human-babies-do-not-and-should-not-sleep-alone/#comment-15867; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-10-parents-linked-baby-stress-dutch.html. This is often linked to concerns that baby should learn to sleep through the night very early in infancy, and parents are advised to let the baby learn to “self-comfort” by allowing them to, essentially, cry themselves into an exhausted sleep. But what is the child really learning? It is learning that emotional support from the parents is unreliable. In a sense, this kind of parenting advice constitutes a vast separation anxiety experiment in human babies. Now we can find a hint about what this does to brain development form rat studies, but it appears that maternal separation causes increased stimulation of the adrenal-cortical axis, effecting nerve cell growth to brain regions important in impulse control and aggression: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0037820. It seems to me that early experiences of separation are stressful; surly this much is obvious. What is not obvious is whether our middle class culture recognizes the long term consequences of such stress on the brain and behaviour of their children. There is a rather elegant presentation of the interrelations of stress and neural tissue function here: http://robertsapolskyrocks.weebly.com/molecular-genetics-ii.html.

    There is also the feeding issue. When mothers have to go back to work, breast feeding is curtailed, and pre-school children must be left in daycare, which exposes them to more infections and, often, poorer supervision of antagonistic interaction with other young children. Their children might be well cared for but not often involved in long conversations or joint activities with their parents; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-06-dads-good-parenting-difference.html. This tends to produce much greater peer group dependence.

    “The other stuff” - you mean poverty, neglect, and abuse I take it? In terms of of overall outcomes, especially for a whole population, socio-economic status tends to covary with toxin exposure, nutrition, and experience of stigma and racism. There was a recent report, in the Washington Post, of research on how differently low income children were fed compared to middle class children: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/04/the-stark-difference-between-what-poor-babies-and-rich-babies-eat/.

    The variation in personality found in human beings, even among siblings in the same family, is well understood. There is evidence of such variation in a wide range of organisms, from stickleback fish to humans. Effective parenting is that which can adjust to the individual infant’s needs, to form secure attachments. The question is: which children and what proportion of children are being negatively effected by current middle class parenting fashions?

    HV, the main issue i would have with many of these studies is that i’m of the opinion that the downside of effect of many things (aside from extreme abuse, toxicity, etc.) decays over the whole life. that’s not a huge objection to me personally, but, on a sociological level i think it modules the idea that the choices we make for a 2 year old is going to echo down to an 50 year old, and perhaps their grandparent (via epigenetics). epigenetic effects are real, but i think they’re overplayed. on the margin a few big dumb choices (e.g., feed sufficiently, don’t hit to injury) probably will result in a typical adult. that doesn’t mean that there aren’t small effects on the margins, but in america today the middle class thinks EVERY small decision has enormous outsize consequences, as if children are an experiment in chaos theory.

    • Replies: @Helga Vierich
    Oh I have to laugh out loud..“an experiment in chaos theory” - that’s spot on!
  26. @CupOfCanada
    “That being said, my daughter is starting Kumon this week so she can read early.”

    This is perfectly rational though IMHO. Even if the benefits don't spill over into other spheres, the brain does seem to be exceptionally well wired to acquire certain skills at a young age. Will acquiring skills like language and music at an early age make your child smarter? Apparently not, but it still makes them better at those specific skills.

    If I had the opportunity to go back in time and give my parents advice on how to raise me, you bet your ass I'd want them to enroll me lessons to acquire a third language, or in piano lessons, or anything else of a similar nature. And I would thank them profusely for enrolling me in French Immersion at a young age.

    Curious on this post though - I assume this doesn't examine the role of nutrition, and sticks to just the whole sink-or-swim vs special snowflake debate.

    Curious on this post though – I assume this doesn’t examine the role of nutrition, and sticks to just the whole sink-or-swim vs special snowflake debate.

    i don’t think nutrition is developed nations is that big of an effect. the poor are fat, and that impacts health, but the effect on cognitive development isn’t that great i think. i suspect there is SOME, but most of the variation in outcome is not due to corpulence. the fat are not dumb do to fatness, but correlations with other factors. i know there there’s research on this area how nutrition, etc. etc. effects poor kids and life long outcomes. but how plausible you find this is almost always conditional on your priors, since these are randomized field trials (which would be unethical).

    • Replies: @CupOfCanada
    Hrm. What would you suggest as the cause of the Flynn effect then? Or the similar trend in height?

    i suspect there is SOME, but most of the variation in outcome is not due to corpulence. the fat are not dumb do to fatness, but correlations with other factors. i know there there’s research on this area how nutrition, etc.
     
    Hyperglycemia would be a common link between both, and would involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors (not strictly limited to income). Came across this study for example: http://vbn.aau.dk/ws/files/13048877/Art07.pdf

    but how plausible you find this is almost always conditional on your priors, since these are not randomized field trials (which would be unethical).
     
    Canada did these sorts of tests in the 1940s and 1950s in First Nations communities. I'm not aware of what the results were though - I can only find commentary on the monstrous nature of deliberately malnourishing children. I'm not sure I really want to know the results of that research to be honest.

    I'd be interested if you know of any studies on the subject to read further.
  27. A consistent 10% shared environment is worlds away from a 0% shared environment with respect to
    implications, the latter of which is the correct number.

    Well, we’re talking about “outcomes” here, not psychometrics.

    Though there are people out there who really believe that Jay-Z would still have started life as a crack-dealing, sibling-shooting high school dropout if he had been born in Beverly Hills rather than Bed-Stuy projects.

    • Replies: @JayMan

    Well, we’re talking about “outcomes” here, not psychometrics.
     
    I'm talking about outcomes too, you know, all the stuff that "really matters."
  28. I have always been resistant to the “Nurture Assumption” message, but I only recently read the book.

    I found it odd reading, because it was written in a poppy style but if you looked at the bibliography, it was about 90% recent technical studies written in a rigid scientific format. This seems characteristic of pop psych. What I fear happens when that is done is that a range of technical micro results on specific topics are inserted into an unexamined set of conventional pop macro assumptions about society and life.

    Part of it is just “It takes a village”. Kids learn from their peers and from “Society”. And parents really are in control of their kids’ lives only a small part of the time; between school and TV (etc.) and peers, the 10% parental input might be fairly close to the parental time input and degree of control. Some of this might be a function of contemporary American society. It certainly somewhat explains the distress of conservative Christians with public schools and media; in fact, liberals aften feel the same distress about the public schools and media, except that they protest sexism, homophobia, bullying, crass materialism, etc. It’s a median experience that makes no one happy.

    In this context, choosing a neighborhood is one of the biggest things parents can actually do. This was a major theme of Mencius 2500 years ago, and it’s also a common practice of parents who have any important political or religious disagreements with the overall society. Many parents make career sacrifices in order to give their kids a stable, favorable environment.

    Beyond doing statistical presentations of the mean percentages over large populations, it’s worth looking at the parents who do have more than a 10% positive input (I’m excluding the parents whose input is negative). Harris recognizes that parental input can be increased if you make “the family” into “the group” e.g. large families which work cooperatively in family businesses and associate mostly with each other. You could also mention old elite families who were able to hire multiple tutors and nannies and introduce their kids into a wide variety of elite activities very early. The result could be kids who were competent mathematicians and musicians fluent in three languages by age 12.

    The fact that these two situations are very rare in our or any society makes the low parental contribution more a sociohistorical than a psychological fact. (My father in fact did want to mold his kids to his own ideas, but he couldn’t hire tutors etc. and we ended up picking up local values and habits. At the same time in many ways we did differ from most of out peers, not necessarily in the direction he wanted).

    Beyond this, a lot of the things parents do to mold their children are just useless, like playing Mozart to fetuses and multiple other magic tricks parents try. And often parents trying to mold a kid are actually faking it, so that their pretended goals for the kid (e.g. chastity) are actually undermined by their actual personal behavior (cheating).

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    most of the ppl who really fixate on the nature of child rearing seem to be in the top 50% of developed societies. or really, to be honest, the top 15% or so. the top college grads, and those with post-grad educations. so the nature of the title is really really about all the expensive positional games which are going on in this group (not to mention the constant "hovering" and attention which sucks parental time/energy, and also diminishes child autonomy). a cross cultural perspective should give people some perspective that it's all for naught. in fact, even as recently as the 1980s things were totally different, and believe it or not gen-xers are not monsters, though we seem to think our children will become such unless we cosset them.

    OTOH, i think adoption studies, etc., also shows that genes do matter a lot, so this might be a more general issue across society, even down to the underclass. american liberals always assume that the underclass exists due to economic structural impediments, while american conservatives usually fault cultural structural impediments. but some of it is surely individual attributes not up to the nature of a post-industrial economy. unpalatable, but perhaps true.

  29. @John Emerson
    I have always been resistant to the "Nurture Assumption" message, but I only recently read the book.

    I found it odd reading, because it was written in a poppy style but if you looked at the bibliography, it was about 90% recent technical studies written in a rigid scientific format. This seems characteristic of pop psych. What I fear happens when that is done is that a range of technical micro results on specific topics are inserted into an unexamined set of conventional pop macro assumptions about society and life.

    Part of it is just "It takes a village". Kids learn from their peers and from "Society". And parents really are in control of their kids' lives only a small part of the time; between school and TV (etc.) and peers, the 10% parental input might be fairly close to the parental time input and degree of control. Some of this might be a function of contemporary American society. It certainly somewhat explains the distress of conservative Christians with public schools and media; in fact, liberals aften feel the same distress about the public schools and media, except that they protest sexism, homophobia, bullying, crass materialism, etc. It's a median experience that makes no one happy.

    In this context, choosing a neighborhood is one of the biggest things parents can actually do. This was a major theme of Mencius 2500 years ago, and it's also a common practice of parents who have any important political or religious disagreements with the overall society. Many parents make career sacrifices in order to give their kids a stable, favorable environment.

    Beyond doing statistical presentations of the mean percentages over large populations, it's worth looking at the parents who do have more than a 10% positive input (I'm excluding the parents whose input is negative). Harris recognizes that parental input can be increased if you make "the family" into "the group" e.g. large families which work cooperatively in family businesses and associate mostly with each other. You could also mention old elite families who were able to hire multiple tutors and nannies and introduce their kids into a wide variety of elite activities very early. The result could be kids who were competent mathematicians and musicians fluent in three languages by age 12.

    The fact that these two situations are very rare in our or any society makes the low parental contribution more a sociohistorical than a psychological fact. (My father in fact did want to mold his kids to his own ideas, but he couldn't hire tutors etc. and we ended up picking up local values and habits. At the same time in many ways we did differ from most of out peers, not necessarily in the direction he wanted).

    Beyond this, a lot of the things parents do to mold their children are just useless, like playing Mozart to fetuses and multiple other magic tricks parents try. And often parents trying to mold a kid are actually faking it, so that their pretended goals for the kid (e.g. chastity) are actually undermined by their actual personal behavior (cheating).

    most of the ppl who really fixate on the nature of child rearing seem to be in the top 50% of developed societies. or really, to be honest, the top 15% or so. the top college grads, and those with post-grad educations. so the nature of the title is really really about all the expensive positional games which are going on in this group (not to mention the constant “hovering” and attention which sucks parental time/energy, and also diminishes child autonomy). a cross cultural perspective should give people some perspective that it’s all for naught. in fact, even as recently as the 1980s things were totally different, and believe it or not gen-xers are not monsters, though we seem to think our children will become such unless we cosset them.

    OTOH, i think adoption studies, etc., also shows that genes do matter a lot, so this might be a more general issue across society, even down to the underclass. american liberals always assume that the underclass exists due to economic structural impediments, while american conservatives usually fault cultural structural impediments. but some of it is surely individual attributes not up to the nature of a post-industrial economy. unpalatable, but perhaps true.

    • Replies: @CupOfCanada

    OTOH, i think adoption studies, etc., also shows that genes do matter a lot, so this might be a more general issue across society, even down to the underclass. american liberals always assume that the underclass exists due to economic structural impediments, while american conservatives usually fault cultural structural impediments. but some of it is surely individual attributes not up to the nature of a post-industrial economy. unpalatable, but perhaps true.
     
    How would this account for the wide discrepancies in social mobility between developed countries? I have a hard time believing income is twice as heritable in the US and UK compared to Canada and Australia. I've brought this up a few times here, and so far no one seems to be able to answer it satisfactorily. I'm not discounting genetics as a factor, but I think the data suggests it's not the dominant factor, at least in the United States. For example: http://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/80702/1/756695473.pdf

    Now, that's not necessarily good for any sort of left wing narrative either. The author suggests that the growth of the income premium received from tertiary education could be a major factor at work here. Pushing back against the trend of the BA/BSc becoming today's high school diploma would mean a lot of gnashing of teeth in certain quarters.
  30. @Karl Zimmerman
    Razib,

    My son is 16 months old now, so some elements of his personality are starting to show. He's also at the same day care my daughter was at that age, and the workers comment that his personality is very different - more outgoing, happier, and much more laid back.

    The biggest difference we have noticed so far is in terms of language acquisition. My daughter basically didn't go through a babbling phase. She said her first words and sentences reasonably early, but initially she spoke rarely but perfectly intelligibly. In contrast, my son already talks a lot everyday (he's already saying short sentences like "I like this" and "I don't want a hat"), but over half the time it's still so slurred and garbled we can't make out a thing. We can already have something approaching a conversation with him at times however, which is a refreshing change.

    My son is 16 months old now, so some elements of his personality are starting to show. He’s also at the same day care my daughter was at that age, and the workers comment that his personality is very different – more outgoing, happier, and much more laid back.

    That’s cool. 🙂

    Aspects of my son’s personality were evident from day one.

  31. @toto

    A consistent 10% shared environment is worlds away from a 0% shared environment with respect to
    implications, the latter of which is the correct number.
     
    Well, we're talking about "outcomes" here, not psychometrics.

    Though there are people out there who really believe that Jay-Z would still have started life as a crack-dealing, sibling-shooting high school dropout if he had been born in Beverly Hills rather than Bed-Stuy projects.

    Well, we’re talking about “outcomes” here, not psychometrics.

    I’m talking about outcomes too, you know, all the stuff that “really matters.”

  32. @Razib Khan
    Curious on this post though – I assume this doesn’t examine the role of nutrition, and sticks to just the whole sink-or-swim vs special snowflake debate.


    i don't think nutrition is developed nations is that big of an effect. the poor are fat, and that impacts health, but the effect on cognitive development isn't that great i think. i suspect there is SOME, but most of the variation in outcome is not due to corpulence. the fat are not dumb do to fatness, but correlations with other factors. i know there there's research on this area how nutrition, etc. etc. effects poor kids and life long outcomes. but how plausible you find this is almost always conditional on your priors, since these are randomized field trials (which would be unethical).

    Hrm. What would you suggest as the cause of the Flynn effect then? Or the similar trend in height?

    i suspect there is SOME, but most of the variation in outcome is not due to corpulence. the fat are not dumb do to fatness, but correlations with other factors. i know there there’s research on this area how nutrition, etc.

    Hyperglycemia would be a common link between both, and would involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors (not strictly limited to income). Came across this study for example: http://vbn.aau.dk/ws/files/13048877/Art07.pdf

    but how plausible you find this is almost always conditional on your priors, since these are not randomized field trials (which would be unethical).

    Canada did these sorts of tests in the 1940s and 1950s in First Nations communities. I’m not aware of what the results were though – I can only find commentary on the monstrous nature of deliberately malnourishing children. I’m not sure I really want to know the results of that research to be honest.

    I’d be interested if you know of any studies on the subject to read further.

  33. the dutch famine is a ‘natural experiment.’ there’s been follow up, and seems to show epigenetic effects. but i think the key here is that modest effects in outcome need FAMINES. i really think people should chill out in terms of how much of an impact on cognition the normal range of nutrition has an effect….

    • Replies: @Helga Vierich
    I would not however discount prenatal stress as unimportant.. have you seen this one? effects of the Quebec Ice Storm “These data provide first evidence in humans supporting the conclusion that PNMS results in a lasting, broad, and functionally organized DNA methylation signature in several tissues in offspring. By using a natural disaster model, we can infer that the epigenetic effects found in Project Ice Storm are due to objective levels of hardship experienced by the pregnant woman rather than to her level of sustained distress."http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25238154 And there was a more general review here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3730125/
  34. @Razib Khan
    HV, the main issue i would have with many of these studies is that i'm of the opinion that the downside of effect of many things (aside from extreme abuse, toxicity, etc.) decays over the whole life. that's not a huge objection to me personally, but, on a sociological level i think it modules the idea that the choices we make for a 2 year old is going to echo down to an 50 year old, and perhaps their grandparent (via epigenetics). epigenetic effects are real, but i think they're overplayed. on the margin a few big dumb choices (e.g., feed sufficiently, don't hit to injury) probably will result in a typical adult. that doesn't mean that there aren't small effects on the margins, but in america today the middle class thinks EVERY small decision has enormous outsize consequences, as if children are an experiment in chaos theory.

    Oh I have to laugh out loud..“an experiment in chaos theory” – that’s spot on!

  35. @Razib Khan
    most of the ppl who really fixate on the nature of child rearing seem to be in the top 50% of developed societies. or really, to be honest, the top 15% or so. the top college grads, and those with post-grad educations. so the nature of the title is really really about all the expensive positional games which are going on in this group (not to mention the constant "hovering" and attention which sucks parental time/energy, and also diminishes child autonomy). a cross cultural perspective should give people some perspective that it's all for naught. in fact, even as recently as the 1980s things were totally different, and believe it or not gen-xers are not monsters, though we seem to think our children will become such unless we cosset them.

    OTOH, i think adoption studies, etc., also shows that genes do matter a lot, so this might be a more general issue across society, even down to the underclass. american liberals always assume that the underclass exists due to economic structural impediments, while american conservatives usually fault cultural structural impediments. but some of it is surely individual attributes not up to the nature of a post-industrial economy. unpalatable, but perhaps true.

    OTOH, i think adoption studies, etc., also shows that genes do matter a lot, so this might be a more general issue across society, even down to the underclass. american liberals always assume that the underclass exists due to economic structural impediments, while american conservatives usually fault cultural structural impediments. but some of it is surely individual attributes not up to the nature of a post-industrial economy. unpalatable, but perhaps true.

    How would this account for the wide discrepancies in social mobility between developed countries? I have a hard time believing income is twice as heritable in the US and UK compared to Canada and Australia. I’ve brought this up a few times here, and so far no one seems to be able to answer it satisfactorily. I’m not discounting genetics as a factor, but I think the data suggests it’s not the dominant factor, at least in the United States. For example: http://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/80702/1/756695473.pdf

    Now, that’s not necessarily good for any sort of left wing narrative either. The author suggests that the growth of the income premium received from tertiary education could be a major factor at work here. Pushing back against the trend of the BA/BSc becoming today’s high school diploma would mean a lot of gnashing of teeth in certain quarters.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    How would this account for the wide discrepancies in social mobility between developed countries? I have a hard time believing income is twice as heritable in the US and UK compared to Canada and Australia.

    in a perfect meritocracy where all the "noise" out of the system is removed social status will be totally heritable. though this final equilibrium seems unlikely to be achieved due to variation in conditions over time. anyway, i didn't say all the results were due to genetics. my point is that individual economic conditions or cultural background might matter less than policy (redistribution), genetics, or other random elements which we can't account for.
  36. @Razib Khan
    the dutch famine is a 'natural experiment.' there's been follow up, and seems to show epigenetic effects. but i think the key here is that modest effects in outcome need FAMINES. i really think people should chill out in terms of how much of an impact on cognition the normal range of nutrition has an effect....

    I would not however discount prenatal stress as unimportant.. have you seen this one? effects of the Quebec Ice Storm “These data provide first evidence in humans supporting the conclusion that PNMS results in a lasting, broad, and functionally organized DNA methylation signature in several tissues in offspring. By using a natural disaster model, we can infer that the epigenetic effects found in Project Ice Storm are due to objective levels of hardship experienced by the pregnant woman rather than to her level of sustained distress.”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25238154 And there was a more general review here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3730125/

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    the link talks about methylation differences. i can believe that (it references the dutch study). but what are the health results?
  37. @CupOfCanada

    OTOH, i think adoption studies, etc., also shows that genes do matter a lot, so this might be a more general issue across society, even down to the underclass. american liberals always assume that the underclass exists due to economic structural impediments, while american conservatives usually fault cultural structural impediments. but some of it is surely individual attributes not up to the nature of a post-industrial economy. unpalatable, but perhaps true.
     
    How would this account for the wide discrepancies in social mobility between developed countries? I have a hard time believing income is twice as heritable in the US and UK compared to Canada and Australia. I've brought this up a few times here, and so far no one seems to be able to answer it satisfactorily. I'm not discounting genetics as a factor, but I think the data suggests it's not the dominant factor, at least in the United States. For example: http://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/80702/1/756695473.pdf

    Now, that's not necessarily good for any sort of left wing narrative either. The author suggests that the growth of the income premium received from tertiary education could be a major factor at work here. Pushing back against the trend of the BA/BSc becoming today's high school diploma would mean a lot of gnashing of teeth in certain quarters.

    How would this account for the wide discrepancies in social mobility between developed countries? I have a hard time believing income is twice as heritable in the US and UK compared to Canada and Australia.

    in a perfect meritocracy where all the “noise” out of the system is removed social status will be totally heritable. though this final equilibrium seems unlikely to be achieved due to variation in conditions over time. anyway, i didn’t say all the results were due to genetics. my point is that individual economic conditions or cultural background might matter less than policy (redistribution), genetics, or other random elements which we can’t account for.

    • Replies: @Kothiru
    I know what some people in HBD sphere might say (OK, most people...) but what is your estimate of the most important factor for outcomes of children? Do you think the distribution of SES might be a result of IQ meritocracy, for example (or any other relevant traits other than IQ ?)
    , @CupOfCanada

    i didn’t say all the results were due to genetics. my point is that individual economic conditions or cultural background might matter less than policy (redistribution), genetics, or other random elements which we can’t account for.
     
    I didn't say none of the results were due to genetics either. One thing I'd point out is that redistribution, economic conditions and culture all interact with one another, often in unhelpful ways. Though I should be clear when I say "culture" I don't mean it in the same sense as some conservatives would, but rather I mean culture for society as a whole. For example the Czech practice of putting Roma children is schools for kids with learning disabilities by default is certainly due to cultural attitudes in the Czech Republic, and unhelpful in any number of ways.

    Have you read Samuel Bowles and Melissa Osborne Groves' work on the subject? I think you'd enjoy them. They tackle this issue head on. Unequal Chances: Family Background and Economic Success is decent on the matter, and each has authored quite a few academic papers on the intergenerational transmission of income. They found ~11% of the intergenerational correlation of income is explained by familiar similarity of personality traits, and a lower amount by the inheritance of IQ. They said that that inheritance of IQ was surprisingly unimportant, but personality and behaviour much more so. I don't want to prattle on too long, but I think it would really fit your eclectic interests well.

    One thing I find really interesting is comparing the Canada and US numbers in this paper (http://ftp.iza.org/dp7520.pdf). In both Canada and the US, if your father was in the bottom 10% of incomes, you have roughly a 7% chance of being in the top 10% yourself. Where we diverge is for the 60th to 90th percentiles - a Canadian who's father was in the bottom 10% is more than twice as likely to end up in the 60th-90th percentile of income than an American born to similar economic circumstances. Even more interesting to me is the fact that an American who's father was in the bottom 10% is more likely to end up in the top 10% than in the 80th-90th percentile. This U shape suggests to me that in both Canada and the US, if you are one of the best and brightest, you have a pretty good shot at success no matter your background. If you're merely above average though...

    Another study you may find interesting: http://leg.ufpr.br/~pedro/papers/bowles_inheritance_of_inequality.pdf Covers some of what I mentioned above. Bowles raises a very good point around the link between genetics and income though, in that which genes predict success may be highly shaped by culture. In apartheid South Africa, there was a huge correlation between skin pigmentation and income. Skin pigmentation is highly heritable, but the reason it predicted higher income was entirely superficial.

    You mentioned assortive mating and final equilibrium conditions - I think it would be really interesting to do a model to see what those final equilibrium conditions would be under different assumptions. In the American/UK context at least, it seems based on the data that policy probably accounts for a majority of the noise, with genetics being one of the lesser factors. In those countries, the variation in a father's income explains ~45-50% of the variation income of the son. In Finland, Denmark and Norway it's in the 15-20% range. If the heritability of income is relatively constant between countries (which I realize could be a bad assumption), I'd think that ~15% or so figure would be a good upper bound.

    So in the American/UK context, how would the equilibrium conditions differ from Finland/Denmark? I'd think in the American/UK context it would take much longer to reach any sort of equilibrium, as environmental factors seem to be much more important there than in the UK/US, and purifying selection much much weaker. In Finland/Denmark genetic components (particularly with respect to personality) would play a relatively larger role, but is assortive mating weaker there? I'd be very interested in your thoughts.
  38. @Helga Vierich
    I would not however discount prenatal stress as unimportant.. have you seen this one? effects of the Quebec Ice Storm “These data provide first evidence in humans supporting the conclusion that PNMS results in a lasting, broad, and functionally organized DNA methylation signature in several tissues in offspring. By using a natural disaster model, we can infer that the epigenetic effects found in Project Ice Storm are due to objective levels of hardship experienced by the pregnant woman rather than to her level of sustained distress."http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25238154 And there was a more general review here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3730125/

    the link talks about methylation differences. i can believe that (it references the dutch study). but what are the health results?

  39. @Razib Khan
    How would this account for the wide discrepancies in social mobility between developed countries? I have a hard time believing income is twice as heritable in the US and UK compared to Canada and Australia.

    in a perfect meritocracy where all the "noise" out of the system is removed social status will be totally heritable. though this final equilibrium seems unlikely to be achieved due to variation in conditions over time. anyway, i didn't say all the results were due to genetics. my point is that individual economic conditions or cultural background might matter less than policy (redistribution), genetics, or other random elements which we can't account for.

    I know what some people in HBD sphere might say (OK, most people…) but what is your estimate of the most important factor for outcomes of children? Do you think the distribution of SES might be a result of IQ meritocracy, for example (or any other relevant traits other than IQ ?)

  40. @Razib Khan
    disagree: t. Another variable, ethnicity, was not surveyed because parent income contributes more to child outcomes than does ethnicity

    wealth, not income, controls for interethnic differences. poor white and asian students have higher SATs than middle class blacks.

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/2999198?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    also, many of these impacts are short/medium term in efficacy. i'm talking mostly about >18 yr stuff, when there is often less lasting outcome. the perry pre-school is the best of these as an example, but the sample was small and non-replicated so far. so jury out.

    “wealth, not income, controls for interethnic differences”

    Maybe, but don´t you think that “wealth”, that can be inherited, is more prone to be affected by luck, while “income” reflects more meritocratic outcomes?

    “many of these impacts are short/medium term in efficacy”

    Interestingly, a lot of studies show this pattern recurring again and again. Are you aware of any general explanation for this besides genetic influence determining “reversal to average”? If theories of “cognitive burdens” have a grain of truth, maybe old age brings a different, and more encompassing, set of preocupations that should impact the availability of processing power for any individual task.

  41. It depends on the outcome you want to measure. For example, I bet how you raise your kids matters a lot if you are measuring fertility.

    • Replies: @JayMan

    It depends on the outcome you want to measure. For example, I bet how you raise your kids matters a lot if you are measuring fertility.
     
    Nope.
  42. @David Boxenhorn
    It depends on the outcome you want to measure. For example, I bet how you raise your kids matters a lot if you are measuring fertility.

    It depends on the outcome you want to measure. For example, I bet how you raise your kids matters a lot if you are measuring fertility.

    Nope.

    • Replies: @David Boxenhorn
    Are you claiming that a child raised as an Amish, Mormon, or Orthodox Jew will have the same fertility (on average) as a child raised as an Atheist or post-modern secular American?
  43. EVERY small decision has enormous outsize consequences, as if children are an experiment in chaos theory

    Which is a misunderstanding of chaos theory. In a chaotic system, like a child, most perturbations will result in not much change. A chaotic system has attractors, and it takes very specific perturbations at exactly the right point to get the system to switch attractors. Otherwise, perturbations will result in slightly different outcomes.

  44. @JayMan

    It depends on the outcome you want to measure. For example, I bet how you raise your kids matters a lot if you are measuring fertility.
     
    Nope.

    Are you claiming that a child raised as an Amish, Mormon, or Orthodox Jew will have the same fertility (on average) as a child raised as an Atheist or post-modern secular American?

    • Replies: @JayMan

    Are you claiming that a child raised as an Amish, Mormon, or Orthodox Jew
     
    Sociologist's fallacy much? What else is different about Amish, Mormons, or Orthodox Jews?

    In the case of the Amish, an outsider kid raised there might not stay long when given the chance to take off, as all Amish kids get.
  45. According to Harris in “The Nurture Assumption”, parents can have influence on how their kids turn out if they succeed in making the family into “the group”. This would mean restricting contact with the larger culture, and providing a fairly thriving culture within the family.

    With Amish, Mormons, a collective effort is made by groups of like-thinking parents to minimize contact with the larger culture and make the collective Amish (etc.) culture into the “group”. It is true however that in this context, while the decision of the parents to raise their kids within the Amish culture does affect the kids massively, the parents as individuals might not be the most influential individuals within the community for their kids. An individual kid might be most influenced by and uncle, cousin, or unrelated individual within that group.

    A lot of Harris’s conclusions seem to me to be descriptive of the particulars of American life rather than generalities about The Role of the Nuclear Family on the Development of Children. Between public schools, the media, the neighborhood, and American pluralism, parents play a relatively small role in the lives of their kids.

    • Replies: @JayMan

    According to Harris in “The Nurture Assumption”, parents can have influence on how their kids turn out if they succeed in making the family into “the group”. This would mean restricting contact with the larger culture, and providing a fairly thriving culture within the family.
     
    Every attempt to find lasting peer effects have turned up nothing.

    Indeed, this very idea was Harris failing to see the implications of the very evidence she touts. If parents could affect children through their choice of neighborhood, then we'd see neighborhood effects in the shared environment, which is in fact nil.

    For the record, behavioral genetic results are consistent where ever we look, which isn't just the U.S., but the other NW Euro countries, and now, more recently, East Asia. It's not something unique to American society.
  46. @David Boxenhorn
    Are you claiming that a child raised as an Amish, Mormon, or Orthodox Jew will have the same fertility (on average) as a child raised as an Atheist or post-modern secular American?

    Are you claiming that a child raised as an Amish, Mormon, or Orthodox Jew

    Sociologist’s fallacy much? What else is different about Amish, Mormons, or Orthodox Jews?

    In the case of the Amish, an outsider kid raised there might not stay long when given the chance to take off, as all Amish kids get.

    • Replies: @David Boxenhorn

    What else is different about Amish, Mormons, or Orthodox Jews?
     
    It doesn't matter. Call it cultural pleiotropy, if you want.
  47. @John Emerson
    According to Harris in "The Nurture Assumption", parents can have influence on how their kids turn out if they succeed in making the family into "the group". This would mean restricting contact with the larger culture, and providing a fairly thriving culture within the family.

    With Amish, Mormons, a collective effort is made by groups of like-thinking parents to minimize contact with the larger culture and make the collective Amish (etc.) culture into the "group". It is true however that in this context, while the decision of the parents to raise their kids within the Amish culture does affect the kids massively, the parents as individuals might not be the most influential individuals within the community for their kids. An individual kid might be most influenced by and uncle, cousin, or unrelated individual within that group.

    A lot of Harris's conclusions seem to me to be descriptive of the particulars of American life rather than generalities about The Role of the Nuclear Family on the Development of Children. Between public schools, the media, the neighborhood, and American pluralism, parents play a relatively small role in the lives of their kids.

    According to Harris in “The Nurture Assumption”, parents can have influence on how their kids turn out if they succeed in making the family into “the group”. This would mean restricting contact with the larger culture, and providing a fairly thriving culture within the family.

    Every attempt to find lasting peer effects have turned up nothing.

    Indeed, this very idea was Harris failing to see the implications of the very evidence she touts. If parents could affect children through their choice of neighborhood, then we’d see neighborhood effects in the shared environment, which is in fact nil.

    For the record, behavioral genetic results are consistent where ever we look, which isn’t just the U.S., but the other NW Euro countries, and now, more recently, East Asia. It’s not something unique to American society.

  48. @Razib Khan
    How would this account for the wide discrepancies in social mobility between developed countries? I have a hard time believing income is twice as heritable in the US and UK compared to Canada and Australia.

    in a perfect meritocracy where all the "noise" out of the system is removed social status will be totally heritable. though this final equilibrium seems unlikely to be achieved due to variation in conditions over time. anyway, i didn't say all the results were due to genetics. my point is that individual economic conditions or cultural background might matter less than policy (redistribution), genetics, or other random elements which we can't account for.

    i didn’t say all the results were due to genetics. my point is that individual economic conditions or cultural background might matter less than policy (redistribution), genetics, or other random elements which we can’t account for.

    I didn’t say none of the results were due to genetics either. One thing I’d point out is that redistribution, economic conditions and culture all interact with one another, often in unhelpful ways. Though I should be clear when I say “culture” I don’t mean it in the same sense as some conservatives would, but rather I mean culture for society as a whole. For example the Czech practice of putting Roma children is schools for kids with learning disabilities by default is certainly due to cultural attitudes in the Czech Republic, and unhelpful in any number of ways.

    Have you read Samuel Bowles and Melissa Osborne Groves’ work on the subject? I think you’d enjoy them. They tackle this issue head on. Unequal Chances: Family Background and Economic Success is decent on the matter, and each has authored quite a few academic papers on the intergenerational transmission of income. They found ~11% of the intergenerational correlation of income is explained by familiar similarity of personality traits, and a lower amount by the inheritance of IQ. They said that that inheritance of IQ was surprisingly unimportant, but personality and behaviour much more so. I don’t want to prattle on too long, but I think it would really fit your eclectic interests well.

    One thing I find really interesting is comparing the Canada and US numbers in this paper (http://ftp.iza.org/dp7520.pdf). In both Canada and the US, if your father was in the bottom 10% of incomes, you have roughly a 7% chance of being in the top 10% yourself. Where we diverge is for the 60th to 90th percentiles – a Canadian who’s father was in the bottom 10% is more than twice as likely to end up in the 60th-90th percentile of income than an American born to similar economic circumstances. Even more interesting to me is the fact that an American who’s father was in the bottom 10% is more likely to end up in the top 10% than in the 80th-90th percentile. This U shape suggests to me that in both Canada and the US, if you are one of the best and brightest, you have a pretty good shot at success no matter your background. If you’re merely above average though…

    Another study you may find interesting: http://leg.ufpr.br/~pedro/papers/bowles_inheritance_of_inequality.pdf Covers some of what I mentioned above. Bowles raises a very good point around the link between genetics and income though, in that which genes predict success may be highly shaped by culture. In apartheid South Africa, there was a huge correlation between skin pigmentation and income. Skin pigmentation is highly heritable, but the reason it predicted higher income was entirely superficial.

    You mentioned assortive mating and final equilibrium conditions – I think it would be really interesting to do a model to see what those final equilibrium conditions would be under different assumptions. In the American/UK context at least, it seems based on the data that policy probably accounts for a majority of the noise, with genetics being one of the lesser factors. In those countries, the variation in a father’s income explains ~45-50% of the variation income of the son. In Finland, Denmark and Norway it’s in the 15-20% range. If the heritability of income is relatively constant between countries (which I realize could be a bad assumption), I’d think that ~15% or so figure would be a good upper bound.

    So in the American/UK context, how would the equilibrium conditions differ from Finland/Denmark? I’d think in the American/UK context it would take much longer to reach any sort of equilibrium, as environmental factors seem to be much more important there than in the UK/US, and purifying selection much much weaker. In Finland/Denmark genetic components (particularly with respect to personality) would play a relatively larger role, but is assortive mating weaker there? I’d be very interested in your thoughts.

  49. @Karl Zimmerman
    For me personally, learning to read was apparently effortless. I don't remember it that well, but some time during kindergarten I learned how to read all on my own (neither my parents, not my school, were instructing me in the matter). When I asked my teacher when I could read, she told me that I would learn to read in first grade. I interpreted this to mean it was wrong of me to read in kindergarten, and thus kept it a secret from everyone. After the last day of school that year, my mother came home to me with a copy of The Economist cracked open. She didn't believe I was actually reading it until I began reading the article aloud.

    My daughter is in kindergarten now, and unlike me is enrolled in a school which is making a serious attempt to have full literacy before entering first grade. She has phonics down, and knows around a hundred sight words, but it's still clearly not enough for her to independently read any books but the really inane phonics ones she sometimes gets for homework. In general, the learning process seems like more of a struggle for her than I remember it being for me (when it comes to reading, she has math down pretty cold) but she has a perfectionist desire to succeed that I've typically lacked, so I'm guessing the higher conscientiousness will win out in the end.

    As to the more general point of the OP, I obviously have views pretty close to your own on parenting, and my wife leans towards the "free range kids" movement (although she refuses to read the Nurture Assumption, which frustrates me). Sadly, our daughter so far has a very dependent, clingy personality. She simply will not play in the yard or the playroom by herself. We've found ourselves having to be increasingly firm with her about not always being her playmate. I've made it my goal this spring to try and find her a few friends within the nearest block or two she can play with, since our new neighborhood is absolutely crawling with kids.

    In general, the learning process seems like more of a struggle for her than I remember it being for me (when it comes to reading, she has math down pretty cold) but she has a perfectionist desire to succeed that I’ve typically lacked, so I’m guessing the higher conscientiousness will win out in the end.

    Don’t worry too much about it. I was a natural reader like you, but most people aren’t and they do fine in school. Things like reading and math are pretty general skills at that level of school anyway, so if you want to teach her something that will give her a bit of an edge for life try some art like music or dancing. It’s much easier to learn that stuff before puberty, and you can enjoy it for the rest of your life.

    My oldest son can read, but unless it’s a comic book or a diagram of some mechanical device he has no interest in it. Just the other day he was complaining to me about how chapter books are “boring,” and here I am, his dad who read Moby Dick in second grade (not that I understood the philosophical meaning and religious metaphors, but I really liked whales at the time). I just said “well, son, some people like them.” His expression suggested that he thought that was a pretty weak defense. Silently, in my heart, I was glad to know that my boy is normal.

    I’ve made it my goal this spring to try and find her a few friends within the nearest block or two she can play with, since our new neighborhood is absolutely crawling with kids.

    Why not make her some friends? It’s easy and fun. Until they’re born, that is…

    But seriously, I can toss the kids out the door and they’ll find a way to keep each other amused. So just have another one. Or two.

  50. “Sociologist’s fallacy much? ”

    Cut the crap. You are making a lot of assertions with great but as far as I can see, unjustified confidence.

    • Replies: @JayMan

    You are making a lot of assertions with great but as far as I can see, unjustified confidence.
     
    How much behavioral genetic research have you looked at?
  51. @JayMan

    Are you claiming that a child raised as an Amish, Mormon, or Orthodox Jew
     
    Sociologist's fallacy much? What else is different about Amish, Mormons, or Orthodox Jews?

    In the case of the Amish, an outsider kid raised there might not stay long when given the chance to take off, as all Amish kids get.

    What else is different about Amish, Mormons, or Orthodox Jews?

    It doesn’t matter. Call it cultural pleiotropy, if you want.

  52. […] On the Whole How You Raise Kids Doesn’t Matter Much – from razib. […]

  53. @John Emerson
    "Sociologist’s fallacy much? "

    Cut the crap. You are making a lot of assertions with great but as far as I can see, unjustified confidence.

    You are making a lot of assertions with great but as far as I can see, unjustified confidence.

    How much behavioral genetic research have you looked at?

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