Your parenting doesn’t matter as much as you think it does

I really liked Kevin Drum’s take on the latest parenting research.  I think he gets the parental psychology of this all exactly right (and I also like that he tosses aside Justin Wolfers’ bizarre critique):

At the risk of igniting a parenting war—and no, I don’t have children—middle-class parents tend to resolutely reject the idea that their parenting matters a lot less than they think. It’s easy to understand why, but unfortunately, there’s a considerable amount of evidence that parenting styles per se have a surprisingly small impact on the personalities and life outcomes of children. Obviously this doesn’t hold true at the extremes, but for the broad middle it does…

But my experience is that middle-class parents pretty flatly reject this idea. They simply can’t stand the idea that they’re unable to guide their kids in the direction they want. And yet, the number of kids who don’t take after their parents is enormous. Neat parents raise slobs. Quiet parents raise extroverts. Honest parents raise crooks. Pacifist parents raise Army recruits. Bohemian parents raise Wall Street analysts.

So this latest study is probably roughly right. You might not like it, but it’s probably right. And there’s good news here too: Don’t beat yourself up too badly if you think you’re blowing it as a parent. Unless you’re way off the charts, you’re probably doing OK.

Yep.  Of course parenting matters.  Just less than most people like to think it does.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s week in pictures:

A rainbow appears over the lighthouse at Tynemouth this evening as the sun sets

A rainbow appears over the lighthouse at Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear as the sun setsPicture: Owen Humphreys/PA


Psychiatry cannot stop crazy airline pilots (or crazy shooters)

Really liked this piece in the New Yorker about Andreas Lubitz and the limits of psychiatry.  Love this analogy:

Pilots, disaffected adolescents, rapists and murderers, you and I—all of our mental lives may be more like the weather than like billiard balls, determined by innumerable forces that amplify and distort one another in ways that make accurate predictions very difficult. The National Weather Service, despite its supercomputers and satellites, not to mention its thorough understanding of the physics of weather, is often fooled. We clinicians have neither those tools nor that knowledge. To be sure, there are mental disorders in which we know enough of the vectors to say that people who have them should not occupy certain positions. A person prone to delusions should probably not fly an airplane, and a pedophile should not teach children. But these are the exceptions rather than the rule. From all we know so far about Lubitz, he was not one of those severe cases but rather someone who was among the millions of people who once contemplated suicide and was being treated for a mood disorder. It seems that he was too normal to have been identified in advance as someone who could do something so extreme.

It’s human nature to think we can identify what we could have done differently to prevent similar future tragedies, but it’s just not that simple:

It is comforting to think that Lubitz was mentally ill. That would mean, among other things, that wise doctors could have figured out what the problem was and have fixed it, or at least they could identify it in other potential Lubitzes. But it is unlikely that even the best psychiatric evaluation would have prevented the Germanwings disaster. The depravity of the human heart cannot be contained in a vessel as flimsy as a psychiatric diagnosis.

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