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.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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

  1. pino says:

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

    I’ve always kinda thought that once a parental ‘unit’ satisfies a kind of “Maslow’s Needs” for the kids, it kinda levels off.

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