Annie Murphy Paul’s article `Kid stuff: Do parents really matter?` outlines the findings of a highly controversial study on the role of nature and nurture in children’s education. The article states that a group of researchers from George Washington University and the Institute of Psychiatry in London have found that the role of parents is in fact much smaller than originally thought. The destiny of a child depends on the genetic makeup that in turn evokes responses from the environment.
Parental influences can have little effect on the child’s temperament. The type of temperament (sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic, or their combination) is inborn and does not allow of serious later influences. Parents can shape the child’s character, instilling certain cultural values and norms, but they can hardly be expected to a serious influence on the temperament.
Overall, the study covered in Annie Murphy Paul’s article (1998) attributes more importance to the so-called “evocative gene-environment correlations”. She states that these correlations include responses from the environment to a certain genetic composition. This means that a person is in a way “asking” for destiny, using the pre-determined factors to trigger an environmental reaction. Parents under such a perspective only have influence inasmuch they are prompting this reaction, and in the degree their responses can define a child’s development.
In this respect, it would be interesting to consider parental influences on adopted children. In such families, the genetic makeup of parents and kids is completely unrelated, and the effect of genetics could be even greater. The role of parents in any case can consist in mitigating the negative manifestations of the child’s genetic heritage. The more parents can learn about the child’s genetics, the better they can be prepared to develop the child in the right way.
Paul, A.M. (1998, February). Kid stuff: Do parents really matter? Psychology Today 31(1), pp. 46-51.