New research on the debate over nature, nurture, and parenting

The New  York Times reports:

Research has found that lifestyle differences — discipline, consistent mealtimes, reading and television watching — account for some differences between lower- and middle-income children in their readiness for school. But does a wealthier parent who forces a child to practice piano 20 hours a week make a huge difference to her overall well-being? “We don’t really know,” said Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, a professor of child development at Columbia. Paradoxically, the kind of parents who follow debates about parenting — typically more affluent and educated — are those who may have the least to worry about. But there is a group for whom the debate is really important: low-income parents. Differences in parenting can matter a lot to poor, underprivileged children, and research shows that better parenting could help improve their opportunities in many ways…

“In one sense you can say parenting doesn’t matter very much if you’re looking at a bunch of upper-middle-class parents who are all basically good parents,” said Janet Currie, an economist at Columbia University. “Then variations don’t matter. But if you’re looking at people who are in difficult situations and aren’t able to be good parents, then improvements in parenting would make a huge difference. That’s part of the problem with the discussion.”

Paradoxically, the kind of parents who follow debates about parenting — typically more affluent and educated — are those who may have the least to worry about. But there is a group for whom the debate is really important: low-income parents. Differences in parenting can matter a lot to poor, underprivileged children, and research shows that better parenting could help improve their opportunities in many ways.

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