Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Nature Versus Nurture?

I got inspired by this video for this post from a blogger named I Read Banned Books thanks!

Here are the eight factors that are strongly corelated with test scores in school:

The child has highly educated parents.

The child's parents have high socioeconomic status.

The child's mother was thirty or older at the time of her first child's birth.

The child had low birthweight.

The child's parents speak English in the home.

The child is adopted.

The parent's are involved in the PTA.

The child has many books in the home.

Now two by two

Matters:The child has highly educated parents.
Doesn't: The child's family is intact.

Matters: The child's parents have high socioeconomic status.
Doesn't: The child's parents recently moved into a better neighbourhood.

Matters: The child's mother was thirty or older at the time of the birth of her first child.
Doesn't: The child's mother didn't work between birth and kindergarten.

Matters: The child had low birthweight.
Doesn't: The child attended Head Start.

Matters: The child's parents speak English in the home.
Doesn't: The child's parents take him to museums.

Matters: The child is adopted.
Doesn't: The child is spanked.

Matters: The child's parents are involved in the PTA.
Doesn't: The child frequently watches television.

Matters: The child has many books in his home.
Doesn't: The child's parents read to him regularily.

What does this tell us? A couple of things.

1) That although parents "matter" they don't matter in the way that we've been saying in mainstream literature and in pop psych books or parenting manuals.

2) It demonstrates that who parents are is a more important factor in children's performance at school than what parents do. This rejects the commonly held notions. I think it also is a great benenfit because it gives hope to childrenfrom families with abuse...they are not destined to become thir parents...we are not written in stone. And for those many parents who are stressed about what kind of parents to be...the stats show what you do may not be as tramatic to child development as we all fear.

From Freakonomics To overgeneralize a bit, the first list describes things that parents are; the second list describes things parents do. Parents who are well educated, successful, and healthy tend to have children who test well in school; but it doesn't seem to much matter whether a child is trotted off to museums or spanked or sent to Head Start or frequently read to or plopped in front of the television.

I will post some breakdowns of evaluations of these statistics in the comments below okay?

Thursday Thirteen Edition#75.

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Candy Minx said...

Matters: The child is adopted.
Doesn't: The child is spanked.

There is a strong corelation-a negative one- between adoption and school test scores. Why? Studies have shown that a child's academic abilities are far more influenced by the IOs of biological parents than the IQs of his adoptive parents, and mothers who give up their children for adoption tend to have significantly lower IQs than the people doing the adopting. There is another explanation for low-achieving adoptees which, though it may seem distasteful, jibes with the basic economic theoroy of self-interest: a woman who knows she will put her baby up for adoption may not take the same prenatal care as a woman who is keeping her baby. (Consider-at the risk of furthering the distasteful thinking-how you treat a car you own versus a car you are renting for the weekend).

But if an adopted baby is prone to lower test scores, a spanked child is not. This may seem surprising- not because spanking itself is neccessarily detrimental but because, conventionally speaking, spanking is considered an unenlightened practice.

Candy Minx said...

Matters: The child has many books in his home. Doesn't: The child's parents read to him regularily.

As noted earlier, a child with many books in the home has indeed been found to do well on test scores. But regularily reading to a child doesn't affect their test scores.

this would seem to present a riddle. It bounces us back to our original question: just how much, and in what ways, ddo parents matter?

Let's start with the positive corelation: books in the home equal higher test scores. Most people would look at this corelation and infer an obvious cause-and-effect relationship. To wit: a litle boy named Isaiah has a lot of books at home:Isaiah does beautifully on his reading test at school; this must be because his mother or father regularily reads to him. But Isaiah's friendEmily, who also has a lot fo books at home, practically never touches them. She would rather dress up her Bratz or watch cartoons. And Emily tests as well as Isaiah. Meanwhile, Isaiah and Emily 's friend Ricky doesn't have any books at home. But Ricky goes to the library every day with his mother:Ricky is a reading fiend. And yet he does worse on his school tests than either Emily or Isaiah.

What are we to make of this? If reading books doesn't have an impact on early childhood test scores, could it be that books mere physical presence in the house makes the children smarter? Do books perform some kind of magical osmosis on a child's brain? If so, one might be tempted to simply deliver a truckload of books to every home that contains a preschooler.

Candy Minx said...

But this is not to say that parents don't matter. Plainly they matter a great deal. Here is the conundrum: by the time most people pick up a parenting book, it is far too late. Most of the things that matter were decidedlong ago-who you are, whom you married, what kind of life you lead. Ifyou are smart, hardworking, well educated, well paid, and married to someone equally fortunate, then your children are more likely to suceed. (Nor does it hurt in all likihood, to be honest, thoughful, loving and curious about the world). But it isn't so much a matter of what you do as a parent; it's who you are. In this regard, an overbearing parent is a lot like a political candidate who believes that money wins elections, whereas in truth, all the money in the world can't get a candidate elected if the voters don't like him to start with.

IN a paper entitled "The Nature and Nurture of Economic Outcomes" the economist Bruce Sacerdote addressed the nature-nurture debate by taking a long-term quantitative look at the effects of parenting. He used three adoptive studies, two American and one British, each of them containing in-depth data about the adopted children, their paretns, and their biological parents. Sacerdote found that parents who adopted children are typically smarter, better educated, and more highly paid than the baby's biological parents. But the adoptive parent's advantages had little bearing on the child's school performances. As also seen in the ECLS data, adopted children test regularily poorly in school; any influence the adoptive parents might exert is seemingly outweighed by the force of genetics. But, Sacerdote found, the parents were not powerless forever. By the time the adopted children became adults, they had veered sharply from the destiny that IQ alone might have predicted. Compared to similar children who were not put up for adoption, the adoptees were far more likely to attend college, to have well paid jobs, andto wait until they were out of their teens before getting married. It was the influence of the adopted parents, Sacerdote concluded, that made the difference.

SandyCarlson said...

Very interesting. Thanks for these numbers. I'm intrigued by the nature v. nurture aspects of this. I guess it's really more nature and nurture.

Shesawriter said...

Learn something new everyday. I'm especially intrigued by the factoid about parental education and English speaking. VERY interesting.

My Thursday Thirteen #3

Samantha_K said...

That was really fascinating. Now I have some conversation fuel, thanks!
Happy TT!

Candy Minx said...

Thanks to everyone here for reading such a long and intense installment for TT list!!!! does seem to lean towards nature than nurture doesn't it? It's kind of fun.

She's a writer...I was surprised by the English speaking at home these stats were gathered from the U.S. Department of Education and ESLC programs and it's going to have a North American bias. Perhaps speaking the language of the country whatever it is...that the child goes to school in is the variable.

Samantha K...oh yes, you'll wow your friends at the upcoming Festivus parties with this kind of info ha ha!

Sandee said...

How cool. I really liked the McDonalds video. Had dad getting into the act.

Very interesting and I agree. I've seen kids come from horrible homes an turn out just fine. Very well done. Have a great TT. :)

Candy Minx said...

Thanks Sanee, yes...I like the idea that we aren't stuck by our biology or potential poor habits of parents...but pick and choose eventually Perhaps? It sounds like such reading the further studies of adoptive families. The McDonalds commercial cracks me up even though I do not like the company!

Nicholas said...

Very interesting. This is the sort of TT I like to tread more than once, and take it all in, so I've bookmarked this for later.

Greatfullivin said...

Question of the day isn't it, nature vs nurture. I see where the video would spark your inspiration to delve in. I think it is both. Great TT and lots to think about, Thanks!

pussreboots said...

You're the second person writing on that list today. Interesting take for a TT.

Angela said...

The book one is definitely bizarre, probably not magical osmosis... My guess is the type of people that like to collect books tend to test well. I had tons of books at home growing up, but not so many as an adult as I prefer to set the free (so few I need to look at more than once). Maybe I need to rethink that for my kids' sake!

Malcolm said...

These were some interesting facts. As for those of us who took the quiz earlier this week, thanks for not keeping us in suspense for too long.

I saw the McDonald's commercial for the first time last week... funny stuff.

DoubleDeckerBusGuy said...

Not to be a doubting Thomas, but I'd like to see the entire criteria behind the questions... because some of the data don't add up to other data I know about...

FOR THE RECORD, however, I do agree with almost all the data... but I'd still like to see what the criteria is...

Anonymous said...

You rock! This was one great TT, probably one of the best I've ever seen.

Mine's Up Here!

Natalie said...

Interesting stuff! I hope the fact that I was 26 when I had my first doesn't screw my kids over. I wonder why that one makes a difference. Hmmmm...
My Thursday Thirteen is up too! :)

Crimson Wife said...

Interesting, but as my college statistics professor used to say "correlation does not equal causation."

For example, let's take statistic about it not mattering if the mom worked while the child was young. We know for a fact that the more education a woman has, the more likely she is to continue working after she has a child. Also, dual-income families on average make more money. So, it's not a fair comparison to look at test scores of kids with SAHM's vs. kids with working moms unless one controls for those confounding factors.

♥.Trish.♥ Drumboys said...

very interesting - we have an adopted child and I understand a lot of what you have presented. Genetics matters.
Also, the notion of IQ's and prenatal care would have a bearing on such children.

Candy Minx said...

Baby Amore...I hope you took the time to read the continued factors I included in the above comments. Adoptive families over the long haul are generally more successful than non-adoptee families.

Anonymous said...

As an educator, a parent, and a lifelong learner, I could not agree with you more. Well said.

Thank you for the link love.

Feel free to stop by and check out my "true dat" Cajun superstitions edition.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow -- absolutely fascinating stuff. And you know, the stats on adoptive families don't surprise me.

Some people who become parents the biological way haven't put much thought into reproducing, i.e. the babies who "just happen" because somebody forgot about birth control, etc., whereas adoptive parents have generally thought a great deal about what they're taking on -- a lifetime role of responsibility for another human being, not something which "just happened."

If I'm making any sense. :)

Deanna @ Collectors' Quest said...

I'm going to have to hook this up at my personal mommie blog! It's quite a bit to digest, so I'll make a post and do that properly.

Happy TT!

(And thanks for visiting me the other week for TT -- I really appreciated your comments!)

Jenny McB said...

I agree with the information about adoptions--but I was going with the nurture influence of a family that wants a child. As a sped teacher, I noticed that we had a few children from Russian adoptions with severe learning disabilities. However, without the love and support of their adoptive families, the outcomes would be worse for these children. Boy, I could go on, but these all give me food for thought.

Darla said...

Fascinating facts, Candy. I was initially confused because I'd thought they were all positive correlations--I was trying to figure out why low birthweight would lead to a child having high test scores. *sigh* It's been a long week. :)

Which kind of correlation is it for the older mothers? I can't figure out whether it's a positive one, because of the highly educated, high socioeconomic status parents wait longer to have children, or if it's negative, because of the increased risk of birth defects such as Down's syndrome with age.

Depending on which way that one goes, though, and how high "high socioeconomic status" is, my kids ought to be geniuses. So how come they're still getting some B's along with all those A's? ;-)

Gardenia said...

Very interesting! I do wonder if Asian families whose second language is English fall into this category. Many of these kids are high achievers and at the top in their schools.

One of my children came out of the "Spock" era - I would like to do that one over again.

Well, this research may relieve some of the poor children whose schedules are so overloaded, these children also the subject of much speculation. Maybe this study will convince some parents that lessons, lessons, and more lessons, are not necessary for a successful outcome.

Anonymous said...

I'm not calling BS, but I'd like to read a rebuttal from someone who really knows how to do it. The Freakonomics conclusions are clear, I'd just have to know whether their methodology is sound. ("Lies, damned lies, and statistics," as the saying goes.)

tweetey30 said...

But now a days you arent allowed to spank your child and then they run all over you. You know my girls get a good spanking if they need it and they know they did something wrong if they did get a spanking. I am not a perfect parent here but I will not let my children run all over me and for those of you that dont have to spank your child(ren) because they listen without that is great. But sometimes you have to show a child whose in charge or they will run your lives and I for one will not let that happen. Sorry Candy for the rant here.

Anonymous said...

I had none of the "matters" things in my household growing up and I think I turned out okay (not great, but okay). I'm not the norm though.

Unknown said...

You put an incredible amount of time and thought into this week's TT and you deserve a moment of applause.
I love that commercial.
These are the arguments that stress me
Penelope Anne

damozel said...

Great T13. I was surprised by some of the statistics. I think it shows how very far we all are from understanding the factors that go into learning and education. I suspect that the "nurture" factors matter less to children who by nature have whatever combination of traits makes them readily receptive to new information, curious, quick to process information, etc. I think probably nurture matters more for children who aren't all that gifted.

But the one thing I'm pretty sure about is that there is only so much a parent can do to control the outcome and that it's way less than many would like to believe....

Julia Phillips Smith said...

As a non-parent but a former nanny, I found your TT completely fascinating. The aspect of nurture may have a bit more to bear than seems obvious in these statistics, since something very special is passed along through nurture rather than nature: a person's EQ, or Emotional Quotient. What that person does with their inborn genetic tendencies has everything to do with learned modelling behavior at home.

I've personally noticed a large trend toward super-smart kids among my peers' children, and have come to the conclusion that it must be the prenatal care that tips that balance. Sure, my friends are intelligent, but not THAT intelligent! But their kids sure are. Just think of the prenatal vitamins, the huge range of nutritious food available nowadays and the info most moms-to-be have at their fingertips. When my mom was in utero, my grandmother was lucky to eat oranges once a year at Christmas time. Makes a difference.

* (asterisk) said...

Interesting stuff, even for a non-breeder like myself. I've always believed a good spanking never harmed anyone! I fear there's too little discipline at home and at school these days.