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 Social Mobility, Parenting and Behaviour

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PostSubject: Social Mobility, Parenting and Behaviour   Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:23 pm

There are some interesting ideas raised in this article.

Despite the fact that it suffers from some of the weaknesses it criticises in others, it does ask questions about how we understand social mobility.

He - Daniel Finkelstein of the Times - suggests that parenting is less influential than genetics and that the role of peers is underestimated in terms of changing or creating behaviours.

He refers to a book by Judith Harris who suggests that the notion that the only important environmental factor is nurture, is factually wrong.

Quote :

The biggest effort we expend as children is fitting in with our peers and finding a place for ourselves among them. It is while rubbing up against our contemporaries that our personalities are formed. There is stunningly little evidence (actually Harris finds none) to suggest that differences in parenting makes any difference to the way that children turn out.

Indeed, while there is a vast literature on parenting skills, and some of it may help with relationships inside families, there is no evidence that any of it works to change the way that children behave outside the home. Gross abuse aside, teaching parents to change their behaviour (to what? no one knows) to change children is liable to be a gigantic wild goose chase.

One of the comments (from Simon in Malaga) reads as follows

Quote :

If it is all down to peers and not adults, then how can the upbringing of children be improved ? By constantly moving them from a school full of maladjusted children (ie most schools) to another school ? If so, then the cycle just continues - because the vast majority of schools now are disasters.

We're not quite in that league yet but the question is valid - how can the upbringing of our children be improved? And more importantly, who, if not the parents, is responsible for it?

Last edited by Kate P on Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:23 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : to highlight link)
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PostSubject: Re: Social Mobility, Parenting and Behaviour   Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:42 pm

I'm not a psychologist (I doubt anyone here is!) so I'm in no way qualified to comment on what the major factors at play are in the development of children. There doesn't however, seem to be a great deal of factually based research presented by the author of the text to back up the theories that he puts forward. That is not to say that they are not true, I would just be interested in reading the evidence.

I spent a year studying psychology as part of my degree and if it taught me anything it was to believe nothing. A two minute search of Google will, no doubt, bring up results saying that the most important factor in the development of a child is its parents, its siblings, its grandparents - probably even its pet animal - such is the multitude of different ways that any study can be conducted.

That said, I am quite sure that peer groups have a huge part to play in the development of children, adults too I would say. From a purely populist perspective, in quoting Brown as stating that social mobility starts in the home, Finkelstein misses a key aspect of British Prime Minister. Namely, the emphasis that he also placed on his schooling years. At his first Labour Party conference as leader he reiterated the effect that his school motto - 'I will do my utmost' - has had on the development of his political ideology, coupled of course with his upbringing in a Presbyterian Manse.

Can you therefore blame the schools for a 'broken society'? It obviously plays a part, but it seems to shift the goalposts away from coming up with a solution to this 'broken society'. One is left with a chicken and an egg scenario, perhaps the attitudes of peer groups in schools, which affect the development of children, are themselves effected by the homes from which the constituent parts of those peer groups have been sent out.

There is, I would say a plethora of different causes for human behaviour which eminate from home life, school life, life outside of school and the media. How can the upbringing of children be improved? Gosh I don't know, I was in nappies not too long ago...
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PostSubject: Re: Social Mobility, Parenting and Behaviour   Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:19 am

It is a good article, however I feel at a disadvantage reading it because I have never heard of the expression 'social mobility' . Maybe someone can help me with that one.

Notwithstanding that, I agree with one of the main points, that it is by no means certain as to the influencing factors in a child's upbringing. I would go along with johnfás there.

johnfás wrote:
There is, I would say a plethora of different causes for human behaviour which eminate from home life, school life, life outside of school and the media.

I would also say that on the notion that the peer group has an effect on behaviour, yes, big time.
I think it has a considerably greater effect on a child than anything a parent says or does. However, if I can go into engineer mode for a second, I would say that parents provide the specification, the peer group determine the function, and can impact greatly on whether the function stays within specification.

I tend to avoid reading stuff or watching TV etc about parenting. Most of it, from what I have witnessed, is contemptible arrogant hogwash. I don't think there is a perfect formula for parenting. I don't think any two parenting situations are the same. And I don't think any two days as a parent are the same.

I do think it's a bit like fly fishing for trout. There are good days when you get stuff right, bad days when you get it wrong, and a hole in your boat days when everything goes completely bananas.

And just like a big trout, you have to let children swim away, before you can reel them in again.
Reel in too fast and your line breaks. Let out too much line, and you get snagged in the reeds.

The prize at the end of it all is a happy capable person, not a PHD bioneurosurgicalmechanic. I think it is important to set the bar at happy capable person, and no higher. I did read somewhere that some of the most important moments in a child's life occur away from the family environment, when they have a private eureka moment that something suddenly makes sense or they can do something they could not do before. I think that's true, primarily because I can remember some of my own eureka moments. Don't ask...

I think I've drifted off topic now so I'll stop there. Though I enjoyed getting those thoughts onto paper, even if they make no sense to anyone.
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PostSubject: Re: Social Mobility, Parenting and Behaviour   Mon Jul 07, 2008 3:55 pm

Thanks for that EVM. And I agree with you about the importance of nurturing happy, capable people.

The issue is, when it comes to kids getting on, is the biggest influence what happens at home and genetics, or the influence of peers?

I'd have to say that my own eureka moments have occurred when I've been far away from peers and family.

Interestingly there's been a social experiment going on Chez Kate P with my mother and two brothers living with me for the last month (and for the foreseeable future). Everyone should do it. I've learned more about myself in the last four weeks than ten years with Ally McBeal's shrink would teach me.
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