Do Parents Matter?; July/August 2009; Scientific American Mind; by Interview by Jonah Lehrer; 4 Page(s)
In 1998 Judith Rich Harris (left), an independent researcher and textbook author, published The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. The book provocatively argued that parents matter much less—at least when it comes to determining the behavior of their children—than is typically assumed. Instead Harris argued that a child's peer group is far more critical. The Nurture Assumption has recently been reissued in an expanded and revised form (Free Press, 2009). Scientific American Mind contributing editor Jonah Lehrer chatted with Harris about her critics, the evolution of her ideas and why teachers can be more important than parents.
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND: Freud famously blamed the problems of the child on the parents. (He was especially hard on mothers.) In The Nurture Assumption, an influential work that was published 10 years ago, you argued that parents are mostly innocent and that peers play a much more influential role. What led you to write the book?