Synopses & Reviews
How much credit do parents deserve when their children turn out well? How much blame when they turn out badly? This electrifying book explodes some of our deepest beliefs about children and parents and gives us something radically new to put in their place. With eloquence and wit, Judith Harris explains why parents have little power to determine the sort of people their children become. It is what children experience outside the home, in the company of their peers, that matters most. Parents don't socialize children: children socialize children.
Yet we cling to the "nurture assumption," our unquestioned belief that, aside from their genes, what makes children turn out the way they do is the way their parents bring them up. This assumption is so deeply embedded in our culture that it underlies everything we are taught about rearing children and everything we believe about the emotional hangups of adults. But that doesn't make it true. Harris looks with a fresh eye at the real lives of real children and shows that the nurture assumption is nothing more than a cultural myth. Why do the children of immigrant parents end up speaking in the language and accent of their peers, not of their parents? Why are twins reared together no more alike than twins raised apart? Why does a boy who spends his first eight years with a nanny and his next ten years in boarding school nevertheless turn out just like his father? The nurture assumption cannot provide an answer to these questions. Judith Harris can.
Using examples from folklore and literature as well as from scientific research, Harris shows us the world of childhood in all its richness and complexity. Relationships with parents and siblings are always important, but they vary from culture to culture. One aspect of childhood, however, is universal: the children's peer group. With a range that extends from the Yanomamö of the Brazilian rainforest to deaf Nicaraguan children learning to communicate for the very first time, Harris demonstrates the power peer groups have in shaping the lives of children. Along the way, we see that many cherished notions -- such as the idea that early mother-child attachments set the pattern for later relationships -- fail to explain what happens to real children, or to a girl named Cinderella, whose miserable home life did not keep her from being a great success in the world outside her cottage.
Harris has a message that will change parents' lives: they have been sold a bill of goods. Parenting does not match its widely publicized job description. It is a job in which sincerity and hard work do not guarantee success. Through no fault of their own, good parents sometimes have bad kids. Harris offers parents wise counsel on what they can and cannot do, and relief from guilt for those whose best efforts have somehow failed to produce a happy, well-behaved, self-confident child.
The Nurture Assumption is a profound work that brings together insights from psychology, sociology, anthropology, primatology, and evolutionary biology to offer a startling new view of who we are and how we got that way.
From the Foreword by Steven Pinker
Professor of Psychology, Massachusetts, Institute of Technology, author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works
The Nurture Assumption is truly rare. Though its thesis is at first counter-intuitive, one gets a sense of real children and parents walking through these pages....Being among the first to read this electrifying book has been one of the high points of my career as a psychologist. One seldom sees a work that is at once scholarly, revolutionary, insightful, and wonderfully clear and witty....I predict it will come to be seen as a turning point in the history of psychology.
John T. Bruer
President of the the James S. McDonnell Foundation, author of The Myth of The First Three Years
The Nurture Assumption is a stunning book....Judith Harris shows how in thinking about child development we are trapped in a maze created by our uncritical acceptance of entrenched beliefs and biases. She questions our fundamental assumptions about nurture and child development. The result is a new perspective that provides a thread we can follow to escape the maze. It's a thread that anyone interested in child development could follow to their own and their children's benefit.
David T. Lykken
Professor of Psychology, Univeristy of Minnesota, author of A Tremor in the Blood and The Antisocial Personalities
I cannot remember another book that has forced me to (almost) completely change my mind about an important psychological issue -- and certainly none that I have so much enjoyed reading. Judith Harris's The Nurture Assumption is a paradigm shifter, which sounds like heavy work and yet she somehow makes
"A graceful, lucid, and utterly persuasive assault on virtually every tenet of child development." -- Malcolm Gladwell, andlt;iandgt;The New Yorkerandlt;/iandgt;
"Ten years on, this book stands as a landmark in the history of psychology -- and a cracking good read." -- Steven Pinker
This groundbreaking book, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and andlt;Iandgt;New York Timesandlt;/Iandgt; notable pick, rattled the psychological establishment when it was first published in 1998 by claiming that parents have little impact on their children's development. In this tenth anniversary edition of andlt;Iandgt;The Nurture Assumptionandlt;/Iandgt;, Judith Harris has updated material throughout and provided a fresh introduction.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Combining insights from psychology, sociology, anthropology, primatology, and evolutionary biology, she explains how and why the tendency of children to take cues from their peers works to their evolutionary advantage. This electrifying book explodes many of our unquestioned beliefs about children and parents and gives us a radically new view of childhood.
About the Author
andlt;bandgt;Judith Rich Harrisandlt;/bandgt; is the author of andlt;iandgt;No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality andlt;/iandgt;. A former writer of college textbooks, Harris is a recipient of a George A. Miller award, given to the author of an outstanding article in psychology. She is an independent investigator and theoretician whose interests include evolutionary psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology, and behavioral genetics.
Table of Contents
andlt;Bandgt;CONTENTSandlt;/Bandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;Foreword by Steven Pinkerandlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;Preface andlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;1 "Nurture" Is Not the Same as "Environment"andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;2 The Nature (and Nurture) of the Evidenceandlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;3 Nature, Nurture, and None of the Aboveandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;4 Separate Worldsandlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;5 Other Times, Other Placesandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;6 Human Natureandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;7 Us and Themandlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;8 In the Company of Childrenandlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;9 The Transmission of Cultureandlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;10 Gender Rulesandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;11 Schools of Childrenandlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;12 Growing Upandlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;13 Dysfunctional Families and Problem Kidsandlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;14 What Parents Can Doandlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;15 The Nurture Assumption on Trial andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;Appendixesandlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;1 Personality and Birth Orderandlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;2 Testing Theories of Child Developmentandlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;Notes andlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;Referencesandlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;Index andlt;/Iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;