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January 17, 2011

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william

Or it could all be because, as Judith Rich Harris argues, parents only have two effects on their children: a) genes b) selecting their peer group. In this case, these issues you raise don't end up counting for much, unless they affect children through route (b).

Sue Rochester

I've always thought (based on no scientific evidence whatsoever)that it is stability and continuity that counts. Class also plays a crucial role, in terms of expectations and access to assistance. What one needs to succeed (I think) is a devoted parent, having two may dilute their focus as fathers tend to want all the attention.

Sue Rochester

I've just remembered an article that I read in a newspaper about five years ago. A piece of research showed that it is more traumatic for children to lose a parent through them deserting the marriage/partnership than through death. A least, one knows that a dead parent had no choice where there are and there is no conflict of loyalties etc.

Johnking

Their absence, given a supportive environment, can often be coped with. The presence of an abusive one, or even a well-intentioned but problematic one, is often catastrophic.

Boursin

Life expectancy being what it was in those days, it's no wonder that "Darwin, Newton, Lincoln, Gandhi, Dostoyevsky etc" all lost a parent when young - so did most of their less distinguished contemporaries.

Rowan Davies

Um, isn't the point here that in the children being studied, one parent survives? You've only got to look at the outcomes of children in care to get a quick answer to whether or not parents (or other stable, loving parent-substitutes - who are not easy to come by) matter.

Laban

What Sue said. Daddy dying is different from Daddy going off with someone else.

Something else that can have an effect is childhood illness. I can't remember where I saw a long list of successful adults who'd been seriously ill as children - Joni Mitchell was one. Apparently what doesn't kill does indeed make you stronger.

Sue Rochester

Being an invalid may help some children ie stiffen their resolve, make them more self-sufficient, enable them how to learn and occupy themselves independently, but I still think (based on personal prejudice) that emotional factors are more inmportant. Many children are ill when children (especially in the past) and yet how many of them go on to achieve anything?

patrick

Um, isn't the point here that in the children being studied, one parent survives? You've only got to look at the outcomes of children in care to get a quick answer to whether or not parents (or other stable, loving parent-substitutes - who are not easy to come by) matter.

There's always Matt Ridley's argument (in Nature via Nurture, if I recall) that parenting doesn't make much difference unless it's really bad. That providing a certain basic level of care and competence, you can't do better for your children by being an exceptionally good parent. Whether those in care do badly because the care system doesn't provide adequate parenting, or because, by the time they get there, they have already experienced serious set-backs, isn't clear. Its hard to find kids who didn't go into the care system already somewhat damaged

Homo economicus

Comparing economic outcomes following personal trauma may be a little short sighted. If single income = cheaper housing = poor academic peer group then later life earnings will be affected. If however through scholarships or just a high remaining income children can go on to achieve greatness. The loss may however affect them personally creating streaks of independence or ruthlessness which may be conducive with increased earnings without making them particularly nice people.

meizitang online

True! We all know that both mothers and fathers are important, but mothers are somewhat more important for cognitive skills.

catherine

I come from a pretty abusive background, with one parent that died young. We were very middle class though, plus it was drummed into us that we had to go on and succeed in some way.

All of us have succeeded financially. But whether that actually means we've succeeded emotionally I'm not so sure. I may be different due to abuse but I'd really be wary of basing evidence on this one study (in Sweden). Everyone I know who has lost parents young feels abandoned/seems to have issues with attachment. I'd really, really doubt it's the same as feeling abandoned by your parent going off with another person.

Would you say that to someone who had lost their partner through death? That if they'd been divorced it could be worse?

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