Saturday, January 9, 2010

Nature vs Nurture or (Parenting vs Genetics)

Where do our personal characteristics (personality, intelligence, feelings, talents) come from? Is it our genes or the environment that we were raised in? This is an interesting topic that is really important to read about specially if you're a parent. Studies suggest that genes are important and are responsible for around 50% of your child's personality. And because they are important, it means that different parenting methods are required for different children.

In his book Freakonomics, Levitt studies the relationship between parents' characteristics and test scores. Levitt wants to show that it's not always parenting, taking your kid to museums doesn't necessarily mean that your child will score better at school. Levitt shows that the factors, which were correlated with test scores, had to do with what parents are while the factors that didn't matter were related to what parents do.

Some of the factors that did matter:
The child's has highly educated parents.
The child's parents have high socioeconomic status.
The child's mother was 30 years or older at the time of the first child's birth.
The child has many books at home.

Some of the factors that didn't matter:
The child is regulary spanked.
The child's parents read to him nearly every day.
The child's parents recently moved into a better neighborhood.
The child's mother didn't work work between birth and kindergarten.

Levitt goes on to explain each and every factor (he takes the factors two by two). I enjoyed reading the analysis and the chapter was really interesting.

More on the topic:
Freakonomics, Chapter 5: What makes a perfect parent?


Bloggylife said...

I had to Google "socioeconomic" ashwaaa it has nothing to do with social skills :P that is if I decide to have kids someday .. :P

Bashar said...

I can call that post a spoiler :)

I'll postpone reading it for few months till I read the book!

The mention of what factors play into your personality reminds me of great documentary I saw. I thought it was non-sense, but turned one of the greatest. It's about the study of what some scientists believe to be more crucial to our final outcome than genes. It's something that sets on top of genes, and controls them like switches, on & off. It's called epigenetic.

Documentary is "Ghost in your genes"

Haider said...

Very interesting, Nemo.

I'm currently reading the book Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman. While I haven't come across anything to do with parenting and its influences (yet), I would say that it's important to not simply look at standard intelligence tests and academic performance when evaluating parenting styles.

Emotional intelligence (how adequate our emotional responses are to life's challenges) is extremely important, and I would say that this is highly influenced by the example parents set and how they treat their children. In fact, this has an enormous influence on a child's character building and personality.

I never knew Freakonomics dealt with these things (actually, I never knew what the hell Freakonomics was all about!). I should definitely check it out!

Nemo said...

bloggylife: LOL!

Bashar: sorry :p i'll search for the documentary tonight :) thanks for mentioning it :))

Haider: Thanks! you reminded of what i wanted to read .. my boss recommended this book few months ago but i totally forgot about it.

* i agree with u, parenting for sure is not only about scoring at tests, there are so many other aspects.

Mix said...

These topics really interest me.

Its worth remembering that, according to the research, this theory applies to only 50% of the child's personality.

In other words the other 50% of the child's personality CAN actually be influenced by other external influences (like HOW and WHAT the parent does for the child).

Still I suppose the theory is useful (dare I say comforting !) for people who are looking for a reason at why they may not be successful accademically.

Anonymous said...

really interesting! I think its a mixture of all..parenting, surrounding, friends etc..

Nemo said...

Mix: i love these topics too, but i don't think its comforting .. i think its disappointing somehow

Amu: yeah it is a mixture

Mr. Mo said...

There's actually a new Freakonomics book out already but it was banned in Kuwait because of its title. I'm getting my copy from Lebanon. Here's the link:

Nemo said...

Thanks, I saw the book. i will probably buy it on my kindle :)

r u into e-readers?

Mr. Mo said...

No I'm more of a traditional reader, I just love grabbing a book physically and reading from it. I have a lot of ebooks but it just doesn't feel the same.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.