For decades, millions of parents have been told that they are primarily responsible for things gone wrong with their children. Mothers and fathers have internalized this message, producing an unrealistic and damaging sense of guilt, and even betrayal. Parents do affect their children, but how much? Our children are not born as blank slates. They come to us encrypted with their own predilections, biases, strengths, and weaknesses, many of which are as beyond the control of parents as determining their child's gender or eye color. Here, for the first time, is a scientifically grounded examination of the controversial idea that nature—in the form of genetic blueprints—may have far more influence on how children develop than a particular style of parenting. Parents reeling from the idea that they don't have much impact on how their children think, feel, and behave, will find both surprise and comfort in psychologist David Cohen's riveting account of the importance, and limits, of inborn traits.
Dr. Cohen weaves together a rich tapestry of research in behavioral genetics to illustrate the degree to which biology, rather than parenting, can impact a child's personality, values, and aptitudes. Identical twins separated at birth are reunited in mid-life to discover that they both drive the same car, have held the same jobs, named their sons James, and married women with the same first name not once—but twice. Yet siblings reared together in the same family environment often grow up to have very different interests, abilities, and beliefs. The nurture correlation between good parenting and child development fails to explain how, of two children raised in a loving and supportive home, one grows up to be a pillar of the community, while the other becomes a drug abuser. Parents have been blamed for problems ranging from antisocial behavior to autism to schizophrenia—disorders which Dr. Cohen reveals have a strong genetic component. On the flip side, parents who weren't able to give their offspring a consistently safe and supportive home environment have happily taken the credit when their children grow up to be well-adjusted, hard-working members of society.
The truth of the matter is that, if sufficiently strong, inborn potentials can trump parental influence, no matter how positive or negative. Some traits manifest themselves in such unexpected and uncontrollable ways that, for better or for worse, one's child may indeed seem like a perfect stranger.
Stranger in the Nest puts a human face on the ages—old nature—nurture debate, providing a gripping, scientifically grounded examination of parental influence on children's development. Any parent who has ever questioned what he or she did wrong—or right—must read this book.
PRAISE FOR STRANGER IN THE NEST..."...rich with fascinating facts and excellent examples of how children develop more in obedience to their genetic steersman that to the influence of their parents. Scholarly, yet beautifully written and a joy to read." —David T. Lykken, University of Minnesota and author of Happiness For decades, "... a book that turns its own pages. I could not put it down. Elegantly written, erudite, witty, informative, and bursting with new ideas, it challenges many of the core assumptions of modern psychology." —Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr., University of Minnesota.
"A delightfully written book filled with new insights about relations between parents and their children. [Dr.] Cohen has a unique ability to blend new scientific findings with a writing style that deeply engages the reader. No one will come away thinking about families in the same way." —David M. Buss, University of Texas at Austin, — and author of The Evolution of Desire.
"A scientific revolution has begun in our understanding of what makes us what we are. Genes matter more than anyone had thought... Sensitive, intelligent, and provocative, this book will challenge you to reexamine the way you think about yourself and your fellow human beings." —Steven Pinker, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works.
"Required reading for all students of the art and science of parenting." —Allan Hobson, Harvard Medical School, and author of The Chemistry of Conscious States: How the Brain Changes its Mind.
"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.
DAVID B. COHEN, PhD, received his bachelor's degree from Columbia College, and trained as a psychologist at the University of Michigan. He is currently a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. For the last two decades, he has researched the impact of biological factors on personality. He is the author of three previous books, including Out of the Blue: Depression and Human Nature.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
(From the Introduction) I was barely a toddler when my father began taking me for walks on Ocean Parkway. A few blocks from our apartment house the street gently rose over a pair of tracks, allowing free passage underneath for the lumbering freight trains of the Long Island railroad as they snaked through Brooklyn. My father would hold me firmly, patiently, just above an iron barrier from whose vantage I could see undulating cars that would disappear or emerge below us.
I loved the weekend ritual, taking walks and watching from our side of the street to see what he called the "Saturday train," and on the next day crossing to the other side of the Parkway to see the "Sunday train." It didn't matter that they were the same trains, coming and going, viewed from either side of the street because each was a distinct experience separated in time and space by crossing over the wide and busy roadway, a journey not to be taken lightly by a two-year-old.
Ocean Parkway was a busy eight-lane boulevard lined with rows of magnificent maples and sycamores that in some places met in the center to form a leafy canopy. Our apartment building was separated from buildings on the far side, not only by the great distance and natural obstructions, but by man-made divisions. These divisions began on our side with a single-lane service road after which came a bridle path and six traffic-filled lanes of main thoroughfare. Beyond were a bicycle path and sidewalk with benches followed by a service lane at the far side. During my childhood, I rarely ventured beyond the bike path to the Sunday side.
The Saturday side was the boundary that marked my territory where I lived and played and, for the briefest time, watched the trains. Now there is only silence with a trashy clutter of weeds and litter that marks the rusting tracks, giving the scene a melancholy quality. Thus mocked, old memories of sunny days and noisy trains nevertheless coalesce around an idea about the two sides of that street overlooking the tracks, not as they were but as a metaphor for two ways of looking at human behavior: one familiar, the other less so yet more intriguing. And another thought: we can stick to familiar territory or we can venture out and explore new ground.
(From Chapter 1) After a lecture on using adoptees to study the genetic basis of individual differences, a student showed up at my office. He wanted to talk about something mentioned in class about the genetic influence. All his life he had felt different, as if he didn't fit in. An adoptively reared person, he was nothing like his brothers and sisters. Unlike them, he liked to tinker with electronics. Indeed, despite years of sharing the same parents and family experiences with his adoptive siblings, he was the odd man out, but only until he discovered his biological family and two brothers who were tinkerers just like him. His obvious delight was with himself, his discovery, and its meaningful connection to the lecture he had just heard. He wasn't merely corroborating an idea about the genetic influence on individuality. He was sharing the pleasure of experiencing a personal and universal truth.
(From Chapter 2) The idea that certain traits run in families for strong genetic reasons has enormous implications, one of which is about the historical tradition of blaming parents, especially mothers, for their child's emotional problems and mental illness. Parent blaming reflects a common inclination to exaggerate parents' responsibility for a child's ways of being-likewise parents' inclination to accept responsibility-even where such inclinations are scientifically unjustified. Recognizing the genetic factor in behavior provides a much needed antidote to this inclination.
(From Chapter 4) Children's behavior, even if incompatible with temperament, can be shaped by parental example and reinforced by physical and moral suasion; civilized conduct and educational achievement can be promoted even when learning self-control and good conduct is as daunting as learning to multiply by seven.
But what does the learned behavior represent: something deep and abiding or something superficial and evanescent . . . . Marionette accommodations, often acquired at great psychological cost in rebellion and unhappiness, have a way of unraveling, as children diverge from their siblings and from what, over many years, their parents expected and required.
Truth is . . . individuals learn best in their own way, assimilating information as they assimilate food, by breaking it down into elements that are recreated in their own fashion. It is why, even when exposed to the same conditions, biologically different people wind up different, and also why, even when exposed to different conditions, biologically similar people wind up similar. It is what limits the influence of parents.
(From Chapter 6) Parents use rewards and punishments to make their children conform to their standards and expectations. But what if apparent rewards do not actually reinforce, and what if apparent punishments do not actually inhibit, either a current behavior or psychological development? Consider an important but little appreciated statistical fact of life: bright parents have less bright children and dull parents have brighter children. How could this be if children are as greatly influenced by their rearing environment as we commonly suppose?
(From Chapter 9) Failing to learn from the negative consequences of their acts, some individuals engage in antisocial behaviors that defy sociological explanation. But the problem is not just the antisocial behavior of criminals brutally reared and thriving in poor neighborhoods; it is also the antisocial behavior of sophisticated criminals lovingly reared with all the advantages of decent parents, good families, and safe neighborhoods. The worst are the mass murderers like Ted Bundy and Kenneth Bianchi, the Hillside Strangler, of whom clinical psychologist Margaret Singer once opined: they are simply evil.
(From Chapter 11) Despite the power of genetic influence on human behavior-despite even the power of social influences-there will be many surprises along the way. The genes may be an excellent guide, but they are no guarantee of exactly how a person will turn out, which is why, despite their identical genes and shared social environments, despite being treated alike, even identical twins reared together can differ in one or another trait.
(From Chapter 12) Imagine a valid suicide test, valid because, compared to others, suicides get high scores on the test; they tend to endorse questions about isolation, prior suicide attempts, depressed and hopeless feelings, and depressed and suicidal relatives. Naturally, one predicts that many more high-scorers than low scorers will wind up killing themselves during some specified time, say, within a year. Strange to say, that prediction will likely fail. In one study, none of 46 suicides eventually identified in a group of almost 2000 people proved to have been the highest scorers on such a test. Here is a real-world example of a valid test that characterizes suicides but can't predict correctly who will commit the act-this, even though the potential is highly heritable.
(From Chapter 13) When and how long must children be forced to learn the piano, to read certain books, to visit museums-all for their own good? Should they be forced to interact more with friends, again for their own good? How does one know what's really best for them as individual persons, apart from the obvious, that they must be at least minimally civilized and educated? And one other question: how does one know when to keep pushing and when to back off?
(From the notes to Chapter 1) College students can be induced by researchers to do even bizarre things they wouldn't imagine doing under ordinary situations. Asked to role-play a person accused of murdering three women, they can, while under hypnosis, act like someone with multiple personality disorder. Without coaching, some of them display different personalities, each with its own name. They even claim amnesia for the interviews done during hypnosis during which they had mostly denied, but eventually admitted, having carried out the murder. The point, though, is that making something happen under controlled conditions in the laboratory supposedly means we know something about how it happens in the real world, but is this necessarily so? Getting people to quack like ducks, even to believe under hypnosis that they are ducks, doesn't make them ducks, for there is more decoy than duck in their behavior. With hypnotic instructions, one can get college students to simulate multiple personality; so too with teaching gimmicks, one can get them to solve quadratic equations. Yet, does any of this explain real-world individual differences, why some people are so disposed to multiple personality or why others are so mathematically gifted?
(From the notes to Chapter 11) Would it be ethically proper that a young clone would have to witness his considerably older identical twin going through the processes of aging, disease, and death, in a very real sense to witness his own physical destiny? Wouldn't that take some of the mystery out of life; worse, wouldn't it make it harder for the clone to deny vulnerability and mortality, something everyone else gets to do despite seeing a parent in decline?
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