Here’s a page with info about the first and most famous of the twin studies:
So with this idea, that it takes genetics AND environment to produce an organism, and with the strong results that have been famously reported from the twin studies, I infer that the environments in the disparate homes these twins were adopted out to must be in fact far more similar than they are different from one another. What I am setting this up against is some of the ideas I have encountered during my time blogging and having online discussions about parenting, ideas like:
– Some people nowadays let their kids do whatever they want
– People don’t hit their kids anymore
– The problems with kids nowadays are because they aren’t taught respect
It’s a pretty short list, I guess, but these ideas come in many forms. Of course, anyone who’s seen my stuff before knows where I’m at on this subject – spoiler alert! I don’t think kids should ever be punished, for anything – but the point I’m after here is a little different. The point I’m after is that many “normally” authoritative parents seem to believe that there is some large group of parents out there who aren’t fulfilling their responsibilities to civilize their children, that there is some sizeable group of people who don’t discipline their kids, parents who do not offer some reinforcement intended to teach their kids respect, and right from wrong – and that this idea is for the most part untrue.
It’s not my idea – these parents attribute some power to environmental influences, they assume that the presence or absence of discipline (punishment) to be an important environmental difference, and they intuit that this difference is what makes the difference in the success of their parenting and of their children. But is it true?
I don’t think it is, and this idea of the twin studies showing that environments differ very little, at least in a meaningful way, from household to household would support that conclusion. It would tend to suggest that at least in the adoptive households of these separated twins, either there weren’t these differences of punishing or not, or that the difference is not a meaningful one.
Certainly there is one common thing among the households: they all qualified as suitable for adoption families, either in the eyes of the government, or the private agencies, or both. Do we think they had to show they would provide discipline, or that they wouldn’t? That may be a real question, but it’s unlikely that many, if any of these households would have been the type that wouldn’t, because few households are. OK, that, by itself, is circular reasoning. But there are other reasons why I say that there really is no large group of people (at least in Canada and the States) who don’t use punishment as a way to rear their children.
The article linked below states that something like 80% of families in a study that recorded their family households were recorded using corporal punishment methods – perhaps a surprise for those who haven’t raised kids yet, that so many resort to it – and these were families that knew they were being recorded.
One can only assume that some number of these families had some measure of care to change their ways while the microphones were active, so this study has it that something upwards of 80% of people today are still using corporal punishment. The exact percentage is a matter for speculation – and so to start us off down the path of unfounded speculation, allow me!
First, if you will grant the first part of my premise, which is that many parents seem to think that there must be many families where people are not providing enough discipline, then the next question may be, does something less than 20% of families satisfy their theory? Does that fraction of the population explain “what is wrong with kids nowadays?”
Second, my previously posted theories as to why corporal punishment is still so prevalent, in the shortest form I can manage. A somewhat less abridged form is in this post here:
– nothing else “works.” Many parents want to raise their kids without spankings etc., but few are aware of or willing to change their expectations. We mostly haven’t thought it through, and before we work through it, the spanking has begun. Unfortunately, it appears to “work,” and many parents abandon their non-spanking dream.
– even the parenting gurus, the sellers of popular books and radio broadcasts do not help these parents. They teach non-violent means but they don’t help parents with their expectations, and the parents are left to their own devices when a child insists on his misbehaviour. They reinforce the idea that everything should go the parents’ way.
So this is my thesis:
Nearly everyone uses punishment – we are all the same, there are no “different environments” among families within our culture. This aspect of the children’s lives are all pretty much the same, and so another explanation must be allowed for what is wrong with the world and “kids nowadays.” The idea that there are many people out there, a meaningful percentage of parents not disciplining their children and “teaching them respect’ and “right from wrong” is a myth, even if it’s an unconscious one. We need to look elsewhere for an explanation of why kids don’t listen to their parents.