Rare Research Opportunity

Parenting styles don’t matter, that is what all the analyses of all the twin and adoption studies came up with. They postulated three sorts of parenting – permissive, authoritative, and authoritarian, and with that in mind and all the twin and adoption data, they found that the middle road was best.

I don’t see it that way, because for them, the middle was the middle and permissive was one direction and authority the opposite direction, when really, it’s a one directional scale. Really, the spectrum goes from no application of authority, through some (permissive), through more (authoritative), to much (authoritarian) application of authority. “Application of authority” means control and the tools for it, meaning punishment, meaning force. My point being the three “parenting styles” they postulated are increasing levels of force, and the data says a little is bad and a lot is bad, but in between is not as bad. To my mind there are other ways to interpret that pattern than that the middle amount of force simply strikes the right balance, I need to know if that’s true, balance between authority and what? Original Sin? If two out of three dosages of it are bad for you, why is the third not?

My interpretation is this: children of permissive parents fear punishment less, the deterrents fail because the child is not convinced he’ll have to pay the price, so some number more of those kids develop bad habits, find trouble. Conversely, children of authoritative parents can be any combination of damaged or bitter and angry from abuse they’ve suffered, and the rougher their parents are, the rougher some of the kids learn to be, and so perhaps more of those kids find trouble too. A multitude of abuse and corporal punishment studies will support that. But then, why the middle road? The other things don’t apply, the punishments are consistent, so the deterrents work, the child has a higher expectation of having to pay the price, and the child has a better chance of avoiding real abuse and damage, along with other things as well, probably. I think that small win for the authoritative parents represents more children trapped in impossible binds, more kids who aren’t hurting enough to really speak out, more kids we’ve fooled into taking it like a man. But the point is this.

The permissive parents’ kids still know they can and will be punished for some things, they know the adults reserve the right to do it, same as with the rougher parents, so they’re carrying the bitterness too, them, the middle-road parents’ kids, they all know that. To my mind, the force is the trouble – and the science also says individual parents don’t leave a trace, that children are raised as a group function, by other kids, with the adult rules and structures in place – the force itself is an issue, but maybe just that all kids know generally that the adults will use the authority, the force, on them is more to the point. That knowledge offends all children, irrespective of how strict or wishy washy their own caregivers are. (That will be a sticking point, of course, I imagine a lot of parents don’t acknowledge that sense of offense, and I would respectfully suggest that not understanding that feeling means there is a large blind spot in our empathy.)

Again, they say individual parents don’t leave a trace on their kids, so that must mean individual parents’ styles don’t matter either – again, by their data, and their analyses, because of the simplistic categorization of “parenting styles.” Life certainly, but their science particularly needs a control set of zero authority parents, because that is the fundamental difference, authority, punishments and force, yes or no, and then perhaps we can make sense of the floating scale of less, more and most too. They saw very little difference, again, the middle road was only a little better, their main point is none of it makes any difference at all, so really, what that means to me, because I postulate force and punishments as the operative force in these matters, is when force is present, the amount of it makes little difference. Perhaps it’s a binary condition, like the presence of some poison the smallest amount of which is enough and more makes little difference. What we need to see is if there is a difference if we remove it altogether. Now it just so happens, I know a family like that we could interview, put through some tests.

Of course, they’d have to be compensated for their time, and these people are rare, which may drive up the price . . . really, though, for a “science” that is a hundred and twenty-five years old, a chance to establish a null control, for perhaps the first time?

What price could be too high?




Jan. 16, 2016

19 thoughts on “Rare Research Opportunity

  1. Benjamin David Steele January 17, 2016 / 1:04 pm

    It’s probably a lot more complex, I’d assume. Much is getting lumped together.

    A parent in a coma or simply somehow disabled/incapacitated (or even just busy, overworked, stressed and distracted) is in a sense permissive with their children. But that is hardly a meaningful notion of permissive.

    From a different view of ‘permissive’, there is the so-called helicopter parent or other similar varieties. They use oppressive emotional manipulation to control their children’s entire lives, instead of using physical force.

    Then there is a whole other category of a ‘permissive’ parent. They try to teach and model proper boundaries and sense of responsibility for their children to internalize without the need of the direct and constant parental intervention, control, and manipulation.

    Yet all three of those would get lumped together as ‘permissive’.

    There are probably multiple spectrums of parenting styles. And so many possible forms of (or refusal to use) abuse and punishment, control and manipulation.


    • neighsayer January 17, 2016 / 1:33 pm

      I didn’t think I was going to engage you about parenting, that”s a bit of a pleasant surprise.

      yes, it’s not simple. My eye-opening thought about it was that if well intended, small “a” abuse also hurts, if it’s a real thing and it hurts the same as when some evil abuser is actually trying to hurt us, then that makes sense of it all. Then nearly all of us have negative experience to explain that nearly all of us have problems and we’re no longer telling our research assistants what hurts and what doesn’t, then we’re a lot closer to a scientific understanding. Things do tend to get a little rube goldberg when your first few assumptions are just plain wrong, don’t they?

      “Permissive” is newspeak, of course it is. All of our systems are some form of authority hierarchy thing, and every version of permissive parenting you list is still a power and control system, it’s just the one that sells less of it. They all sell some form of force, so to label the lightest dose of force “permissive” is still newspeak. Permission is not their vector for their parenting, it’s still control. When we’re not doing anything, that’s permissive,permission requires no action. When “permissive” parents are doing something, they’re doing the same thing as the rest.
      Honestly, that’s why I have no problem with the word “styles” for that. I agree, they are all “styles” of authority, and there really doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgment that there might be a way where we never hurt them on purpose for anything.


      • Benjamin David Steele January 17, 2016 / 1:58 pm

        I have general curiosity about all aspects of humanity and human nature.

        Although not a parent, I do appreciate the importance of parenting in terms of larger issues. Few people think about the deeper relevance of such things, the impact they have on us in ways that are hard to fully comprehend and measure, at least using the present framework.

        It isn’t just how individuals and married couples parent. These directly relate to how our entire society operates. This goes back to peers. Parental peers will tend parent in similar styles, and so the child peers will experience similar parenting.

        Furthermore, it goes to the heart of how all authority figures operate: teachers, ministers, police, etc. These authority figures include parents and peers of parents.

        It’s a network of influences. The totality of how a child is treated is what matters, not merely the parent’s style of parenting, although that would be indicative of the larger social environment in which they parent.


        • neighsayer January 17, 2016 / 5:07 pm

          oh, I’m all in on Group Socialization, absolutely, but that doesn’t change anything about what we do or how we do it, it only means that rather than “I need to change” it has really become “we all need to change” for anything to be meaningful. That’s starting to sound like a dodge to me, like if individual parents aren’t responsible for messing kids up, then screw it, no-one is, and it doesn’t matter, kinda thing. You’re right, changing parents won’t matter, changing adults, all of them, that might matter.


          • Benjamin David Steele January 17, 2016 / 5:39 pm

            I don’t intend it as a dodge. I think parents are ultimately responsible for their children. My reasoning is that it is parents’ fault for bringing their kids into the world in the first place. Life is forced upon a child. No one gets to choose to be born.

            Still, most parents don’t have much choice over the environment they themselves live in and hence raise their kids in. That is even more true for the lower classes. My tendency is actually to be overly judgmental of parents. But not being a parent myself, I try to keep myself humble, rather than being too arrogantly righteous. It is easy for me to be opinionated and no doubt I’m free to have an opinion. It’s just that my opinion of parenting as a non-parent is maybe of limited worth.

            Progress, such as it is, rarely leaps forward in a single generation. It takes time for fundamental change to happen, small changes slowly adding up to larger shifts or even transformation, sometimes revolution. Parents should do their best, but they should also realize they can only do so much in the brief period they have to influence their children, to the degree that is possible. I know to what extent I struggle in life, even without kids and not having to deal with many major issues. I’m not poor, in bad health, etc. I don’t want to be too quick to judge people who find themselves in difficult situations and sometimes feeling pushed beyond the breaking point.

            As a society, we need to offer more support for parents. Instead, our society tends to isolate parents and scapegoat them for nearly all the problems in the world. That is a crappy thing to do for those people doing the best that they can sometimes under near impossible conditions: poverty and debt, bankruptcy and losing homes, working multiple jobs and trying to do it all without help, living in dangerous neighborhoods where the police are as much of a threat as are the gangs, can’t afford babysitting or daycare, no good schools in the area, lead toxicity all around, and on and on.

            None of us has a right to bring a kid into this world. But parents have never had a right. Most people simply have kids because it sort of happens naturally, as reproduction is a deeply ingrained instinct, way beyond the mere desire to have sex. This is particularly true for poor people who often can find their only sense of comfort and safety by surrounding themselves with a large family. Even so, from a rational perspective, this world can seem like a fairly shitty place to bring another life into, considering the problems we face as a society and a species… and it is likely just going to get worse before (and if) it gets better.

            Yet each new generation comes along dealing with the problems of the generations before and trying not to pass on those same problems to those following. As many of these problems have existed for centuries, it’s a tall order to break deeply entrenched social patterns that are kept in place by structural and institutional problems. This goes way beyond parenting, which I know you realize. Yet people have to start somewhere and there is no better place to start than with parenting. Someone has to break the cycle.


            • neighsayer January 17, 2016 / 5:56 pm

              didn’t mean you were dodging, don’t care about bloggers dodging. I mean it’s parents dodging. Arrogant and self-righteous, that’s always been my way – and now that my girls are grown up, I’m ten times as bad.


              Liked by 1 person

    • neighsayer January 17, 2016 / 1:54 pm

      ” . . . instead of using physical force.”

      So many times I hear that, “instead of physical force,” – don’t believe them, that is bullshit parents all tell each other and let each other tell each other. “Instead.” You’re a logical person, follow me here:

      punishments are forced, we don’t volunteer for them. How do we think we could enforce a chore sort of punishment if we had to do it by remote control, over the phone? Here’s what non-physical punishment might look like:

      Little Judy is cranky today and while playing with the other kids at daycare, she konks another kid on his head with a large toy car. The struck kid cries, and Judy looks like she’s getting ready to do it again, so a daycare mom sees an intervention is called for.
      “Judy!” She calls. “Stop that!”
      Judy gives the adult a sideways glance and begins her backswing . . . the adult sees it and says
      “That’s it Judy, no more. Please set the car down and take a timeout. Go to the timeout room.”
      Judy now understands that she’s done something wrong and that she needs to be punished, so, because we all agree about these sorts of things and because Judy wants to learn how not to hit kids, she sets the car down, apologizes to her victim and walks herself to the naughty room. On the way, another thought strikes Judy.
      “Fifteen minutes?” She asks. “Is Joey bleeding? Should it be thirty then?”

      please tell me you get it, or why not. Punishments are all backed up physically, punishment is a physical thing. The very same person who just showed he’s not working with you so clearly that you need to punish him is not going to volunteer to punish himself.

      This movement can’t ever get off the ground (the gentle parenting movement) if people are going to pretend there’s a non-physical, non-forced kind of punishment.


      • Benjamin David Steele January 17, 2016 / 2:59 pm

        I think I understand what you’re saying. My mind might be focused in a slightly different direction.

        I was partly thinking of my two brothers and their wives. They are parents with young children, although one is getting closer to teenagehood. I’ve lived nearby and so have been able to observe closely how they parent and the results.

        They are all ‘permissive’ parents. None of them use physical force or even threat of physical force.

        One of my brothers, along with his wife, are extremely laid back. They have a more hands off approach, just let the kids be and hope for the best, although not passive and uninvolved parents. Their form of ‘punishment’, for lack of a better word, is at worse to maybe simply withhold something from the kids, but even that is rare and mild (e.g., I’m putting this toy away until you finish your homework).

        My other brother and sister-in-law are more genuine helicopter parents. It is magnified because my sister-in-law was an only child and now they have an only child. That kid gets the full brunt of her stay-at-home mother. The kid isn’t directly controlled, but here entire world is controlled and she rarely got to play with other kids her own age, until just recently when went to preschool. They utterly hate physical violence, and yet there is a weird emotional codependence that is extremely controlling and manipulative, or so it seems from my outside perspective.

        Our parents did hit us as kids, my brothers and I. Not often, but enough to keep us in line. After a while, the mere threat of punishment apparently was enough, and then I guess we had internalized the fear of breaking rules. We weren’t overly rebellious and mostly quiet obedient children. But my oldest brother, the second one I mentioned, has memories that are horror stories of abuse. I don’t remember the horror stories, as I’m the youngest and I think my parents had become more accepting by the time they got to me.

        I understand why my brothers are the way they are and parent the way they do. It was a response to how we were parented. I don’t really know what to think of it all. My brothers’ kids aren’t violent and, as far as I know, have never gone around hitting other children. I don’t know how my brothers and sister-in-laws would respond to that kind of situation, if it were to occur. Your scenario does happen and parents have to respond to it in some way, but my experience is limited in relation to this.

        I wasn’t pretending there is non-violent force. Here is the full context of that sentence:

        “They use oppressive emotional manipulation to control their children’s entire lives, instead of using physical force.”

        I’m not making excuses for that parenting style. I was just describing it, as it is something I’ve seen firsthand. Is emotional manipulation and control the same thing as force or indicative of a threat of force? I don’t know that it has to be. But codependent relationships can lead to a kind of abuse through emotional blackmail, and that can be quite powerful in not such a good way.

        As I’m not a parent, it is hard for me to talk about parenting. Part of the reason I’m not a parent is because I don’t think I’d make a good parent. It just is what it is. It’s tough being a parent and many mistakes are made. I won’t pretend to have it figured out.

        Liked by 1 person

        • neighsayer January 17, 2016 / 5:41 pm

          I’m the family baby too, and same – the older sibs got what can only be called abuse and my story is I was scared straight watching it. Full disclosure: if there are unremembered sexual abuse victims, I’m a pretty likely candidate.

          all the old abuse and CP (corporal punishment) studies list a suite of bad outcomes that the victims have higher incidences of, damages categorized as physical, psychological, emotional, and cognitive. Of course, physical damage can only result from physical means, but CP and physical abuse are associated with all the categories of damage. Don’t think anyone’s proved it, but it’s easy to imagine that the invisible sorts of damage probably result from the invisible (psychological, emotional, and cognitive) sorts of punishment or abuse, and then easy to imagine that removing only the physical aspect removes only the physical damage.

          I don’t imagine anyone would be caught publicly promoting anything called ‘psychological punishment,’ but yeah, that might be what your sister-in-law in engaged in, I guess.

          This is one reason why the designation of CP isn’t enough to mitigate much of the damage. Also, what I mention above – the designation of CP hasn’t even stopped physical punishment, because, spoiler alert, there is no sort of penalty that kids or people self-apply and any sort of punishment – timeouts, taking the toy away – must be imposed, and yes, physically.

          To me, it is this thing, this un-focussed, fuzzy idea about physical punishment that I wish I could get across to people. I hate to get picky, but taking the toy away is a physical act, and many tomes it becomes a game of schoolyard keepaway, and then sometimes that escalates and the caregiver, a busy person with a life cannot stay and play keepaway forever, has to lay down the law, find a way to bully that kid into leaving the toy alone after the caregiver sets it down and moves on with his day.

          “Not physical, just take the toy away” can be a setup, the sort of advice you can throw around when you don’t have to be there to see how it works out. But it sets up the keepaway game, which can escalate to a fight, and what I’m saying is, “not physical” in real terms in our world, only means “not physical immediately.” It’s my mission to explain to people that you can’t punish and not be physical. If we’re serious about not getting physical, I’m sorry, but it means not punishing at all. Folks think THAT is impossible, but it’s not.


          • Benjamin David Steele January 17, 2016 / 5:58 pm

            Your comment does get me thinking. I’ll have to watch my brothers and sister-in-laws more carefully.

            Both of my brothers are non-confrontational and non-violent people, to the point of being passive. That is particularly true of my second oldest brother (and his wife). They are the most laid back parents I have ever met. I gave you the suggestion that they might take a toy away, but I honestly can’t recall that specifically happening.

            Neither of my brothers have ever been the kind of parents to say ‘no’ to their kids about almost anything. I’m not sure my brothers even have a consciously intentional style of parenting, other than not being physically abusive.

            I must admit I have had a hard time wrapping my mind around what abuse means. Ever since I read Derrick Jensen, I’ve become acutely aware of how this operates in the larger society and how that shows up in families. All that I know is that there has to be a better way.

            Liked by 1 person

            • neighsayer January 18, 2016 / 10:11 am

              yes, I’m spending these few months working through the argumentative, avoidance of the issue point of who raises them, and that’s what I’m back to, for sure. Doesn’t matter who, just matters that whoever is doing it find that better way.

              Liked by 2 people

  2. Benjamin David Steele January 17, 2016 / 1:09 pm

    “Perhaps it’s a binary condition, like the presence of some poison the smallest amount of which is enough and more makes little difference.”

    Maybe. Another way of looking at it is by modeling it along the lines of heavy metal toxicity, specifically lead.

    It matters the severity of the toxicity, the length of time for exposure, and the age of the individual. More toxicity is worse, but a single large exposure might be less worse than a continuous lower exposure.

    Then again, they’ve found with lead that no level of exposure has yet been proven safe. The more accurate their measurements the more they are able to measure the harm. Avoiding toxicity entirely is always the best choice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The McGuires January 18, 2016 / 7:26 am

    Great post Jeff:)

    Sent from my iPhone



    • neighsayer January 18, 2016 / 10:08 am

      just thought I’d try to find us some money, Honey . . . 🙂


  4. tabbyrenelle April 25, 2016 / 12:55 am

    Oh my god I’m so glad I’m not a parent! Good for you actually sorting through all of this for your kids! I have no answers for you. I was one of those foster kid… run away from foster care types. I have no clue what a good parent looks like. Cobbled family happens tho. We all find our way. No worries. You seem so caring about what is child rearing and freedom both. That’s cool. I bet you’re a good pop. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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