The Nurture Assumption

Judith Rich Harris, The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do
Harris, former writer of psychology textbooks, uses her unusual vantage point to write a book questioning all the emphasis placed on "nurture" in ideas about childrearing. Essentially, she asks: what if "nature" has a much bigger role than we are willing to admit? If so, the emphasis on proper childrearing is simply an effort to control the uncontrollable. Children will be who they will be, and beyond certain basics, childrearing practices may not in fact have much influence. She also claims that parents and others with a vested interest in children's development underemphasize the influence of children's peer groups and siblings as compared with adult influence. Again, this error reflects a deep wish to control who children become.

In light of Harris' arguments, ideas about childrearing and controlling children's behavior, especially what they read as reading was the media of the day, seem entirely coherent with attitudes today.

In fact, Harris is good at pointing out the imbalance, the implicit "nurture assumption" inherent in many professionals' attitudes about children. She is less good at bringing her readers to a new balance herself, but this is nevertheless a valuable book. I'm not sure it's crucial enough that I should teach it, but I will included it in recommended lists for my children's literature classes.