Saturday, August 18, 2007

No Two Alike, by Harris

I've been working on a paper for ICSE 2008 lately. Since I've never done a conference paper before, I feel a little (or more than a little) anxious about style, format, etc. So it's been a while since I've posted here.

Lately I've been reading the subject book, No Two Alike, and mentioned something at our home-group the other night.

Rich talked about how children grow to become more like their parents -- which is true, if "parents" means "biological parents." The studies seem to show:
  • twins raised together are no more similar than twins raised apart
  • siblings raised together are no more different than siblings raised apart
  • unrelated adopted children raised in the same home turn out no more similar than two people picked randomly off the street
Now by "similar" and "different" here they mean as adults, and in particular " measured by psychological tests." Those tests include all sorts of things: tendency to laugh, introversion, etc. They do not, however, include things like what mechanical skills, recipes, languages, or card games they know.

Do parents matter? Of course they do -- but just not in the way many of us like to think. Is that so bad? Think of it this way -- as Harris put it in The Nurture Assumption (1998): who will your husband or wife be after being married to you for 20, 30, 50 years? Do you influence what his/her personality will be like then? No? But that doesn't mean you should neglect, ignore, or abuse them! The same applies to your kids -- you may not be able to change the results that would appear on psychological tests 20,30,50 years hence, but you want them to be your friends -- as you want your spouse to be a good friend -- don't you?

One more thing that psychological tests don't measure, besides what they know: it's who they know. Do they know Jesus? Have they found forgiveness for their sins? Is their eternal destiny secure? As parents, we can't guarantee anything, but we can introduce our kids to Someone they need to know. And that's more important than personality, budgeting skills, or even car repair skills.

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