Upstairs, downstairs: very different child rearing

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Upstairs, downstairs: very different child rearing

#1  Postby lpetrich » Jun 19, 2017 11:46 pm

Not Everyone Has the Tools to Become Rich: How Our Childhood Shapes Our Ability to Succeed | Alternet noting this research: Social Class Culture Cycles: How Three Gateway Contexts Shape Selves and Fuel Inequality - Annual Review of Psychology, 65(1):611

Some early 1990's research comparing two groups of baby monkeys.
  1. Those whose mothers could easily find food, mothers who could easily spend a lot of time with those babies.
  2. Those whose mothers spent so much time finding food that they had little time to spend on those babies and often neglected them.
The results were tragic. The second group of babies grew up with noticeable despair and anxiety issues. Their brains literally looked different. Their brain cells couldn't regulate emotions like their healthier peers'. Once they became adults, the second group of monkeys was shy, clingy, weak and socially awkward. They had trouble making friends, and they never became leaders. They were forever scarred—and their potential forever stunted—by their distracted mothers.

JSTOR: Child Development, Vol. 65, No. 5 (Oct., 1994), pp. 1398-1404
Influences of environmental demand on maternal behavior and infant development. [Acta Paediatr Suppl. 1994] - PubMed - NCBI
Adverse early experiences affect noradrenergic and serotonergic functioning in adult primates - Biological Psychiatry

Cruel? Maybe. But rhesus monkeys are smaller and faster-growing than we are, making it easier to do precisely-controlled experiments on them. Harry Harlow was known for similar sorts of experiments, with similar sorts of results, so these results are not unprecedented.

Back to the Alternet article.
In a way, the same experiment is taking place in American society today. Some mothers have easy access to the basic necessities of life —food, shelter, clothing, transportation, healthcare—but many do not. Millions of mothers live paycheck to paycheck, working multiple jobs and long hours, leaving them too busy and too exhausted to give their children the same attention as their wealthier peers.

The difference is so drastic that children raised in poverty have brain activity that looks like it's been damaged by a stroke. Study after study show that these early scars last long into adulthood, affecting everything from job prospects to marital happiness.

From that Annual Review of Psychology article, as summarized in the Alternet article,
First, higher-income parents encourage their children to follow their dreams. They encourage critical thinking and support expression of likes, dislikes, feelings, and thoughts, and then give them opportunities to pursue those interests. Lower-income parents tend to emphasize toughness and pride in the face of adversity. They emphasize rules that must not be broken, and then let the children figure out the rest on their own.

Schooling follows the same patterns.
From there, the children go to school, where higher-income children are given opportunities to work independently, think creatively and ask questions. Their parents take an active role, challenging practices that they disagree with. Their teachers treat them like adults and reward students who speak up and take initiative.

Lower-income children usually find themselves in a more regimented environment. They walk through metal detectors and aren't trusted with basic classroom equipment. Their parents want to be involved, but they don't assert themselves. Their teachers demand respect and reward students who show deference.

When they grow up and enter the workforce, people with higher-income parents tend to have learned leadership skills, while people with lower-income parents tend to only do what they are told and try to stay out of trouble.

What's interesting here is that the higher-income approach is like a common stereotype of touchy-feely liberalism, while the lower-income approach is more like the conservative ideal that one must have no initiative outside of obeying authority figures.

The damage of poverty is visible as early as kindergarten - Vox
A big part of the American Dream is being able to climb the ladder and land higher than your parents. But that climb starts when people are just small children, according to new research, and getting off on the wrong foot has lifelong consequences.

In a new article in the spring issue of the Princeton University journal The Future of Children (and highlighted by the Brookings social mobility blog), researchers show that poverty is directly correlated to kindergarten performance. Children who live in poverty have far lower performance than their richer peers across a variety of measures, and those who live in near poverty in turn have dramatically worse performance than middle-class peers. The poorest kids, for example, are less than one-third as likely as middle-class kids to recognize letters.

Research has shown that an early head start creates better and better educational outcomes down the road, as the effects build on each other and make future learning easier.

Rice University School Literacy and Culture -- The Thirty Million Word Gap
On average, children from families on welfare were provided half as much experience as children from working class families, and less than a third of the experience given to children from high-income families. In other words, children from families on welfare heard about 616 words per hour, while those from working class families heard around 1,251 words per hour, and those from professional families heard roughly 2,153 words per hour. Thus, children from better financial circumstances had far more language exposure to draw from.

In addition to looking at the number of words exchanged, the researchers also looked at what was being said within these conversations. What they found was that higher-income families provided their children with far more words of praise compared to children from low-income families. Children's vocabulary differs greatly across income groups. Conversely, children from low-income families were found to endure far more instances of negative reinforcement compared to their peers from higher-income families. Children from families with professional backgrounds experienced a ratio of six encouragements for every discouragement. For children from working-class families this ratio was two encouragements to one discouragement. Finally, children from families on welfare received on average two discouragements for every encouragement.

Here again, the higher earners fit the touchy-feely-liberal stereotype, while the lower earners better fit the conservative ideal of punitive parenting.
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Re: Upstairs, downstairs: very different child rearing

#2  Postby aban57 » Oct 09, 2017 11:24 am

Fascinating read. Thanks.
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