Nature v Nuture in Parenting Studies: the nurture side has adopted the strategy of ignoring the debate

Take a look at this article (if you want). It’s another article about parenting in The Atlantic. This time the claim is that less attentive parents cause their children to have smaller brains.*

* Not every report on these studies is so flippant about making unsupported causal links and avoiding the question of nature. For instance, there’s this refreshing bit of candor: “The study can’t prove poverty or parenting caused the changes in brain size.” 

The problem with this article, like so many others, is that it doesn’t actually engage with the nature vs nurture debate. Instead the article, as is typical, just cites some piece of information about children and then claims that it must be nurture without attempting to even disprove explanations based on nature.

So in this case parenting styles are observed, and the brain sizes of children are measured. The parenting style – or observer impressions of the parenting style – are then given as the cause for the physical evidence (smaller brain sizes in the child).

What’s missing? An assessment of the brain sizes of the parents would be nice. If parents with small brains tend to a) parent a certain way, and b) produce kids with smaller brains, then you would at least have to consider the possibility that the parental behavior and the small brain size of the child are both being driven by the parent’s genes.

But there is no measurement of parental brain size. Their is no engagement with the debate. There is no advancement in our understanding of what causes what.

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