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Children’s Influences

Judith Rich Harris received the 1998 APA (American Psychological Association) scholarly award for her work in challenging the idea that parents are the primary influence on their children’s personalities. The following is excerpted from an APA Monitor article, Vol. 29, No. 10, page 9:

She [Harris] said her thorough review of the evidence reveals that parents, contrary to nearly a century of scientific doctrine, have no lasting effects on the personality, intelligence or mental health of their offspring….

So who does have the biggest impact on our personalities, if not Mom and Dad? According to Harris, children are most influenced by their peers—the people who tell them in the classroom, on the ball field or at parties just how well they’re fitting in. Children adopt certain behaviors in social venues in order to win acceptance from their peers, she says. And it’s those behaviors outside the home that remain steadfast through adulthood, she contends.

Psychoheresy Awareness Letter, Vol. 7, No. 1, January-February, 1999 p. 4

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