Majority of today’s psychologists indicate that character development is more of a combination of factors found in the social environment. Harris (1998), begins by addressing and summarizing these assumptions. She indicates that she too, at one time believed that personality and character in children was more of a nurture rather than nature event. However, over time she has come to dispute this hypothesis. In her hypothesis, she indicates that home culture has little if anything to do with the development of character and personality in children. In essence all parents are able to pass on to their children is the biological traits such as skin color, height and looks. Character on the other hand is heavily influenced by the outside home factors.
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Home Culture Influences Behavior
However, modern psychologists having conducted research on several pairs of twins have found that parents do indeed pass on some characteristics and mannerisms to their children. If the home culture for example is prone to encouraging crime and anti-social behavior, there are less chances that the child will develop a strong personality, resisting all forms of crime. To the child, anti-social behavior is the norm and therefore the expected. Simanowitz and Pearce found that 56% of the juvenile offenders today, indeed come from a home where crime is the norm (203). The parents have either been arrested or have a previous brush with the low. In this case, he provides evidence that contradicts Harris’ belief and hypothesis. Behavioral psychologists further suggest that some personalities stem from genes and home culture or a combination of the two. They indicate that by the time, an individual reaches the teen years, they have acquired a firm set of personality traits, developed through the home culture. It is therefore most likely that all decisions forthwith will be based on what they have been taught by their parents and what has been influenced upon them. In the poem, “digging” by Seamus Heaney, the writer states that his father like his grandfather was not only hardworking and persistent, but also chose a similar career path. It is common to find families that are made up of policemen, firemen, teachers and other careers to a great percentage. According to Graziano, Children in these families are likely to desire and seek out similar career paths (94). While the dimensions of their duties and tasks may differ, similarly their qualifications may also differ but the foundations of their careers are heavily influenced by the home culture.
Home Culture Does Not Influence Child Behavior and Development
Even with this factual argument, there are social scientists who support the hypothesis by Harris (19). They indicate that the home culture may help in formulating the basis of the culture but this foundation is rarely if ever stable when met with other influences away from the home. The most ideal for example is the teen life, or the normal teenager in society. Such teen is heavily influenced in mannerisms of dressing, speech and even character by friends, societies and the school environment. Parents may have brought up the teenager influenced them to speak in a certain manner, to dress as they do; however this all changes within a few days sometimes even taking a shorter time to completely transform the teenager.
Furthermore, Letourneau et al highlights that children from the same family, brought up with the same resources, exposed to the same things can never be the same in terms of personality (21). This challenges the twin studies which have been greatly used to propagate the importance of the home culture towards development. Goldstein et al states that twins maybe similar in terms of physical features, they are exposed to the same environment and often have to endure the same challenges while growing up, yet even their parents can state and have often argued that the twins are completely different (87). While one maybe headstrong, the other is probably shy and reserved. Based on this therefore, it can be said that the home culture has little to do with how children grow up and behave. Each individual is supposed to make their own path of development despite the desires and attempted influences of the parents. In the short story, “You can’t kill the rooster”, we see two brothers who though years apart, come from the same parents yet even to the writer they are completely different. Sedaris indicates that with the birth of Paul, the younger brother, the outside world suddenly became a realistic influence to the family.
Perhaps the biggest highlight from the short story, you can’t kill the Rooster is that even the home culture is prone to outside influence and often differs. Nature does not change, and in order to completely influence the development of a child, home culture needs to be stable and consistent. The Sedaris family, in an attempt to maintain the consistency and stability of their home culture, begin by influencing upon the children the importance of not brining outside culture into the home. Harsh punishments are called upon, for example when strange accents are detected. The writer gives an example, where the use of the term “y’all”, led to one finding themselves on the barn floor French kissing a goat. Although the family had moved to Carolina, the parents had managed to ensure that the children were not unduly influenced by the culture of the town. However, it seems that with time the consistency of the home culture cannot be relied upon. The youngest child is born and becomes a complete native. His accent and language are completely influenced by the outside community and he does not seem to have any interest or inkling of the home culture. Though they have grown up in the same home, the writer feels that he and his brother might as well have come from two different homes. A home culture is defined as family traditions and norms which have been established over time, they therefore are not expected to change, despite generational and time gaps between children. Because human beings are prone to influence and change even in their own traditions, it follows therefore that home culture cannot be relied upon to influence the development of children.
As children become adults they are called upon to make their own decisions, to think independently in the career choice, completion of assigned tasks and even personal decisions. It is not uncommon to meet an adult, one whom you knew as a child and find them completely different in terms of mannerisms and personality as well. This is because, the home culture is sheltered, and children often behave in a particular way to avoid being punished or meeting with disappointment, (Hindle and Smith 111). When they leave the sheltered home environment, other factors and cultures come into play and the home culture is completely forgotten. While they may maintain some of the elements of the home culture, they often do so for comfort while away from home. In addition, the elements that are retained are those that do not unduly collide with the changes that they are undergoing. In most cases however, change is often complete and one may not be able to find even a trace of their home culture. It is not just the basics such as dressing and hobbies that change, there are cases where even religion and other matters that are often introduced in the home culture completely change. Loehlin, for example, found that only 13% of the students in college maintain the religion introduced to them as children by their parents (87). Many of the college students either become laggard when it comes to religion or completely change their beliefs, opting for new and what they may think are more adventurous and exciting religions. In America today, it is common to find a family that is made up of people with diverse beliefs and religions. In the past however, the home culture was vital in such choices. Families were known to be of one religion such as catholic, Presbyterian or Muslim.
The importance of parental involvement in a child’s development cannot be denied. Parents cannot decide to completely withhold from the process of raising a child with the assumption that their influence is limited. Children, do need guidance and parental affection in order to develop into complete, highly integrated adults. However, as scientists have proven there is little evidence to suggest that the home culture strongly influences the direction of child development. Home culture can lay a foundation, upon which the child can make decisions and develop a set of goals. However, upon reaching an age where they can make decisions for themselves, children can either completely adapt the home culture or rebel against it. In the poem “digging”, the writer chooses to edit the home culture upon which he has been brought up. Both his father and grandfather are idealistic farmers. They work hard, often digging through the day. Perhaps, the older generation expects the younger to take the same path they have elected. This maybe why the young boy is sent to bring milk to his grandfather, so that he can be exposed to the farm life and its benefits at an early age. However, the writer chooses instead to write, a completely different career path from that found in his home culture. Instead of the hoe for digging he elects to use the pen, to forge his own career path.
Harris puts forward a convincing argument against nurture, children brought up by nannies in Britain for example, spend most of their time in the hands of the nannies during what is termed as formative years. They are taken to boarding schools where again they spend a majority of their time, only to return as adults. Upon their return, however, they act completely like the parent role model. This despite the fact, that from birth the parent has had little if anything to do with their upbringing. With her examples, she shows that fundamental principles of behavior such as religion, language and behavior have little to do with parental influence. The child with the help of external social factors determines his own set of behaviors and personality development.
Graziano, William G. Personality Development. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub, 2003. Print
Goldstein, Sam, and Jack A. Naglieri. Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development. New York: Springer, 2011.
Hindle, Debbie, and Marta V. Smith. Personality Development: A Psychoanalytic Perspective. London: Routledge, 2002.
Letourneau, Nicole, Allison Hirst, and Justin Joschko. Scientific Parenting: What Science Reveals About Parental Influence. , 2013.
Loehlin, John C. Genes and Environment in Personality Development. Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1992.
Simanowitz, Valerie, and Peter Pearce. Personality Development. Buckingham: Open University Press, 2003. Internet resource.
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