To: The Nurture Assumption home page

Developmental Psychology
November 2000 (Volume 36, Number 6)

Genes, Parents, and Peers: An Invited Exchange of Views

Parents, Peer Groups, and Other Socializing Influences
Deborah Lowe Vandell

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: Three propositions that are central to J. R. Harris's group socialization theory (1995, 1998) are considered in this review. These propositions are as follows: (a) Parental behaviors have no long-term effects on children's psychological characteristics, (b) peer groups are the primary environmental influence on psychological functioning, and (c) dyadic relationships are situation-specific and do not generalize. The evidence that J. R. Harris has outlined in support of each of these propositions is reviewed, as is additional empirical research not considered by J. R. Harris. Serious limitations to each proposition are identified. The available evidence is more consistent with a model of multiple socialization agents. An expanded research agenda that permits a more definitive test of J. R. Harris's propositions and social relationship theory is proposed.

[Full text not available online]

Vandell, D. L. (2000). Parents, peer groups, and other socializing influences. Developmental Psychology, 36, 699-710.
Copyright 2000 American Psychological Association

Socialization, Personality Development, and the Child's Environments: Comment on Vandell (2000)
Judith Rich Harris

Middletown, New Jersey

Abstract: Although many socialization agents influence children's behavior (D. L. Vandell, 2000), the evidence (e.g., from intervention studies) indicates that each exerts its influence only within its own domain. Context effects and genetic effects are among the confounding factors that make it impossible, given current data, to reject the null hypothesis of zero long-term effects of parenting on child outcomes. Problems with the prevailing view of development cannot be solved by invoking within-home environmental differences or gene-environment interactions. Group socialization theory can account for findings that do not fit the prevailing view. The theory attributes outside-the-home socialization to identification with a peer group and assimilation of group norms, but attributes nongenetic variation in personality to differentiation within the group. The latter proposition is still largely untested but other aspects of the theory are well supported by evidence.

[Full text]

Harris, J. R. (2000). Socialization, personality development, and the child's environments: Comment on Vandell (2000). Developmental Psychology, 36, 711-723.
Copyright 2000 American Psychological Association