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October 23, 1998

[also published in Allen American, Lewisville Leader, McKinney Messenger,
Mesquite News, Coppell Gazette
and The Colony Leader.
Syndicated by the E.W. Scripps Company.]


Author refutes comments
about child rearing theory


Judith Rich Harris is the author of the book, 'The Nurture Assumption.'

Linda Johnston's comments on my book, "The Nurture Assumption" (Plano Star, October 11) are so far from being accurate or pertinent that I can only conclude that she hasn't read the book or even held it in her hand; all her comments (and the quotes from the book) appear to be based on what she read about it in the media. Since much of the media coverage has been based, in turn, on previous media coverage, the result bears little resemblance to the original.

For example, Linda Johnston accused me of saying that "the way you treat your child on a day-to-day basis, really doesn't matter." In my book I make it quite clear that the way you treat your child on a day-to-day basis does matter -- it matters a lot, though not necessarily for the reasons Johnston has in mind.

Johnston also said "The Nurture Assumption ignores the enormous body of highly respected research in the field of psychology and child development." About a quarter of my 462-page book is spent examining that evidence and showing what's wrong with it. The back of my book contains 732 endnotes and a reference list of 691 items; I cite a large number of studies carried out by psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists.

Johnston alleged that I based my book on my own personal experience of rearing two daughters. If she had read even a small portion of The Nurture Assumption she would know that wasn't true (though indeed it has been alleged in the media coverage). I mention my daughters from time to time in the book to add interest or humor, but my theory is based on the scientific evidence cited in the endnotes and reference list.

Finally, Johnston alleged that I have "no academic or professional credentials." I am the senior author of a textbook in developmental psychology that went through three hardbound editions and a paperback version. I published an article, describing my theory of child development, in the Psychological Review -- psychology's most prestigious professional journal -- and received an award for this article from the American Psychological Association. I am a member of the Society for Research in Child Development and the American Psychological Society. I have a master's degree in psychology from Harvard. And, though I am not a member of the academic establishment myself (health problems have kept me at home for many years), some prominent members of the academic establishment have endorsed my theory and praised my book. Go to your local bookseller and look at the back of the dust jacket, Linda Johnston.

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