I think the leading candidate here is the work on child development showing that parenting styles don’t matter much, perhaps not at all above a certain very low level (locking the kids in the basement and feeding them cat food). The canonical statement was given by Judith Rich Harris in The Nurture Assumption: “Group socialization theory makes this prediction: that children would develop into the same sort of adults if we left their lives outside the home unchanged — left them in their schools and their neighborhoods — but switched all the parents around.” That’s got to be painful for a family-values conservative to read, yet it seems to be the current consensus.
I don’t think that the “family values” that family-values conservatives tout or at least ought to tout, Bradlaugh, have to do with styles of parenting, but rather, with having parents (two, ideally your own) in the first place. When the marriage norm has all but disappeared from a community, as it has in the inner city (where illegitimacy rates for blacks can get as high as 90%, compared to the also dire 71% national black illegitimacy rate), boys fail to learn the most basic tenet of responsibility: you are responsible for your children. This is crisis-of-civilization territory, in my view. In a culture where a male can get a female pregnant then move on to the next female without consequence, boys have no incentive to pick up the bourgeois habits of self-discipline and deferred gratification that would allow them to woo a wife and provide for their children. One likely result: The black homicide rate is ten times that of “whites.” The “white” rate, in FBI crime data, surreptitiously includes Hispanics. Take out the Hispanic homicide rate, which is about three to four times higher than that of whites, and the black-white homicide disparity would be even greater.
One might be able to scramble all the single mothers in Milwaukee, or all the married parents in Irvine, Ca., without producing a huge effect on their individual children; I don’t know enough about Judith Rich Harris’s work to say. But if all those kids in Irvine suddenly found themselves growing up in a culture of illegitimacy, my guess is that you would see far fewer lawyers, engineers, and scientists coming out of Irvine’s University High.