The value of families

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.

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18 Responses to The value of families

  1. Dropping all the blame on boys works in a society where women have no rights or responsibilities, and where birth control is illegal. In America, women need to take (and generally do) responsibility for their own reproductive system. Birth control is easy to come by (unless there are too many conservatives around). The majority of illegitimacy issues come from unprotected sex in very short term relationships. Men who run from a long term relationship after having children are a lot easier to catch. Women should avoid having children until they are in a very steady relationship or feel ready to care for children alone. I have no problem with capable single mothers, having been raised by one.

  2. David Hume says:

    re: Harris’ assertions, they work under the assumption all things controlled I believe. A culture-wide shifts the whole playing field, leaving the heritabilities the same.

  3. We must all remember that Daniel Moynihan was the first to tell us officially that the black family was becoming dysfunctional.The year was 1965.As I point out in my book, I believe that the rise in dysfunction corresponded to the rise in freedom demanded by Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement.The revolution of the Sixties, however, was far deeper than civil rights and altered the social and political landscape.Divorce rapidly rose and promiscuity flourished as women enjoyed sexual freedom and weaker religiosity.

    Family discipline, the basis for self-discipline, gradually eroded as individual and child rights resulted in school and societal turmoil. While whites became entitled and self-aggrandisment became commonplace, the release of blacks into a far less structured environment played havoc with their behavioral tendencies toward violence, impulsivity, and promiscuity.A loss of authority by black parents was far more destructive than the same loss for white ones. If Phil Rushton is right re racial differences, then the Sixties-for all the good it did for civil rights- was devestating for blacks whose innate tendencies are built for tribal life in Africa.Look at Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe today.Imagine life where 11, 12, and 13 year olds randomly kill innocents as they operate as part of various marauding militias!

    I recall sharing a high school in New Jersey with about 60 or 70 black kids out of 1200. The time was the years after WWII. Never did I meet a black in any of my college-prep classes through four years, but never did I see inter-racial strife in the gym or on campus. Blacks lived mostly with intact families who supported teacher authority as much as white ones did.While blacks lived on one side of town, they came to school generally clean and well-dressed. Our class salutitorian was black.

    Xavier Nixon is the highest rated high school tackle in America.Today I saw his photo in our local newspaper. His parents, both of whom are black, are miltary officers and fairly strict disciplinarians. The result is a superb athlete who respects others and behaves in a way that would make Bill Cosby proud!The discipline so utterly missing from the lives of vast numbers of black youth is exactly what Xavier received as a child.Family matters if both parents are consistent and do not play the indulgence game so common today.Blacks were treated unfairly but were constrained by pre-Sixties America because social norms militated against criminal/violent behavior. The Sixties opened the floodgates to black latent tendencies as society declined morally into the one we have today.In South Africa we see a tidal wave of crime and violence by blacks once they were free of apartheid. Sound familiar?

  4. Ploni Almoni says:

    Ms. Mac Donald, you may not know Harris’ work well, but you have a much better intuitive understanding of it than many who have read it and comment on it.

    That said, it’s important to remember that there may be a substantial genetic influence on the differences between black and white crime and possibly on differences in illegitimacy as well. Illegitimacy may be one proximate cause of crime, but it’s begging the question to take that as an explanation. Why is illegitimacy higher among blacks than among whites over a very broad range time and place? Why have blacks responded more than whites to the relaxation of traditional social sanctions and to government welfare programs over the last half-century? Slavery? Racism? Genes?

  5. Donna B. says:

    Dear Cornelius J. Troost: I must say I think you are seriously mistaken. Unlike you, in high school in the 70s I met and associated with more than a “few” black students. Perhaps this is one advantage of having lived in the south.

    Black people in the U.S. are not “latently” possessed of any tendencies. For one thing, most of them are at least 1/2 white, many are more than that. Do not forget the Native American/Black breeding and the subsequent breeding with whites.

    The problem the black family and community have today are cultural. It’s ironic that these cultural problems most likely stem from dysfunctional white cultural characteristics — a blend of the least desirable characteristics of the “distressed cavaliers” and the “backcountry” Scots-Irish.

  6. harry flashman says:

    I’ve been up to my elbows in a black Marine’s entrails trying to save him. He was a Narine, the skin color didn’t matter.

    Until we came home.

    No matter what the elite and academic may think – it doesn’t matter.

    The down and dirty truth is – tribal connection will out. No matter how much the Ivory Tower may disagree.

  7. Pingback: Secular Right » Judith Rich Harris & nurture & nature

  8. Bradlaugh says:

    #5:  Yeah, I read that Tom Sowell essay too. So did Steve Sailer.

    The usual figure given for the average proportion of European ancestry in African Americans is 20-25 percent, not "at least 1/2." See for example this paper from the American Journal of Human Genetics.

  9. Thomas Sowell’s misguided effort to blame redneck culture for the woes of black America is certainly unfortunate and Steve Sailer is too respectful to really blast him for those rather desperate ruminations.Sowell is close to the edge of the abyss of genetics but unable to deal directly with its implications because he, too, has imbibed the intoxicating liquour of “blank slate environmentalism.”

    Sailer and Bradlaugh have the unique advantage of actually learning enough genetics and evolution to transgress the opiate wall of environmentalism to begin the journey toward the truth about human nature. As they have discovered quite abruptly, this adventure is frought with difficulties in a culture of political correctness.The MSM is adamently blank slate and fervently pro-Obama and his socialist prescriptions. Cochran, Harpendng, and Nick Wade still lie on the periphery looking in. Nonetheless, the behavioral tendencies of blacks on display in Haiti, Jamaica, Brazil, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Detroit are not beyond modification by the parental discipline blended with the great value of obedience before the law.The religiosity of blacks is a good starting point because few blacks will experience family solidarity any time soon.Obama is far removed from such insights and will use money to expand the hopeless Head Start program and other cul-de-sacs.

    Blacks behaved far better in the pre-Sixties past because there were more intact families and discipline actually existed. Boys especially need a strong father for discipline to be absorbed internally.The larger society valued self-control and respect for authority.While far from perfect the military is the last bastion of discipline for blacks who are in desperate need of boundaries in a rapidly declining culture of sex and violence, much of which they inadvertently help create. Liberal values have a positive side but the politically correct environment spawned by them includes a pandering of blacks that precludes constructive criticism and therefore prevents blacks from finding true equilibrium in an evolving culture.They are presently exalted for every slight “achievement” and affirmative action further distorts all social relations because whites have to remain silent about their own role as builders of America while blacks now enjoy special status which only our criminal justice system (so far) ignores. Obama may soon “fix” that.

  10. I’m curious how the data behind these things cuts across class. Yes, I’m sure the wealthier tend to divorce less and have fewer single-parent families, but for those that go against the grain, what is the likely outcome? Is a child raised by a single mom who’s a laywer going to have the same dysfunctions as a child raised by a single mom on

    Cornelius, have you ever spent time with actual black people, or are you too busy theorizing about how f-ed up they are? My high school was 35% black and even in the honors program I had a lot of black friends. The salutatorian of my graduating class was black and was a student of Obama’s at U of C. He also was an assistant to Alan Greenspan before he went to law school.

    BTW that high school was in the south in the 80s. It was very racist, which is part of the reason I don’t live in the south any more. Not that I was some paragon of virtue back then. I was a college student up north before it dawned on me that it was pretty odd to have a black and a white homecoming queen.

  11. Oops, didn’t finish the first paragraph, but I’m sure you can figure it out. Is a single mom who’s on welfare or working as a hotel maid functionally the same (in terms of childhood outcomes) as a single mom who is a lawyer.

  12. Argon says:

    Explain Asians.

  13. Several points: single moms, even when valiant, have statistically worse outcomes than intact families.By every measure of normalcy intact families are superior. Remember that teen motherhood is the provence of blacks and Hispanics: 83 births per 1000 is Hispanic, 63.7 per 1000 is black, while only 26.6 per 1000 females is white. So teen motherhood, which is the road to disaster, is dominated by Hispanics and blacks.(My data comes from 2006)

    Of course two misfit parents are worse than one mom who is competent, judicious, and loving.All other factors being fairly even, the intact family is the best structure for childhood health and well-being.

    In my book called Apes or Angels? Darwin, Dover, Human Nature, and Race, I refer to J. Phlippe Rushton’s interesting life history theory which attempts to explain racial differences in terms of the r-K continuum found in sociobiology. This deals with comparative reproductive strategies of various species but Rushton applies it to human sub-species with considerable power. Much more research is needed to confirm or disconfirm the Rushton theory, but it seems to fit the data.For instance, Asians are stronger at the K end because they have larger brains, longer gestation,higher offspring survival,delayed maturity, lower reproductive output, and longer lives. They also have higher mean IQ’s than whites and blacks.

    I acknowledge that culture plays an active role in helping form our destiny but James Q. Wilson discusses The DNA of Politics in the Winter 2009 City Journal to assert that genetics may even underlie our political orientation. Whether one is conservative or liberal is about 40% due to genetic factors.Of course the genetic factors interact with environmental ones to mold one’s overall orientation. We here at surely share the trait of conservatism due to our genetic commonality. We may differ in many other ways but our conservative natures apparently lead to atheism or agnosticism because we were brave and smart enough to explore ideas.

  14. resh says:

    @”We may differ in many other ways but our conservative natures apparently lead to atheism or agnosticism because we were brave and smart enough to explore ideas.”

    I suspect one’s atheism is largely residue of the DNA process. Indeed, as atheism is little more than non-belief (of a deity driven faith), it becomes more difficult to assign an active cognitive exercise to its design than to color it keenly as a blank state. Obviously, one can evaluate the manifold data and easily conclude that theism is a mindless proposition based on its logical merits and then “become” an atheist, but that sequence nearly presupposes the atheistic gene (as one seeking to awaken). But I don’t see (my) atheism as a particulary “brave or smart” state of affairs, not more so, anyway, than liking music.

    Also, I’m not entirely convinced by your theme of blacks running behaviorally amok due to non-traditional families. In my mind, the issue is about money. Two parents=more cash; one parent=less cash; each equates to the degree of civility, respectively. I would submit that the black neighborhoods would compare in crime rates to those of the whites were the dollars and incomes equal-or the reverse.


  15. Donna B. says:

    Yes, I read Thomas Sowell, Grady McWhiney, and David Hackett Fisher. I came to a conclusion similar to Sailor’s; that maladaptive traits black culture picked up in the south was from the ‘aristocratic’ slave owners before the Civil War and some of the strong family loyalty attributes afterwards were from struggling side by side with poor white sharecroppers, more likely to be Scots Irish.

    I certainly don’t see the blank slate idea as viable. There has been a distinct personality present in every newborn I’ve ever held.

    Obviously, I’m wrong about the percentage of mixing, but then I was just basing it on the skin tones I see. Not too reliable, I suppose.

  16. For resh and donna B.:
    I disagree with the farfetched idea of a gene for atheism because it makes no sense. Even Dean Hamer’s “god gene” is only suggestive because mystical experiences are very complex. Certainly those who inherit the VMAT2 genes are more likely to have spiritual experiences. The C/C and C/A genotypes allow for spiritual highs while A/A does not.An atheist is likely a smart person, most likely male, who uses science and logic to break through the intellectual and social barriers present in society. Resh is simply wrong about “brave or smart” because America before the Sixties was exceedingly conformist vis a vis religion and atheists, like gays, shut up for the most part.Look what happened to Lord Russell!!!!!!!!!!!! Perhaps you are too young to know about Russell’s travails. I assure you that ” smart or brave” is perfectly correct before our new era of Richard Dawkins, Harris, etc.,etc.Liberalism’s triumph meant a greater assault on religion by the most virulent non-believers. It is far easier to be an atheist today.

    Wow, Mr. resh you are wrong in an egregious way re CASH making the difference. Before colonization blacks lived a tribal existence involving primitive agriculture or a hunter-gatherer existence. Religion was a powerful force in tribal life and behavior was controlled by simple fear of death.The penalty for certain transgressions was death. Tribal leaders often had god-like status. Their word was law. The European colonial powers improved their lives in various ways but disrupted the tribal life that sustained them.After colonialism Africa erupted in pervasive political strife as competing idealogues fought for power.Amin, Mugabe.and many others had no real preparation for building countries out of the rubble of post-colonialism.They failed miserably.The black tendency toward violence that we see abundantly in America is on display in Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica, tropical Africa, and in UK.Asians, even when poor, are far less violent than blacks.The same is true of whites.

    Since even Obama cannot equalize racial IQ’s because they are largely genetic, all the billions poured into remediation will ultimately be wasted.Those differences, along with tendencies toward aggression and impulsivity, make the task of “civilizing” blacks a promethean one.Welcome to the real world of diversity.

    As for Donna B., you might benefit from reading my book on these issues.At least I take a stab at understanding them. Blacks, once released from subjugation, have “run amuck” everywhere. Murders and rapes under colonialism were relatively rare because the penalty was death, just as it was under primitive tribal conditions! Freedom in South Africa and America has removed that fear and even encouraged rape and mayhem through forceful pushing of “diversity” and equality as ultimate virtues.Note that the wealth of our NBA and NFL stars often makes no difference in behavioral outcomes. Wealth and celebrity indeed add fuel to the fire as aggressive blacks beat or kill women who create “problems” or men who challenge them in bars. Both leagues have an immense security and counselling apparatus to try to constrain black athletes while all are well aware that white athletes generally do not require such expensive surveillance.Since blacks are the paragons of athleticism in a sports crazy culture, we will continue to lie about these racial differences.

  17. Donna B. says:

    Mr. Troost, I’ve ordered your book because I am very willing to be educated.

    A large part of my opinion is based on the fact that every black mother I have communicated with wants the same thing for her child that I do. Where I speak of family loyalty is one place I feel the black family has taken to extremes a dysfunction of white Scots-Irish; that their children can really do no wrong.

    So far, I have little reason to believe that black and white disparity has a significant cause other than family dysfunction. If I’m wrong, I’m willing to be convinced, but give me sound evidence. Your book may well do so.

  18. For Donna B.
    You have the great virtue of being open-minded. After you’ve read the book, I hope you will comment on it here.It is a dislillation of many years of experience in science education, as well as a vast amount of reading and research. What is most rewarding is the considerable agreement I received from some of the world’s best scientists.The MSM have good reason to fear this book.Only in a few niches like this can it be openly discussed.

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