Effects of Supportive Parenting

According to a recent New York Times article, those who are licked as a child will score an A+ in college Biology!  Well, only if you read the first few paragraphs and skip everything else except for the last sentence.  The article sparked my interest because of a previous class discussion that led to a short debate regarding determinism vs. free will.  Regardless of what side of the debate a person chooses, their beliefs will have an impact on how the legal system is viewed and how it can and should be used.

The article by Nicholas Kristof entitled “Cuddle Your Kid” reported on a study that explained that lab rats that had been licked more as babies were able to find their way through a maze more quickly.  Further, the author equated this with an University of Minnesota research study that found that receiving supportive parenting early in life was just as good an indicator of high school graduation as I.Q.  This was not the most interesting idea presented in the article, however.  The author also wrote of a young girl who started high school with a C average, was arrested, and scored in the bottom one percentile on the ACT.   But after a support group began investing in and nurturing the young girl, she received A’s her senior year and later went on to score an A+ in college biology.  The idea is tha,t although a lack of nurturing and support in infancy might damage the prefrontal cortex and lead to poor achievement, the damage could potentially be undone if that child receives support in another manner.

The article certainly does not settle the debate score from class but the idea could have far reaching implications in the legal system from public policy to sentencing guidelines in criminal cases.  The author of the article directly calls out both Romney and Obama and highlights the effects of investing in parenting education for at-risk moms – those in environments known to lack supportive parenting practices.  Additionally, there may be more hope of reform for those incarcerated at younger ages simply by providing mentors or other means of support.

The article may be found here.


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