Opinion Brief

Child development: Does it matter if parents are rich or poor?

A new study finds that rich parents have less influence over their toddlers' intelligence than poor parents do. How important is money in child-rearing?

Parents try all kinds of methods to turn out smart, well-adjusted kids — some crack the whip "Tiger-Mother"-style, while others let their toddlers find their own way. But, according to a new paper in Psychological Science, a parent's ability to shape early mental ability (beyond basic genetics) largely depends on how much money the family has, says Jonah Lehrer in The Wall Street Journal. In poorer households, the home environment parents created was found to account for almost 80 percent of the mental variation among 2-year-olds, while in richer homes genetics proved far more important. How does wealth relate to mental development?

Money matters, but parenting matters more: Of course "the influence of poor parents matters," says Maia Szalavitz in Time, because low-income moms and dads are the ones who can prevent financial disadvantages from holding their children back. Wealthy parents matter, just in different ways. For example, one study found that professional parents talk more in the home, and send their kids off to school with twice the vocabulary of children from poorer homes.
"Perspective on the parenting debate: Rich parents don't matter?"

Rich parents do not matter as much as they think: It's important, rich or poor, "to provide your kids with a nurturing environment, full of books, social interactions, and positive words," says Rachel Emma Silverman in The Wall Street Journal. But genes matter more than whether you send your pampered toddler "to a Montessori or a Reggio-Emilia preschool." So "don't sweat the small stuff."
"Parents: Stop obsessing!"

There is a limit to what any parent can do: "Kids can come out of the womb, in some ways, fully formed," says Mireille Silcoff in Canada's National Post. Whether you're a Chinese Tiger Mother, like the controversial Amy Chua, or a "pampering" feel-gooder out to protect your kid from hard knocks, "over parenting" can do more harm than good. Maybe kids "could become stronger, smarter, and more self-reliant" if we watched over them less.
"Spoiled vs. spoiled: The parenting debate"

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