Peer versus Parent Influences

Judith Rich Harris believes that a child or anyone can be influenced by someone, in this case a young child, their every day experiences. Not only do children see what the parents do and fall into their habits, but they also are influenced by others such as their peers or outside linking environmental factors (1)***. Harris includes in her book the research data of twins being adopted and they are separated and living a life of their own, children who go to daycare while their parents work and those who actually stay home with them. Most importantly, the viewpoint of those who may be raised in a single household with one parent, and those children with both parents living with them (2)***. In one of her articles, Harris uses the Cinderella story as an example of her beliefs. She uses the story to tell show that Cinderella had two personalities: one at home with her stepsisters and another with the prince. She behaves different and obeys the sisters and does whatever they say and with the prince, he is in love with her and would like to date her and all that good stuff. However, though this is a fairy tale, she gives the readers this example to allow them to better explain what she believes in and to support her case in nurture assumption (2)***. If a child has other siblings it is possible for the parents to raise them all and treat them all equally, but yet they will be less influenced by the parents. This is possible because outside of the home they will be hanging around different group of friends mixed with people of various backgrounds (7)***. There are plenty of issues and debates that will go along with the issue of parents not having an ounce of influence on their child versus influence from the child’s friends.

As research shows, there are plenty of people jumping on Harris’ back about her book as well as what she believes in with child development. One fact that help Harris earn criticism is the information she writes about the genetics of the parent and how their genes are the biological aspect of helping to influence or raise their children (1, 3)***. Along with the genes the parents may have mostly influenced the children through positive parenting (3)***. When the parent is involved, they are helping the child to further develop their social skills and assisting with child development. Through research it appears that everyone is attacking her credentials and background information. Most are criticizing that she is not ready for the job or she is no the right person to do what she is doing and producing these facts and making judgments on influences on peers from each other or their parents. Some researchers criticize Harris on the issue of her believing that nature does not play a factor in child development. It is all about nurture rather than the biological inheritance (1)***. Instead of a certain condition such as breast cancer, sickle cell, or any other condition that pertains to the body, but it could be the nature of the child whether the child is influenced to be good or bad. Along the same lines if the child is influenced by the parent, then the child will act differently according to where they may be at and end up picking up other behaviors. They are responsible for parenting the child, but the child has a choice to take that advice from the parent and use it in life and even through the other stages of human development. (7)***. It does get complicated on others disagreeing with some of the information and conclusions Harris has reached over the last several years.

After doing a bit of research, I think about everything I have read in order to state my stand point on which side of this issue is the strongest. I could go for what Harris has said and everything (with the intention of cherry picking), but I could always end of contradicting myself. So with an open mind, parents can influence make a difference in their child’s life. That is their job. That is what parents are made for. If they are not influencing their child to be right or to be unique or different among all others, then they are not being a good parent. If this may be the case, outside of the home, the pressure from other peers may cause the child to be different. There is a possibility of the child or anyone, even teenagers and college students, and adults, to appear one way towards the parents, one way towards their friends, and another way towards their own selves. Not to digress, but the child must get help from the parent and teachers to start developing their social skills and come to the realizations of their moral values (1)***. Does it really matter if the parents are showing true influence in the family? Could other factors such as financial problems that the family is having and they are struggling, the ethnic background of the child, and peer pressure at school that will influence the child differently than what their family, teachers, and best friends (1, 4)***. In some aspect the parent will raise the child to be a respectful citizen whereas they may be influenced to misbehave at school or some place else?

After reading Harris’ views, I am not quite sure how I might change my own child-rearing practices. To look back on physically punishment, that can be a factor on influence the child to be respectful, aggressive, or a runaway child. However, it would be a good reason to influence my child to be good because that is what parents are for when have a child. Setting good examples is a good parenting influence since I am normally set good examples no matter who I am around. In the future, raising a child, it is important to be involved in his or her life because with less influence and paying attention to the child, he or she will mostly likely face peer pressure and this can lead to behavioral problems (5, 7)***. Parents should do their best to influence and raise their child or children to behave and make moral decisions. Everyone is different and has individual characteristics. However it is the parents to show responsibility to make sure the child or children get their act together to be a better person and to know that they can do anything they want.


  1. King, Laura A. The Science of Psychology.***