New Study Proves Parenting Only Matters for Some

Sasha Brown-Worsham

Hey parents: It turns out if you're reading this article right now, you're likely doing a much better job of parenting than you think and that, despite any concerns you might have, your children are going to be just fine. How do I know this?

According to The New York Times, affluent parents who have high education levels and who are engaged in reading about, learning about, and debating about the act of parenting have children for whom "parenting" matters less. In fact, parenting itself matters much, much more for low-income parents than it does for those in a higher socio-economic class. So all those debates about watching TV and co-sleeping all seem to come out in the wash so long as you yourself went to college and make enough money.


For poor, underprivileged children, it's another story. Research shows that better parenting could help improve their opportunities in many ways. Janet Currie, an economist at Columbia University, told The New York Times:

In one sense you can say parenting doesn’t matter very much if you’re looking at a bunch of upper-middle-class parents who are all basically good parents. Then variations don’t matter. But if you’re looking at people who are in difficult situations and aren’t able to be good parents, then improvements in parenting would make a huge difference. That’s part of the problem with the discussion.

So all those tiny things we do and say that we worry make us bad parents don't amount to a hill of beans so long as for the most part, we are actively engaged, caring moms and dads. According to the Times, research has found that those lifestyle differences that give us so much stress -- discipline, foods and meals, media exposure -- matter far more in lower- and middle-income children in terms of kindergarten readiness than they do in houses where education and income are a given.

So Amy Chua's Tiger Mother approach to parenting may actually not matter. Her children may have gone to the Ivy League anyway. All that time wasted!

All of this comes on the heels of economist Bryan Caplan's new book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think, which encourages parents to have more children and that we, especially upper middle class achievement-focused parents, have gotten away from the fun of parenting. He argues that we should just let our children watch more television and play video games because as long as we are good models for our kids in terms of education, etc. then parenting doesn't matter.

Cool. Honestly, the whole thing is kind of how I approach parenting anyway. I tend to think that if you even read about "parenting" as a discipline, you engage in online debates (like here!), and you have a good model of education and economics for your kids, they will probably turn out fine. That other stuff is just kind of noise.

Do you think parenting doesn't matter?

Read More