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Summarize in not more than 160 words the argument that peer influence is more important than parental influence in a child's development.

 
Most psychologists have said that children's behaviour is largely influenced by genes and parent's upbringing. Freud the psychologist placed parents at the centre of the child's universe.

Genes are responsible for 50% of our behaviour. This conclusion was the result of years of study by behavioural scientists. People are nervous, friendly, unsociable and so on because of their genes. Therefore the other half of a person's character must be due to the home environment shaped by the parents. `That was how I was raised!' is a common response.

Yet researchers have not been able to find conclusive evidence of this parental influence. Nervous parents do not always have nervous children, and confident parents do not necessarily have confident children. In other words, it is not always true that children turn out according to the way they are raised.

There is a new theory that gives a different view of how a child's personality is shaped. It is shaped more by the child's peers than his parents. Growing children try to distance themselves from the adults in their home environment. They are more interested in keeping up with other children than copying their parents. They want to be like others in their age group. They are influenced by their peers where food, clothes, language and other aspects are concerned. A child who refuses to eat his spinach would often do so if he sees another child accepting the spinach. Mothers who try to set an example by eating spinach heartily often fail to persuade their children to eat the hated vegetable.

Sometimes growing children are not accepted by their peers. They become miserable when this happens. A survey showed that 9% of the adolescents questioned blamed their parents for their unhappiness. More than 33% blamed their peers. If this observation is true, then parental influence is less important than what it was thought to be.

Children learn a lot about growing up from their peers. What children pick up from other children is as important if not more important than what they pick up at home. What is the evidence for this?

There are several examples of children being different from expectations. Surveys of children of immigrants show that the majority of them do not speak with their parents' accents. Other surveys show that children of deaf mute parents learn how to speak as well as children whose parents speak to them from the day they were born. Adopted children develop few traits similar to their adoptive parents and in different directions from their natural born siblings in spite of being raised in the same way.

Other observations stress on how children behave differently when they are at home from when they are in school. Negative behaviour at home does not mean negative behaviour at school. Children who refuse to do the smallest chores at home could bring home school reports praising them for being helpful in school The ones who are timid at home are quite capable of being in control or even aggressive among friends.

Children are not as delicate as many believe them to be. They are not easily damaged, by their parents' mistakes. Furthermore, children can be cruel to one another. The world out there is tough for children. But they find ways to adapt themselves to it.

 

Main points
1 No conclusive proof of parents' influence on child's personality.

2 New theory: peer influence stronger than parents'.

3 Children use other children as models.
Unhappy when not accepted by peers.
4 Survey: more children blame peers than parents for unhappiness.
5 Examples of parental influence not as strong: immigrants' children's' accents, children of deaf mute parents, adopted children's behaviour.
6 Children generally strong enough to survive in tough society.

 
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Answer
 

Researchers do not have absolute proof that parents' upbringing shapes a child's personality. A new theory states that a growing child is influenced more strongly by his peers than by his parents. Children develop away from their parents towards their peers. They want to be like other children. If they are rejected by their peers, they become miserable. One survey shows that more children blame their peers than their parents for their unhappiness. Therefore parental influence is not as crucial as previously believed. Examples are given of immigrants' children who do not speak with their parents' accents and children of deaf mute parents who speak like other children. Adopted and natural born children with a common upbringing have been observed to develop differently and many children behave differently at home from when they are in school. Children can be strong. They can survive parents' wrongs, peer challenges and adapt to the world outside. (153 words)

     
 
 

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