All Parents Are Environmentalists Until They Have Their Second Child

Marvin Zuckerman? Kelvin L. Seifert? David T. Lykken? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A child’s development is influenced by both nature and nurture, but there are deep disagreements about the relative importance of these two influences. In addition, there are different viewpoints concerning the interactions of nature and nurture. Consider the following saying:

The parents of one child believe in “nurture”, and the parents of two or more children believe in “nature”.

When parents have one child it is easy for them to postulate that their actions are precisely guiding the development of their child. However, this belief is challenged when a second child is born, and the same actions yield sharply divergent results. Would you please help me to trace this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in a scientific journal in 1987. To understand this match one must be aware of the different meanings of the word “environmentalist”. The word typically describes a person who wishes to protect the ecology of biomes. But in this article it refers to a person who believes that human development is predominantly shaped by environmental factors such as parenting style, surroundings, and experiences. The effects of heredity are minimized.

University of Delaware psychologist Marvin Zuckerman published a piece in the journal “Behavioral and Brain Sciences” with a title matching the remark under exploration. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

All parents are environmentalists until they have their second child

Zuckerman’s article began with the following sentences:

What is it that happens to parents after they have their second child that shakes their belief in the tabula rasa? With an n of one, parents can assume that all of their child’s positive traits are due to their enlightened methods of child rearing (negative traits being assigned to a genetic influence from other relatives). Then they use the same methods with the second child, who turns out to be so different from the first that they have to question their premises.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading All Parents Are Environmentalists Until They Have Their Second Child

Notes:

  1. 1987 March, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Volume 10, Issue 1, All parents are environmentalists until they have their second child by Marvin Zuckerman (Department of Psychology, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware), Start Page 42, Quote Page 42, (Response article to: Why are children in the same family so different from one another? by Robert Plomin and Denise Daniels), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England. (Accessed via cambridge.org May 21, 2019) link