Tag Archives: parenting

The Presence of Books and Children’s Intelligence

The number of books in your household has more of an effect on your child’s academic achievements than your education or income, a recently published study (pdf) has found.

Suggesting that the effects seem to be far from trivial, the conclusion indicates that simply the presence of books in their house can make children more intelligent.

Just having books around the house (the more, the better) is correlated with how many years of schooling a child will complete. The study […] found that growing up in a household with 500 or more books is “as great an advantage as having university-educated rather than unschooled parents, and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father.” Children with as few as 25 books in the family household completed on average two more years of schooling than children raised in homes without any books.

[Another study] found that simply giving low-income children 12 books (of their own choosing) on the first day of summer vacation “may be as effective as summer school” in preventing “summer slide” — the degree to which lower-income students slip behind their more affluent peers academically every year.

Upon reading this I had the same thought as Jonah Lehrer: “But what to do in a world of Kindles and iPads?”

Fertility, Maternal Age and Child Development

In suggesting alternatives to the status quo of high-status women delaying childbirth further and further, Robin Hanson notes that, unlike advanced paternal age, advanced maternal age does not correlate with poor learning and social outcomes in children (in fact, older mothers had children who scored higher).

In all cases, we find evidence that children of older mothers have better outcomes. Not only do children born to mothers in their twenties do better than children born to teen mothers, but children born to mothers in their thirties do better than children born to mothers in their twenties. However, when we control for other socioeconomic characteristics, such as family income, parental education and single parenthood, the coefficients on maternal age become small and statistically insignificant. The only exception is an index of social outcomes, which is positively associated with maternal age, even controlling for socioeconomic factors. For cognitive outcomes, young motherhood appears to be a marker, not a cause, of poor child outcomes.

That may be, but Hanson also states that women drastically underestimate their fertility in later life.

The average woman is born with around 300,000 eggs […] with just 12 percent of those eggs remaining at the age of 30, and only 3 percent left by 40. […]

It is clear that there’s a very rapid loss in the number of eggs available as women age and that the smaller pool of [older] eggs is also more likely to contain a higher proportion of abnormal eggs. […]

It’s important to remember that even 30,000 or so eggs remaining at the start of your 30s is still a lot. In addition, the quantity and quality of eggs are just two factors affecting fertility: […] lifestyle factors such as stress, smoking and being overweight can have an increasingly negative impact on fertility as you get older.

Choosing a Marriage Partner

When you’re looking, here are a few tips on choosing a marriage partner to increase your happiness and marriage longevity, from a summary of the research by Eric Barker:

  • There is mutual idealisation: “Spouses who idealized one another were more in love with each other as newlyweds. Longitudinal analyses suggested that spouses were less likely to suffer declines in love when they idealized one another as newlyweds. Newlywed levels of idealization did not predict divorce.” (Source)
  • Your partner has high self-esteem: On explicit measures of positive illusions, high self-esteem people continue to compensate for costs. However, cost-primed low self-esteem people correct and override their positive implicit sentiments when they have the opportunity to do so. Such corrections put the marriages of low self-esteem people at risk: Failing to compensate for costs predicted declines in satisfaction over a 1-year period. (Source)
  • The male has a high socio-economic status: Previous studies in developed-world populations have found that fathers become more involved with their sons than with their daughters and become more involved with their children if they are of high socioeconomic status (SES) than if they are of low SES. […] High-SES fathers [make] more difference to [their] child’s IQ by their investment than low-SES fathers do. The effects of paternal investment on the IQ and social mobility of sons and daughters were the same. (Source)
  • Your partner is conscientious and slightly neurotic: Conscientiousness [demonstrates] a compensatory effect, such that husbands’ conscientiousness predicted wives’ health outcomes above and beyond wives’ own personality. The same pattern held true for wives’ conscientiousness as a predictor of husbands’ health outcomes. Furthermore, conscientiousness and neuroticism acted synergistically, such that people who scored high for both traits were healthier than others. Finally, we found that the combination of high conscientiousness and high neuroticism was also compensatory, such that the wives of men with this combination of personality traits reported better health than other women. (Source)
  • Avoid ‘cheaters’ by trusting your instincts: The results of these experiments suggest that cheaters might look different from cooperators, possibly due to beliefs and personality traits that make them less ideal exchange partners, and the human mind might be capable of picking up on subtle visual cues that cheaters’ faces give off. (Source)
  • The female is the most attractive partner: Relative difference between partners’ levels of attractiveness appeared to be most important in predicting marital behavior, such that both spouses behaved more positively in relationships in which wives were more attractive than their husbands, but they behaved more negatively in relationships in which husbands were more attractive than their wives. (Source)
  • The female’s parents are not divorced: Results demonstrated that women’s, but not men’s, parental divorce was associated with lower relationship commitment and lower relationship confidence. These effects persisted when controlling for the influence of recalled interparental conflict and premarital relationship adjustment. The current findings suggest that women whose parents divorced are more likely to enter marriage with relatively lower commitment to, and confidence in, the future of those marriages, potentially raising their risk for divorce. (Source)

via @charliehoehn

The Rise of Cooking Shows, the Fall of Cooking (and Happiness)

I almost ignored this bit-too-long piece on the rise of the TV cooking show and the simultaneous fall of the home cooked meal (via @borrodell).

That decline has several causes: women working outside the home; food companies persuading Americans to let them do the cooking; and advances in technology that made it easier for them to do so. Cooking is no longer obligatory, and for many people, women especially, that has been a blessing. But perhaps a mixed blessing, to judge by the culture’s continuing, if not deepening, fascination with the subject. It has been easier for us to give up cooking than it has been to give up talking about it — and watching it.

But combined with this short article discussing the joys a cooking show brought to one family, and the myriad benefits it brought to their children, I felt they were perfect complements.

A funny thing happened on the way through the cooking show obsession. What we were seeing on the screen began trickling into our kitchen. The kids suddenly perked up during our weekly visits to the local farmers’ market, insisting on checking out exotic fruits and vegetables and, even better, buying, preparing, and eating them. […]

What are they learning? How do I count the ways? Fine motor skills from chopping garlic. Multi-tasking from sautéing vegetables in olive oil. (Case in point is their startling realization that you can’t just leave a saucepan unattended; this skill requires the need to overcome any tendencies for ADD.) They’ve honed their organization and math skills, practiced quick thinking, and stretched to develop some original ideas. […] And, best of all, my kids are actually eating and enjoying copious vegetables and a variety of other healthful and exotic foods.

The latter article also notes that a strong negative correlation has been found between the amount of television watched and happiness. This does not surprise me.

Fostering Innovative Thinking

By interviewing and surveying 3,500 visionary entrepreneurs over a six-year period, a pair of professors believe they have identified the five habits and skills common to ‘creative executives’ that distinguish them from the rest:

  • Associating: the skill of connecting seemingly unrelated questions, problems and ideas.
  • Questioning, especially “questions that challenge the status quo and open up the bigger picture”.
  • Close observation of details, particularly of people’s behaviour.
  • Experimentation.
  • Networking with smart people who have little in common with them, but from whom they can learn”.

In this Harvard Business Review article the two researches go on to talk of the key role inquisitiveness plays in creativity–that same curiosity one of the researchers found throughout a similar 20-year study looking at “great global leaders” and that you find in children.

We […] believe that the most innovative entrepreneurs were very lucky to have been raised in an atmosphere where inquisitiveness was encouraged. We were stuck by the stories they told about being sustained by people who cared about experimentation and exploration. Sometimes these people were relatives, but sometimes they were neighbors, teachers or other influential adults. A number of the innovative entrepreneurs also went to Montessori schools, where they learned to follow their curiosity.

via Ben Casnocha