This makes a good deal of theoretical sense, as children aren't developing to be better children; they're developing to become adults in their own right. What children learn works when it comes to interacting with their parents might not readily translate to the outside world. If you assume your boss will treat you the same way your parents would, you're likely in for some unpleasant clashes with reality. The analysis in the paper is admittedly a bit tough to follow, as the authors examine three- and even four-way interactions which are difficult to keep straight in one's mind: Instead, I want to discuss the broader themes and design of the paper.
Previous research looking at parenting effects on children's development often suffers from the problem of relatedness, as genetic similarities between parents and children make it hard to tease apart the unique effects of parenting behaviors how the parents treat their children from natural resemblances nice parents have nice children.
In a simple example, parents who love and nurture their children tend to have children who grow up kinder and nicer, while parents who neglect their children tend to have children who grow up to be mean. However, it seems likely that parents who care for their children are different in some important regards than those who neglect them, and those tendencies are perfectly capable of being passed on through shared genes.
So are the nice kids nice because of how their parents treated them or because of inheritance? The adoption studies I mentioned previously tend to support the latter interpretation. When you control for genetic factors, parenting effects tend to drop out. What's good about the present research is its innovative design to try and circumvent this issue of genetic similarities between children and parents.
To accomplish this goal, the authors examined among other things how divorce might affect the development of different daughters within the same family. The reasoning for doing so seems to go roughly as follows: When daughters are regularly exposed to fathers that invest in them and monitor their behavior, they should come to expect that subsequent male parental investment will be forthcoming in future relationships and avoid peers who engage in risky sexual behavior.
The net result is that such daughters will engage in less risky sexual behavior themselves. By contrast, when daughters lack proper exposure to an investing father, or have one who does not monitor their peer behavior as tightly due to divorce , they should come to view future male investment as unlikely, associate with those who engage in riskier sexual behavior, and engage in such behavior themselves.
The larger this age gap between the daughters, the larger this effect should be. After recruiting 42 sister pairs from intact families and 59 sister pairs from divorced families and asking them some retrospective questions about what their life was like growing up, this is basically the result the authors found. Younger daughters tended to receive less monitoring than older daughters in families of divorce and, accordingly, tended to associate with more sexually-risky peers and engage in such behaviors themselves.
This effect was not present in biologically intact families. Do we finally have some convincing evidence of parenting behaviors shaping children's personalities outside the home?
Look at this data and tell me the first thing that comes to your mind Source: The first concern I would raise regarding this research is the monitoring measure utilized. Monitoring, in this instance, represented a composite score of how much information the daughters reported their parents had about their lives rated from 1 didn't know anything, 2 knew a little, or 3 knew a lot in five domains: While one might conceptualize that as monitoring i.
After all, the measure doesn't specify, "how often did your parents try to learn about your life and keep track of your behavior? To put that point concretely, my close friends might know quite a bit about what I do, where I go, and so on, but it's not because they're actively monitoring me; it's because I tell them about my day voluntarily.
So, rather than talking about how a father's monitoring of his daughter might have a causal effect on her sexual behavior, we could just as easily talk about how daughters who engage in risky behavior prefer not to tell their parents about what they're doing, especially if their personal relationship is already strained by divorce.
The second concern I have concerns divorce itself. Divorce can indeed affect the personal relationships of children with their parents. However, that's not the only thing that happens after a divorce. There are other effects that extend beyond emotional closeness. An important example of these other factors are the financial ones.
The results of entering additional economic problems into an already emotionally-upsetting divorce can entail not only additional resentment between children and parents and, accordingly, less sharing of information between them; the reduced monitoring , but also major alterations to the living conditions of the children.
These lifestyle shifts could include moving to a new home, upsetting existing peer relations, entering new social groups, and presenting children with new logistical problems to solve. While the quality and amount of the father-daughter relationship might indeed change during that time, there are additional and important factors that aren't controlled for in the present paper.
Too bad the house didn't split down the middle as nicely Source: According to the theory proposed at the beginning of the paper: First, it would require that the relationship of a daughter's parents are substantially predictive of the relationships she is likely to encounter in the world with regard to male investment.
This would further require, then, that male investment be appreciably uniform across time in the world. If male investment wasn't stable between males and across time within a given male, then trying to predict the general availability of future male investment from your father's seems like a losing formula for accuracy.
It seems unlikely the world is that stable. Making matters even worse in this regard is that, unlike food shortages, the presence or absence of male parental investment doesn't seem like the kind of thing that will be relatively universal. But that's only considering the broad level: Any kind of general predictive power that could be derived about men in a local ecology seems weak indeed, especially if you are basing that decision off a single relationship: In short, if you want to know what men in your environment are generally like, one relationship should be as informative as another.
There doesn't seem to be a good reason to assume your parents will be particularly informative. Matters get even worse for the predictive power of father-daughter relationships when one realizes the contradiction between that theory and the predictions of the authors.
The point can be made crystal clear simply by considering the families examined in this very study. If the older daughter with more years of exposure to her father comes to believe male investment will be available and the younger daughter with fewer years of exposure comes to believe it will be unavailable, these are opposing expectations of the world. It would be strange for literal neighbors to develop different expectations of general male behavior in their local environment just because the parents of one home got divorced while the other stayed together.
Unless different ecologies have rather sharp boarders Source: Indeed, at the heart of the paper is a large contradiction: In any case, the world doesn't seem as stable as it would need to be for that single data point to be terribly useful. While I fully expect that children's lives following their parents divorce will be different - and those differences can affect development, depending on when they occur - I'm not so sure that the personal relationship between fathers and daughters is the causal variable of primary interest.