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Why Do Kids Go Bad?

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posted on Mar, 5 2006 @ 08:01 AM
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In No Two Alike, Judith Rich Harris takes on geneticists and behavioralists alike to tackle the old "nature versus nurture" controversy. Her conclusion? Influences in the larger cultural environment can override genetic traits and parental control.

In short, kids are smart, and they adapt. They see what the rules are, and they do what they need to do to survive in different environments - emotionally and in terms of status.

According to Harris, only 50% of human traits come from genes. The rest she says result from the interplay between three different brain systems: the relationship, socialization and status systems. She says that "evolution provided humans with a certain amount of plasticity in behavior so they can profit from their experiences." When early man developed "subtle and multidimensional" abilities "to read minds and adjust behavior," it became "advantageous to be able to modify patterns of social behavior on a long-term basis."

In a nutshell, kids' behaviour reflects the larger society where they live - and illustrates the traits needed to survive in that society.




Judith Rich Harris calls "No Two Alike" a "scientific detective story." The mystery is why people — even identical twins who grow up in the same home with the same genes — end up with different personalities. ...If parents don't shape children, what does? Harris ...looks for studies that pit the influence of parents against the influence of the larger environment. Children raised in Canada by parents born in Hong Kong become Canadian. When parents have an accent but most of the neighborhood doesn't, their children lose the accent. The village, not the family, prevails. ...Why? Because that's what makes evolutionary sense. If your parents raise you poorly, Harris argues, you're better off diluting the damage. If they dote on you, you're better off adjusting to the tougher social world in which you'll have to find your way. Throughout most of human evolution, parents had little time for children old enough to run around. They learned from one another and from watching adults.

From this evolutionary logic, Harris builds a theory of personality based on three systems in our brains. The socialization system absorbs language, customs and skills, making us more alike. Mommy and Grandma wear dresses; you're a girl, so you want a dress too. The relationship system distinguishes people so we can deal with each one appropriately. Crying gets milk from Mommy but not Grandma; Billy is gentle, but Bobby hits people. Even random differences are important: Anne helped you with your homework, but her twin sister owes you a dollar. You find ways to tell people apart because you have to. ...Your socialization system figures out how to conform to your group. Your relationship system figures out how to get along with each person. Your status system figures out how to compete. It monitors people's reactions, gathering information about how smart, pretty, weak or talented they think you are. It looks for virtues, activities and occupations at which you're most likely to best your peers. It notices tiny differences between the way people regard you and the way they regard others in your peer group, or even your twin. By choosing pursuits based on these differences, it magnifies them. It drives you to be different.

The reason parental influence doesn't control children's behavior outside the home is that they adjust to context. "Children are capable of generalizing — of learning something in one context and applying it in another — but they do not do it blindly," Harris observes. At home, where you're the younger sibling, you yield. At school, where you're one of the bigger kids, you don't. And unlike other animals, you can shuffle your self-classifications. In seconds, you can go from acting like a girl to acting like a child to acting like a New Yorker. ...In short, the evolutionary logic that makes us different from one another will gradually make us different from ourselves, context by context. Personality — behavior that is "consistent across time and place," as one textbook puts it — will fade.

'No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality'




Mostly, I think Harris nailed it. The only gap I see is that she fails to address the physical impact on brain function of the physical environment - including heavy metal and chemical pollution, and common epidemic disease - and the subsequent effects on personality.

Government policies - and many threads and members here on ATS - routinely blame parents for "letting their kids go bad." The new focus is on "personal responsibility" without regard for the impacts of outside influences and our society's dominant role models.

Many people assume kids are too stupid, uneducated and unaware to pick up on how things really work, who really calls the shots, and how. Harris' hypothesis questions these assumptions, rather brilliantly.

In my opinion, the focus on parents' "personal responsibility" results from a disinformation campaign designed to deflect attention away from the many real factors that influence children's behaviour and which, in the end, work to define peoples' personalities.







posted on Mar, 5 2006 @ 02:00 PM
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I firmly believe that a big factor with kids going bad is from being abused, and sexually assaulted. In now way is a child hit for disobedience is abuse, because I think more kids need their butt whipped when they have been bad.

The facts are kids who have been abused, physically, mentally, and sexually will become anti-social and try drugs, AND often turn to drugs to medicate themselves because of their issues.

The family or the decline of the family is likely another factor. WHen there parents or parental figures are constanly arguing with each other often with violence, and often with drugs(pot excluded), how is a child going to grow up any different without intervention?



posted on Mar, 5 2006 @ 04:47 PM
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The facts are kids who have been abused, physically, mentally, and sexually will become anti-social and try drugs, AND often turn to drugs to medicate themselves because of their issues.


This is true, but not the reason for the epidemic of lazy, drug using youth. It's a bit naive to think that the only reason kids turn to drugs and anti-social behavior is because of abuse. Plenty of well brought up individuals and intelligent individuals end up using drugs. Some abuse them and some don't. The abusers usually have addictive personalities and have the ability to over-indulge in anything: sexual partners, gambling, alcohol and other drugs, shopping, smoking, eating, etc. etc. etc.....

It all doesn't stem from abuse. There is of course a lot more abuse out there than people realize or want to realize. But again, there is a hell of a lot more to the big picture than only abuse.

I was never abused growing up, my parent sloved each other and treated each other with respect around myself and my sisters. There was no abuse of any kind. My mother however, did tend to like to have a few drinks every day (keep that in the back of your minds). As soon as I went ot college my first year and lived away from home, I went crazy. I drank heavily and took every drug I came in contact with.

I have since been sober for 6 years....I look back on it and realize that addcitive behavior runs in my family. Not on my father's side, but my mother's. My father had a scotch and water maybe once a month and when he smoked, he smoked a pack of cigarettes every 2 weeks maybe.

My mother however, did like to drink every day and when my father died, she drank heavily until her death and smoked 3 packs a day. Her brother, my uncle, also has a drinking and drug problem and has been sober for several years now himself.

So, in my case, its' genetics. It had nothing to do with my environment or being around or part of any abuse. And the anti-social behavior for me came about because of the drug abuse, not the other way around!

Whatever, my point is that there is a lot more to it than just believing it's caused by some sort of abuse. That is true for a small percentage, but for most abusers there is a much larger and complicated group of things going on!



posted on Mar, 5 2006 @ 07:05 PM
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I think the analysis is pretty good, maybe a bit of an oversimplification, but it defintely captures one of the more important facets of the problem - contradictory impulses, or mixed messages, if you prefer.

We need to clean our own house, and make it so that virtue and intelligence and compassion are rewarded with status and wealth. The current system rewards just the opposite. It's to the point where people are unconsciously being pulled in too many directions at once, and stressed to the point of breaking.

Why is that our 'civilization' seems to culture and nourish the epic insanity we're seeing? Wouldn't it be wise to culture decency and respect instead?

I think another main component of the problem is a lack of information on the part of parents raising kids in this environment. They don't talk to their kids enough, first off, and they don't realize just how responsible they are for giving their child the necessary skills to succeed - long before school ever starts.

Parents need to take the task of raising children seriously. It's not something you can just put off for five or six years and then leave to the state.

Social situations will stimulate behavioral adaptations, and it behooves us to monitor those reactions and do our best to steer them towards beneficial ends.

Good article, and good material for discussion.


The pollution/chemical saturation issue you raised after the article, Sofi, is a valid one. Industrial byproducts have a way of popping up in consumer goods produced by affiliates and umbrella-mates in the business world - not even counting the enormous impact (thousands upon thousands of tons year after year) on the environment we have to live in.

People will either realize and take steps to protect themselves, or they won't. I don't know what's stopping people from taking control of their own destiny, the information is out and available. People could be making much better decisions, but the persist in seeking comfort and expediency over the more difficult alternatives.



posted on Mar, 5 2006 @ 07:36 PM
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Originally posted by Excitable_Boy

It's a bit naive to think that the only reason kids turn to drugs and anti-social behavior is because of abuse. Plenty of well brought up individuals and intelligent individuals end up using drugs. Some abuse them and some don't. The abusers usually have addictive personalities


I didnt mean that the only reason kids go bad is because of abuse, I just want to make that clear, and many kids who have been abuse turn out to be saints because of their hardships.


Also I think the addictive personality is just a label that has become an excuse, of heard so many people after a drug binge just blame it over and over again on their so called addictive personality. To me that is just a lame excuse for someone who needs help.



posted on Mar, 6 2006 @ 01:50 PM
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Originally posted by WyrdeOne

Good article, and good material for discussion.





Thanks.





The pollution/chemical saturation issue you raised after the article, Sofi, is a valid one. Industrial byproducts have a way of popping up in consumer goods produced by affiliates and umbrella-mates in the business world - not even counting the enormous impact (thousands upon thousands of tons year after year) on the environment we have to live in.

People will either realize and take steps to protect themselves, or they won't.




Besides the contaminants we know about - I am interested in the fact that bird flu appears to be endemic, and is known to affect the central nervous system for example. ...I'm wondering what kind of effects low-level chronic disease might have on brain function...




I don't know what's stopping people from taking control of their own destiny, the information is out and available. People could be making much better decisions, but the persist in seeking comfort and expediency over the more difficult alternatives.


See above. Re: the it's-all-too-overwhelming-for-me syndrome.



posted on Mar, 6 2006 @ 08:35 PM
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we are who we are b/c of the decisions we make. we are all faced with the same to cheat or not to cheat, to lie or to tell the truth we are who we are by how we react to our enviroment. to ask why one rock is here and the other is there is meaning less to try to understand why we act the way we do is a noble cause but has yet to come true. maby we act like we want and why some "go bad" is simply they are bad nothing more nothing less.



posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 02:17 AM
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Anything a child comes into contact with any of their senses has an effect on that child.

MTV, Barbie, XBOX, television or whatever you want to point to, parents allow their kids to come into contact with these everyday within the home.

Whether it is proper to be snobbish, cheat, lie or whatever, the way a parent acts says a lot about how the child will act. I have met some very stupid and immature parents in my lifetime, and subsequently their children turn out to be stupid and immature.

Motivation must be a key factor. What motivates these behaviors? I'm going to blame everything on MTV (and anything of a similar mold). All they do is get their money for nothing and chicks for free. First, they lie to you. They do not play music videos! Next, they have a group of Barbie dolls come on camera with their bouncing boobies saying "Ya, woo, it's fun to be a slut, ignorant and marginally educated!". Then they tell you that if you ain't got the latest in shoe apparell, you might as well kill yourself. Bunch of moronic apes for the most part if you ask me.

Then there is the cable news networks. My oh my, is there anything more semantical than this? Yes, politics. It cannot be healthy for anyone to watch someone like our president or various members of congress. Some very corrupt people I tell you.

Basically, if kids come into contact with stupid, deceitful and emotionless people through the course of their day, they may very well end up such as this.



posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 02:31 AM
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www.pbs.org...

I watched this special the other night, and I was shocked. There are 1.5 million + meth users in the United States alone, and rising. It's also a huge problem in the Prairies and BC.

Meth is possibly the worst thing you can put in your body. One hit, and you can very easily be addicted for life. In some area, meth users account for 70% of property crime and 60% of total crime.

Now, where am I going with this? Well, these users are brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands and wives. In the online format I linked to, there is an interview with a pediatrician that details how children have been used and abused by meth users, sexually, physically, mentally.

DE



posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 04:25 AM
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I believe genetic predisposition plays a big part, but during the early stages environmental factors play a larger part (probably 75%/25%) (pre adolescence). Throughout the later stages of life (post adolescence) the genetic factors kick in harder and outrun the environmental factors (maybe 70%/30%) UNLESS it is extreme, where the environment can almost overshadow any genetic predisposition.

This comes from my own understanding, observation and general gut feelings on the matter. No scientific evaluation involved.

- Nazgarn



posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 05:09 AM
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Originally posted by DeusEx
Meth is possibly the worst thing you can put in your body. One hit, and you can very easily be addicted for life. In some area, meth users account for 70% of property crime and 60% of total crime.


I agree, but the legal status of Meth is by far the contributing factor. Drugs wreck more lives through the stigma and disproportionate punishment of users than the drug itself. Remove the dealers from the equation, regulate, moderate and educate.

If their dangerous addiction was treated with medical help and counselling instead of jail and condemnation there would be no need for these crimes.

Back on topic, there was an interesting article on the BBC website yesterday:

Altruism 'in-built' in humans

I'm not so sure, I think the feeling of well being obtained through selfless acts make it slightly selfish behaviour! But if that manifests as altruistic deeds then this can only be good.



posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 08:43 PM
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Interesting comments. Thanks.

...Anybody given any though to Harris' reference to the three brain systems? ...socialization, relationship and status? And her idea that behavior evolves by adapting to context? Meaning the needs of a situation and the dominant values?



posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 09:03 PM
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I shouldn't have posted this to begin with.

[edit on 7-3-2006 by mrwupy]



posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 09:14 PM
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Originally posted by mrwupy
I wonder about the gene factor. I share the same genes as my brother and we are as differant as night and day.


You're in luck, you do NOT share the same genes as your brother. In fact, unless you are identical twins, the chance of you two having the same genome is so astronomical you can't even comprehend it. Yes, you have the same parents, but each parent has two alleles for every gene (at least), and your dad's two alleles are not the same as your mom's two alleles, meaning there are many, many possibile combinations for your inheritance of two alleles. You could end up with alleles 1 and 2, 2 and 3, 3 and 4, 4 and 1, 4 and 2, 3 and 1, 3 and 3, 4 and 4, etc. Now, multiply the probability of you inheriting the SAME combination of alleles as your sibling by 20 000 to 25 000 (the current estimated number of genes in the human genome), and the chance of point mutations, which is quite high, and you will have the probability of you two having the same genome. Nil.


So, in short, I wouldn't worry about yor own criminal tendencies anytime soon, heh. Ciao e buone notte.
~MFP

[edit on 3/7/2006 by bsl4doc]



posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 09:21 PM
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Originally posted by bsl4doc

You're in luck, you do NOT share the same genes as your brother.


In that case, everyone please forget the post I made a few moments ago


Wupy



posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 09:26 PM
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deprivement, hate, and discrimination. the 3 biggest factors that formed who i am. environment and social impacts i feel have more importance then the genes they are born with. we are being who override instinct when needed. mainly the effects on us growing up play a more important role on the outcome of our lives then anything else.



posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 09:30 PM
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OH NO. That was a GREAT post mrwupy. I am so sorry you deleted it - and that I didn't comment right away.

...Your story showed how important relationships and status are, at least. Plus it added dimension to your character. And reminded me why I like you.

Oh well. It's done. But ya gotta not take bsdoc so seriously. She is a good scientist and a fine person once you get to know her, but all that stuff is still only a small part of a very big picture. And every little piece is important - even that pesky anecdotal evidence so oft dismissed in the hallowed halls.




posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 09:43 PM
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Sorry Sofi. Even as I was writing that first post I kept asking myself, "What the hell are you doing???"

Some things are best left in the past, even if it is relevent to the discussion at hand.

Wupy



posted on Mar, 7 2006 @ 10:14 PM
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Oh well. It's done. But ya gotta not take bsdoc so seriously. She is a good scientist and a fine person once you get to know her, but all that stuff is still only a small part of a very big picture. And every little piece is important - even that pesky anecdotal evidence so oft dismissed in the hallowed halls.


Oh, I completely agree that there is more to a person's personality than genetics. However, since Wumpy's brother seems to show a procilivity for criminalistic activity, whereas Wumpy doesn't, and I assume they were raised in the same household, genetics COULD play a factor. There could always have been a series of childhood events which affected the other child, true.

~MFP



posted on Mar, 9 2006 @ 07:11 AM
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Also I think the addictive personality is just a label that has become an excuse, of heard so many people after a drug binge just blame it over and over again on their so called addictive personality. To me that is just a lame excuse for someone who needs help.


Really JRod..is this your educated opinion? Maybe it's an excuse in some cases, but not in general. It is a disorder. Addictive Personality Dosorder. It does exist and it's quite real....and that's an educated answer. Do you have anything to back up your claim that it is just an excuse? Do you have any idea what you are talking about?



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