The magazine of the Royal Economic Society titled The Economic Journal dated October 2016 has several articles dealing with child development and potential investment. One of the earliest English proverbs I learned was that a child is the father of the man. This means what an adult is depends on what they were when they were children.
These people who are holding well-paying jobs today went through a childhood that prepared them for this. They were born and brought up in families that sent them to school. The parents paid school fees in full or in part and spent time watching their children’s progress.
The performance of children in schools has a lot to do with the family background. In the United Kingdom, for example, people are divided into distinct working and middle classes. It is noted that children of middle class parents generally do better than children of working class parents.
A child from a professional family such as a lawyer, professor or bank manager often had a larger vocabulary than a child of a labourer. When subjected to intelligence tests, middle class children show higher scores.
Parental influence on children is both a matter of nature and nurture that is intelligence they show and their future achievement are due both to the genes (natural) and upbringing.
Natural intelligence or intelligence quotient (IQ) keeps growing from birth up to the age of 10. Thereafter it remains stable.
There are millions of children out there that were born with IQ of 10, but will achieve little in life or occupy lowly positions because they are growing up in unfavourable environments. The basic environment is the family.
Uneducated parents are less inclined to prepare their children for such professions as teaching, law and medicine. Within the home, these parents seldom talk about education or achievement in life. There are no books. The home environment is, therefore, not conducive to cognitive (mental) development. In the middle class home, there are books. Parents and friends when they visit each other talk about professional matters, business or policies. The child absorbs these matters, they become part of her or his personality.
Apart from parents, a child is exposed to other environments such as the kind of fellow children he plays with. Some professional parents prefer to send their children to schools where children of fellow professionals are sent, not schools which are dominated by working class children for fear that their children may copy the habits of working- class children. Teachers also provide environments for children. Drunkard teachers provide bad examples for children. A teacher who does not believe in the existence of God and despite religion is likely to produce atheists.
Which is stronger on the future earnings and other achievements: genes (nature) or nurture (environment)? This is an unsettled question. Both seem vital.
Some children who have displayed high IQ later in life achieve a lot but others achieve nothing. Achievement depends also on the character of a person. Those with ambition and who work harder, with persistence achieve a lot even if their IQ is just average. But it is a fact that someone born with mental deficiency cannot achieve much in life.
Lucky is the child who is born in a family where parents not only live together but do so happily. Happy families produce happy children and it is usually these who succeed in life. But there are contradictions in life. The French writer Andrea Maurois in his book The Art of Writing says great authors often had unhappy childhood. He cited the example of Charles Dickens, Lord Byron and Leo Tolsley. He should have added Alan Paton, the South African author of a best-selling novel Cry the Beloved Country.
Great men and women have come from a variety of backgrounds, wealthy and poor families alike. Shakespeare’s father was a successful merchant. The parents of H.G. Wells, the versatile author of short stories, history books, biology and novels, were domestic servants but Churchill came out of a line of aristocrats and great men.
The genes sometimes have negative influence on several generations. Studies have been made of notorious criminals and it has been found that their fathers as well as grandparents of such people were also notorious criminals or prostitutes.
While children of some scientists become scientists others hardly make any names. Where are the descendants of Thomas Alva Edison, acclaimed as the greatest inventors of all time?
Parents who have ample time with their children are likely to have indelible influence on them. But it depends on the nature of their aspirations for their children. A parent with law aspirations may influence his children to have low influence.
We have come across a great achiever whose parents were derelict and divorced. As a child, this person despise his parents drunken habits, decided never to touch alcohol, he adopted other parents as his role models and led a different way of life.
For the greatest of our nation, let us give our children the environment conducive to greatness. n