In this medical video learn how being a good father or mother takes constant effort, but now some experts are questioning whether parenting really makes a difference, in the latest chapter of the controversial nature vs. nurture debate.
Jennifer Matthews: From infancy through childhood and into adolescence, we are influenced by a range of factors. Some say parenting is the guiding force. Dr. Stanley Greenspan: If we have a parent who's very laid-back, and we can't help that parent energize up, we have a laid-back parent and a laid-back baby. Jennifer Matthews: Others argue all we get from our parents are genes. Judith Rich Harris: Parents who read to children are parents who like books. So, if their children turn out also to like books, you can't tell, just on that basis, whether it's genetic or environmental. Jennifer Matthews: Who's right? Who's wrong? And what does that mean for parents? Controversial author Judith Rich Harris believes lessons taught by parents are short-lived, and only the genes they pass on are long-lasting. Judith Rich Harris: If, genetically, a child has let's say an explosive temper, or a sweet one, that's gonna go with him or her wherever she goes. Jennifer Matthews: Harris believes behavior outside the home is shaped by peers -- not parents. A recent study backs this up. It found the greatest influence on whether teens drink or smoke is whether their friends do. Judith Rich Harris: As long as you're within the normal range of parenting, how your child turns out is not up to you. It's up to the child. Jennifer Matthews: Because of their limited influence, Harris advises parents to lighten up. Child psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan says this gives way to irresponsible parenting. Dr. Stanley Greenspan: It encourages parents to be either passive or hopeless or helpless in the face of certain challenges that they would assume were genetic." Jennifer Matthews: He says genes and environment are like a dance -- working together to make us who we are. Dr. Stanley Greenspan: The potential is only defined by the gene interaction with the environment, and it may be the environment sets the constraints just as much as the genes do. Jennifer Matthews: Developmental psychologist David Moore agrees. Dr. David S. Moore: If you throw Einstein in a closet when he's a baby because he has some insane parent, he's not going to be smart; he's going to wind up like one of those tragic kids who gets found in a closet. Jennifer Matthews: In fact, a recent study found children exposed to poor parenting are nine-times more prone to behavioral problems. Greenspan says each child has their own natural temperament, and it's the parent's job to find the key to unlock their potential. This is Jennifer Matthews reporting.