What the research is showing about talking to and about your kids
Reporting on a University of Connecticut study, The Atlantic prettied up data on how parents around the world describe describe their children.
Sarah Harkness and Charles Super, researchers in human development, found that, according to The Atlantic, "Not only are Americans far more likely to focus on their children's intelligence and cognitive skills, they are also far less likely to describe them as 'happy' or 'easy' children to parent." Harkness called this focus nearly obsessive in that it ignores other aspects of early childhood development.
Listening to parents of young kids in our State of Opportunity reports, it's striking how often parents describe their little one's as "active." The Connecticut study doesn't disaggregate the data by socioeconomic status, but combined with all the research about impact of talking to your baby, can the words that parents use to both talk to their children and about influence development?
There are, of course, a number of variable influencing child development, but this study adds more food for thought about cultural and local constructions of what it means to be a kid and, tellingly, what we think it means to be a parent.
You can find Harkness and Super's study of parents' "ethnotheories" here and more on the power of baby-talk in The New York Times.