The Average Expectable Environment Is Not Good Enough: A Response to Scarr


  • I wish to acknowledge the helpful critical comments of the following colleagues: Jonathan Cobb, Lois Hoffman, Martin Hoffman, Jacquelyn Jackson, Elliot Turiel, and four reviewers. My research has been supported generously by the William T. Grant Foundation.

Requests for reprints should be sent to the author at the Institute of Human Development, 1203 Edward Chace Tolman Hall, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720.


I take the position, contrary to Scarr's, that the details of socialization patterns are crucial to an understanding of normal and deviant development. Considerable evidence has accrued to justify the claim that what normal parents do or fail to do crucially affects their children's development. Research is cited to support the argument that better than “good enough” parenting optimizes the development of both normal and vulnerable children, and that parents' belief in their own effectiveness further enhances their caregiving, whereas causal attributions that assign responsibility for child outcomes to genetic factors that parents cannot change undermine parents' belief in their own effectiveness. The strong conclusions Scarr draws from heritability analyses to support her thesis that genotypes drive experiences overlook their inherent limitations.