Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Asian education values: what adoption studies say.

I found this old post on Gene Expression which questions the idea that academic achievement in Asians is due to better child rearing values.
As Stanley Sue and Sumie Okazaki pointed out in their 1991 American Psychologist paper, Asian American Educational Achievements: A Phenomenon in Search of an Explanation, the parenting styles and values found in East Asian-American homes tend to correlate with lower test scores when they are found in white homes.
The Results showing higher grades for the Asian adoptees is particularly interesting, becuase of the control of white adoptees unique to this study. If Asian academic success was really due to some special set of academic values inculcated by Asian parents (something not demonstrated by the data to begin with), then why do Asians do better academically than whites even when they are raised by white parents?
The gap between whites and Asians fluctuated from 19 to .09 in the NAEP data while the gap in the adoption data is from 1/3 to 3 times larger. This is consistent with the Sue and Okazaki paper above which showed that contrary to popular anecdotes, the values that lead to higher academic grades are actually found more often in white homes. In other words Asian-Americans perform highly despite their Asian home cultural environment not because of it.
Seems like a good case for taking Amy Chua's advice with a grain of salt, or at least for trying to get a better understanding of what impact (if any) parental styles can have, and why.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chinese Mothers: article by Amy Chua

This article has been going around the internet - it's in praise of a Chinese Mother's way of raising kids, which fits my experience pretty well; apparently the book itself is much more nuanced.

There are also some very good comments on this thread on Quora (and this other testimony of an east-west mix that seems to have worked well).

I'm sympathetic to Amy Chua's approach, but it also has some downsides: it doesn't emphasize social skills (which are more important both for personal development and in the professional world) and creativity and initiative (which are useful, but may be overvalued compared to hard work); it can give rise to psychological problems. Also, it's possible to work long hours at something because it's interesting, not because someone is forcing you.

But still, I can see the appeal of the hardcore approach - the Western/Liberal way seems to produce a lot of "smart but lazy" kids, it may be possible to do better than that, and I do recognize that "yes but we're creative" might be a comforting lie.

How warmly should a baby be dressed?

I found this long thread on a forum for expats in Germany - it seems that the English find that the Germans put too much clothes on their kids, and the Germans find the English don't put enough.


When my daughter was born (31 years ago) I learned from the midwife in the hospital that babies always have cold hands and feet. Check temperature on their back - if the body is warm, the baby is fine. 
I had my daughter last month and my Dr told me she should wear a hat 24/7 until summer 2010!! My Mum almost fell off her chair when they told me. The Dr said unless I would wear a bikini outside, the baby must be in a hat. My boyfriend is Engish too, but he puts so much faith in professionals that we arged about this a lot. Suffice to say, the baby has a hat on outside when it's cold or a bit of a breeze, and hardly at all indoors! When I had her, the hospital was super hot,and they dressed her in: a vest, cardigan, sleepsuit, sleeping bag and hat and then put her in a bed with a duvet on top! 
 ... huh, so it's not just German old wive's tales versus English old wive's tales ... it's German doctors versus English doctors. That's harder to dismiss, they can't both be right; or maybe it depends of the child's age ...

Anyway, there's also an interesting thread on Yahoo answers, where pretty much everybody is saying that "you need to keep the baby warm or he'll catch a cold" is an old wive's tale:
A cold floor does not lead to a person getting a cold. The cold and flu are caused by viruses. Strep throat is caused by streptococcus, a type of bacteria, etc. I find myself saying this to my in-laws 2-3 times a week. They say that I should put socks on my LG when I walk her on the kitchen floor or she will catch a cold. They still haven't wrapped their minds around the fact that I am a microbiologist and know what I'm talking about. Please, stop this erroneous thinking and let your family know just what causes colds. There may be germs on the floor that could make your BG sick, most likely not, though. I prefer for my LO to be exposed to these germs and let her immune system deal with them. Of course, if the temperature of the floor is uncomfortable to you it will probably be uncomfortable for your LO, so just use your better judgment.

Will standing up an infant make him bow-legged?

I regularly make our two month old son stand up, he seems to find it fun, and is getting better at it with time.

My wife said she heard that could make him bow-legged - so I looked it up, and found a thread full of people saying that's an old wive's tale.

Four years ago my mother-in-law said the same thing, I knew it was not true but to make my husband relax I asked the pediatrician. He told us that it is an old wives tale from back when babies were on pablum and not eating any fruit, because it is the vitamin deficiency that caused babies in those days to get bow-legs. So the answer is that it is not true. My son is 4 and straight- legged, and he was an early assisted stander.
Sounds reasonable. So, he'll keep on getting this kind of exercise! I also wish I could find more recommended exercises/games for infants; I understand spending time on his stomach is probably important, but didn't find many other recommendations.