Critical Annotated Bibliography

Harris J. R. (2000). Socialization, Personality Development, and the Child’s Environments: Comment on Vandell (2000). Developmental Psychology, 36 (6), 711-723. Harris analyses the causal agents of children’s personality, outlining them as contextual and genetic, aiming to clarify Vandell’s misconception of her ideas. She quizzes the effect of parenting on child behavior, influence of social context on behavior, and “the experiences that have a long-term effect on child behavior and the role of peers in this” (Harris, 2000, p. 699). However, she seeks to expound on the second question, the cause of all controversy.

Harris environmental influences by categorizing childhood behavior put into two; for instance, personality development and socialization, under the group socialization theory. Personality is the difference in behavior, whereas socialization is the ability to take on social norms. Harris goes on to talk about group socialization and the nurture assumption. Vandell claimed that Harris invalidated the developmentalist’s idea that the child is a “blank slate on which parents are free to create” (Harris, 2000, p. 700). In her defense, Harris explains this in depth using the nurture assumption, recognizing that among all the surroundings of the child, parents play the greatest role in influencing the behavior of a child. In this regard, parental influence has been categorized into three groups: genetic influences on parent and child behavior, parents’-group-to-children’s-group effects and context.

Genetic influences on parent and child behavior. Harris supposes that how parents behave towards their children is determined by the child’s actions in the past. She also mentions children being born into the kind of environment that corresponds to their predestined behavior. For instance, a child that is likely to be bold will be raised by parents who are bold and so on. Longitudinal designs, intervention studies, gene-environment interactions and within-family environmental differences are used to demonstrate these influences.

Parents’-Group-to-Children’s-Group effects. Vandell’s claim was that Harris concluded the following: “All correlations between parenting and child outcomes” are a result of “direct genetic effects”. Harris turns this around by recognizing the role of parents’ groups to children’s groups and concludes that behavior is adopted by a group of children from a group of parents, rather than by an individual child from an individual parent.

Context effects. This includes treatment by the parents, birth order and family circumstances. In terms of treatment, aggressive parents will more often than not result in aggressive children. For birth order, generally, older siblings have been found to be more aggressive than younger ones. Situations such as divorce accompanied by frequent residential movement negatively affect the child behaviorally, socially and academically

Peer groups in Socialization and Personality Development. Children learn to socialize by putting themselves in a group they feel they belong to, and consequently taking on the group’s attitudes and behaviors. Social status and labeling of individuals affect their personality. A good example illustrated by Harris is in regards to a boy’s size. Boys considered as “Small” and “slow-maturing” generally have lower status, negatively affecting their personality.

Behaviors and habits are acquired during one’s life, but it is not practical to apply all of them in all situations. The family is the primary environment but out there is a larger environment, the world. Different situations call for different behaviors and habits, emphasizing the importance of predisposing one to diverse situations in order to learn to act/ react.























Harris, J. R. (2000). Socialization, Personality Development, and the Child’s Environments: Comment on Vandell (2000). Developmental Psychology, 36 (6), 711-723.

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