Timothy Rice

No Two Alike

Why are we the way we are?

Rating: 3.5/5 – Not nearly as good as The Nurture Assumption

I love Judith Rich Harris’s The Nurture Assumption. It has shaped my parenting philosophy more than anything else I’ve read, and I give a copy to all my friends who are parents. It was probably unreasonable for me to hope that Harris’s other book would have as profound an impact on me.

My biggest issue with this book is the division of its content. Most of the book is spent tearing down nurturist arguments and discrediting the few studies that have been put forth in favor of their position. It is only at the very end does Harris attempt to answer the fundamental question of the book: What explains the personality differences between identical twins?

Even then, her final answer (the human status system) is somewhat underwhelming, and presented more as a hypothesis requiring evidence than a bulletproof theory. That being said, status being a driver of personality isn’t an argument that I’ve heard before, and Harris’s case (though largely unsupported) was compelling.

I was annoyed at the blanket dismissal of random variation simply because it’s an unsatisfying answer. I think the possibility of developmental noise producing large observable effects is demanding of much more investigatory rigor.

Finally, I’d really like to see a book that answers the question “so what can parents do?". What’s our job in all these long years of child rearing? I’m not sure if that’s out there. Maybe I’ll need to write it myself.

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