Taking Care

Kevin Lewis

July 18, 2021

Parent Engagement Interventions Are Not Costless: Opportunity Cost and Crowd Out of Parental Investment
Carly Robinson et al.
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming


Many educational interventions encourage parents to engage in their child's education as if parental time and attention is limitless. Sadly, though, it is not. Successfully encouraging certain parental investments may crowd out other productive behaviors. A randomized field experiment (N = 2,212) assessed the impact of an intervention in which parents of middle and high school students received multiple text messages per week encouraging them to ask their children specific questions tied to their science curriculum. The intervention increased parent-child at-home conversations about science but did not detectably impact science test scores. However, the intervention decreased parent engagement in other, potentially productive, parent behaviors. These findings illustrate that parent engagement interventions are not costless: There are opportunity costs to shifting parental effort.

Rising Inequality in Mothers' Employment Statuses: The Role of Intergenerational Transmission
Ariel Binder
Demography, forthcoming


During the late twentieth century, U.S. mothers' propensities to hold full-time jobs became increasingly unequal across the distribution of socioeconomic status (SES). Consequently, daughters in high-SES households became more likely to be raised by working mothers than daughters in low-SES households. To what extent did this unequal exposure further shape maternal employment inequality in the twenty-first century - when these daughters had grown into adults and begun to raise their own children? Leveraging the genealogical structure of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this article estimates intergenerational employment coefficients on a sample of late twentieth century mothers and their daughters. It documents a much stronger intergenerational relationship in high-SES families than in low-SES families. Supplementary analyses reveal that being raised by a working mother significantly reduces the motherhood employment penalty among high-SES women but not among low-SES women. Unequal rates of mother-daughter employment transmission by SES can account for 36% of growing inequality in maternal employment across SES groups, observed in the Current Population Survey, between 1999 and 2016. These findings indicate that family-level transmission processes magnify the effects of structural forces on maternal employment inequality.

The long arm of parenting: How parenting styles influence crime and the pathways that explain this effect
Leslie Gordon Simons & Tara Sutton
Criminology, forthcoming


Although several criminological theories suggest that variations in parenting increase the probability of adult crime, most studies limit focus to the association between parenting and adolescent delinquency. Thus, research exploring the association between parenting and adult crime is rare. The present study used path analyses and prospective, longitudinal data from a sample of 318 African American men to examine the effects of eight parenting styles on adult crime. Furthermore, we investigated the extent to which significant parenting effects are mediated by criminogenic schemas, negative emotions, peer affiliations, adult transitions, and involvement with the criminal justice system. Consonant with the study hypotheses, the results indicated that parenting styles with high demandingness, regardless of whether it co-occurred with responsiveness or corporal punishment, reduced the risk of adult crime. On the other hand, parenting styles low on demandingness but high on responsiveness or corporal punishment were associated with a robust increase in risk for adult crime. These parenting effects were mediated, in large measure, by criminogenic schemas and affiliation with adult deviant peers. The findings held after taking into account the effect of adolescent experiences and traits such as delinquency, deviant peer affiliations, community violence, discrimination, negative emotionality, and poor self-control.

The influence of siblings on ethnically diverse children's gender typing across early development
Yana Kuchirko et al.
Developmental Psychology, May 2021, Pages 771-782


Most U.S. children grow up with siblings. Theory and prior work suggest that older siblings are important sources of gender-related information and socialization. However, few studies have investigated the patterns of these associations longitudinally across early childhood. The present study examines the influence of sibling presence and gender composition on the trajectory of early gender-typed behavior and appearance in children from age 2 through 6 in a diverse sample of Dominican American (36%), African American (33%), and Mexican American (31%) mother-child dyads (N = 232; 112 girls, 120 boys) from low-income households in New York City (M = $20,459, SD = 14,632). Results found that children without older siblings spent more time playing with counterstereotypical toys and their mothers' reports indicated similar behavior over the past month (e.g., a girl playing with toy vehicles and balls; a boy playing with toy kitchen sets and dolls) than children with older siblings. Further, children with at least one other-gender sibling (e.g., a girl with an older brother) played more frequently with counterstereotypical toys compared with children with only same-gender siblings (e.g., a girl with only older sisters). Results on the relation between siblings and gender appearance were mixed. Older siblings may thus influence early trajectories of important gender domains (e.g., toy play), which can have various long-term implications for developing skills and interests.

Mechanisms of parent-child transmission of tobacco and alcohol use with polygenic risk scores: Evidence for a genetic nurture effect
Gretchen Saunders et al.
Developmental Psychology, May 2021, Pages 796-804


Parent-child similarity is a function of genetic and environmental transmission. In addition, genetic effects not transmitted to offspring may drive parental behavior, thereby affecting the rearing environment of the child. Measuring genetic proclivity directly, through polygenic risk scores (PRSs), provides a way to test for the effect of nontransmitted parental genotype, on offspring outcome, termed a genetic nurture effect - in other words, if and how parental genomes might affect their children through the environment. The current study used polygenic risk scores for smoking initiation, cigarettes per day, and drinks per week to predict substance use in a sample of 3,008 twins, assessed prospectively from age 17-29, and their parents, from the Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research. Mixed-effects models were used to test for a genetic nurture effect whereby parental PRSs predict offspring tobacco and alcohol use after statistically adjusting for offspring's own PRS. Parental smoking initiation PRS predicted offspring cigarettes per day at age 24 (β = .103, 95% CI [.03, .17]) and alcohol use at age 17 (β = .091, 95% CI [.04, .14]) independent of shared genetics. There was also a suggestive independent association between the parent PRS and offspring smoking at age 17 (β = .096; 95% CI [.02, .17]). Mediation analyses provided some evidence for environmental effects of parental smoking, alcohol use, and family socioeconomic status. These findings, and more broadly the molecular genetic method used, have implications on the identification of environmental effects on developmental outcomes such as substance use.

Avoidance of plant foods in infancy
Camille Rioux & Annie Wertz
Developmental Psychology, May 2021, Pages 609-624


Infants avoid touching plants. Here we examine for the first time whether infants are also reluctant to touch plant foods. We hypothesized that infants would avoid plant foods because food neophobia - the avoidance of novel foods - is particularly strong for fruits and vegetables. However, we predicted that infants would avoid processed plant foods to a lesser degree than whole leafy plants because they bear the markers of previous human engagement. In a first assessment, we presented 7- to 15-month-old infants, recruited from a predominantly White population around Berlin, Germany (N = 56; 29 girls), with whole plants, processed whole plant foods, and nonplant food controls. We measured infants' latency to touch each object and their social looks toward adults prior to the first touch. In a follow-up assessment 1 year later, participants' caregivers filled out a questionnaire measuring their child's food neophobia. Infants avoided touching both whole plants and processed plant foods, and engaged in more social looking before touching them, relative to their matched controls. However, infants took longer to touch and engaged in more social looking for whole plants than processed plant foods. The follow-up assessment indicated that avoidance of cut plant foods in older infants was related to their food neophobia measured 1 year later. These results demonstrate that (a) infants avoid plant foods, (b) cues of food processing decrease infants' reluctance to touch plant foods relative to unprocessed plants, suggesting that these cues may signal food safety, and (c) avoiding certain types of plant foods in infancy may be a precursor of later food neophobia.


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