The Point of Stitches
By Bryan Caplan
Tyler says that David Small’s graphic novel Stitches is “professionally done but pointless.” I say it’s an eloquent illustration of one of the most important exceptions to the behavioral genetic conclusion that parents have little long-run effect on their kids. The exception: How kids feel about and remember their parents.
This Swedish twin study, for example, finds that parents leave a lasting impression. Even when your kids are in their fifties and sixties, they’ll remember if you were kind or cruel, warm or cold, encouraging or discouraging. The article confirms some genetic effect – how your kids remember you depends partly on them. But unlike many behavioral genetic studies, this one (like several others) confirms a fairly large nurture effect. Identical twins are only moderately more likely than fraternal twins to see their parents the same way.
So what’s the point of Stitches? The author’s parents – especially his mom – failed to show him kindness and respect. Their treatment did not prevent him from becoming a successful adult. Yet his parents’ cruelty and indifference gave him such horrible childhood memories that he had a whole book’s worth of angst to share. And share he did.
The lesson: While most mistreated kids won’t grow up to write a tell-all book, parents should live by the mantra of “kindness and respect.” It’s the right thing to do, it costs you nothing, and the impression you make will stay with your children as long as they live.