Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Eddies vs. Leslies - Two Categories or Just Points on a Spectrum?

From Po:

I received a lot of email overnight from people who read our take on the different ways children are raised, and how different parenting styles leads to a gap in academic readiness even before children start kindergarten. We presented two archetypes. One archetype we called the "Eddies." The other group we called the "Leslies." The Eddie style is correlated with well-educated, highly verbal parents. The Leslie style is correlated with less-educated parents. (ED-ucation = Eddie, LESS-educated = Leslie.) But the Eddie vs. Leslie paradigm also correlates to socioeconomic class, as well as racial & ethnic culture. It correlates to those, but the real variable is parenting style.

All readers recognized bits of their own childhood and their children's lives in the two paradigms. But many also said, "I'm not exactly one or the other." This was particularly true of the rough sketches of Eddie and Leslie's childhood.

Well, those sketches are just sketches that hint at the way a parent's education affects their child's environment. But more importantly, the rough-sketch is not what's crucial to the long-term academic performance. Future academic performance is caused not by the rough sketch (whether or not you live near your cousins) but by the fine-details of parenting noted by sociologists (how commonly parents talk to their children, reason with their children, and expose them to robust vocabularies).

So yes, there are many people whose experience would match Leslie's in rough-sketch-mode, but match Eddie's in fine-detail-mode. Which is why they ended up doing well in school.

So when I say "the real variable is parenting style," I really mean that the important variable is the fine details in parenting style - not the rough sketch.

And yes, kids are on a spectrum. To do studies, sociologists accumulate data and notice groupings, but by no means does every kid fit the grouping. The groupings, and the names we give them, are descriptive monikers.

The good news is, parenting styles can be taught. Children everywhere can have whatever rough sketch childhood parents feel is appropriate - as long as they're getting the fine details they need to be future students.

To better understand the gap between the Eddies and the Leslies, please come back soon and read Ashley's forthcoming post on how parent-involvement continues to affect Eddie and Leslie as they grow up.


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