Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Psychic Resources

Williamsburg, 2009

Stirring the pot. Photo just because.

There's been a bit of a debate swirling around a new study that suggests that low income parents are worse parents than high income parents.

It sounds fairly offensive when you put it that way, but the study talks about how poor parents have fewer "psychic resources" to deal with the challenges of their every day lives and that children thus get less of their attention overall.

Here are a few short excerpts:

"There is no formula for how to raise children well, and likely there never will be. Yet the science does tell us how not to raise children. Don't be inattentive. Don't be inconsistent. Don't be disengaged. Don't place them in intellectually pallid environments. The science doesn't just agree on what not to do. Sadly it agrees on something else: low-income parents are much more likely to do these things." 

"Well-off people have the luxury of freedom of mind. Their psychic resources are reserved for 'difficult,' 'important' things that have a big impact on their well-being in the long run. But those with less income are not as fortunate. They have the same (limited) capacity for self-control and attention - but are forced to expend a large fraction of it on dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life. Simply managing the basics of life uses psychic resources. This leaves less psychic resources [for their kids.]"

Surely there are plenty of inattentive, inconsistent rich parents out there. But the study's authors really seem to be talking about how stress impacts parenting skills, and financial stress especially so.

I often feel like being a "grown up" is exceedingly difficult, and a task I am still trying to master. Whether it's making doctor's appointments, or doing taxes, or going to the DMV, or keeping on top of the housework, there seems to be an endless stream of pressing and unpleasant tasks.

With kids, I know that that list of tasks will grow exponentially. It's easy to see how having a financial buffer certainly takes the edge off, in that it makes it it's easier to take care of your mental health in addition to those necessities, and thus you have a little more currency left in that psychic bank account to give to your child at the end of the day.

What do you think?

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