high achievers and their offspring

September 7, 2006

I’m wondering why it is that the world’s very high achievers often have kids that struggle academically. In fact I don’t even know if it’s often, because I haven’t seen any statistics on this. But I have seen a few cases.

First, there is the “generational” theory that we are all familiar with. Generation 1 is the high achiever, rags to riches, who struggles from poverty to become a great success. Generation 2 is born into wealth and doesn’t have to work as hard, so marries a “society” partner who also hasn’t had to work hard. Generation 3 is thus diluted genetically and not given any great role modelling, so produces the diletantes, who then end up in poverty and their children are back to Gen 1. This may be the case for some.

Then there is my somewhat simpler theory of time spent parenting. People who are hugely successful often have a strong work ethic, and as a result of this, have no time for parenting. Children are brought up by nannies or at day care. Parent doesn’t have time to focus on child(ren) when they are home because they are too exhausted. Quality of parenting relies on quality of the nanny or carer relationship which is highly variable, in any case not a lot of teaching happens at home. But usually the kid doesn’t have as strong attachment to a consistent parent/s. Attachment theory states that the strength of this bond can predict development emotionally and also cognitively.

There’s also another psychological aspect of this. Some high achievers may actually resent the fact that they spent most of their life “achieving” and working hard. They may secretly wish they had partied more and spent more time on their relationships. They are looking at their social or relationship achievements and finding these lacking. They didn’t have enough fun. So they are programming their children to reject the harsh corporate / medical / professional world they inhabit and opt for a simpler, more rewarding life.

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