1. An enjoyable, and well-sourced trifecta on why parents matter; parenting - not so much! (Quillete.com: part1, part2, and part3)
Natural selection has wired into us a sense of attachment for our offspring. There is no need to graft on beliefs about “the power of parenting” in order to justify our instinct that being a good parent is important. [...] If you want happy children, and you desire a relationship with them that lasts beyond when they’re old enough to fly the nest, then be good to your kids. Just know that it probably will have little effect on the person they will grow into.2. Brian Caplan (WSJ), and on EconTalk
In research including hundreds of twins who were raised apart, identical twins turn out to be much more alike in intelligence and happiness than fraternal twins, but twins raised together are barely more alike than twins raised apart. In fact, pioneering research by University of Minnesota psychologist David Lykken found that twins raised apart were more alike in happiness than twins raised together. Maybe it's just a fluke, but it suggests that growing up together inspires people to differentiate themselves; if he's the happy one, I'll be the malcontent.
Critics often attack behavioral genetics with a reductio ad absurdum: "If it doesn't matter how you raise your kids, why not lock them in a closet?" The answer is that twin and adoption studies measure the effect of parenting styles that people frequently use. Locking kids in closets fortunately isn't one of them. It's also important to remember that most studies focus on kids' long-run outcomes. Parents often change their kids in the short-run, but as kids grow up, their parents' influence wears off.3. I had picked up Judith Hariss' "The Nurture Assumption" somewhat randomly from a library shelf about 15 years ago. Not knowing too much psychology then (or now), I thought it was a great book. Here is a relatively recent interview with her.
Q: So if they can't influence the adults their children become, then what, if any, steps can parents take to help ensure their kids succeed? Or become "good" people?
A: I believe the most important function of parents is to give their children a happy home — not because it will make them more likely to succeed but because everyone has a right to a happy home life. Aside from that, there are other things parents can do, such as providing training in music or sports. Parents have some ability to decide where they will live and where their children will go to school. Some schools have an atmosphere that is more favorable to academic achievement.