Can good parents produce bad kids? The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/13/health/13mind.html?src=me&ref=general addresses this sensitive issue with a new openness.
It is a logical follow-up to an equally confusing situation but one more openly discussed–when an individual seems to rise above a terrible childhood and "succeed" in life.
All of us who have had life experience are aware of both situations. Yet the explanation to either remains a mystery. It does seem rather logical that kind, sensitive, caring parenting produces more balanced, effective and generally successful offspring.
The challenge in all this is how we define each of these terms. One child reared by parents in one household may react differently (and often does) to the circumstances they encounter. They may rebel against a painful, stressful home life by becoming more independent and ambitious. They may vow never to repeat the negativity they encountered and strive mightily to overcome it.
They have used their suffering and transformed it into a different way of being. Of course the internal wounds may remain forever but outwardly they appear to do well.
How often do we encounter siblings, raised in the same enviornment, yet constitutionally different who describe their home life in completely opposite terms? Clearly their parenting was not identical. How a parent interacts with a child is dependent upon the mix of BOTH their personalities.
Furthermore, how our culture define's "success" may be problematic as well. Does money, fame and material possessions serve to do so? Then perhaps this explains the troubled lives of many young celebrities who might otherwise be deemed "successful" in life.
And the converse may be equally true. A child of otherwise successful parents might choose a lifestyle deemed less so–yet may be ultimately more content and happy than their parents.
Another child facing the same scenario may incorporate negativity into low self-esteem and struggle merely to survive.
Poor choices may lead some to a downward spiral which exacerbates the underlying emotional and psychological tendencies. Likewise, a determined act of will can counter the tendencies and improve the situation immensely.
The factors that produce who we are, what type of human being we become can be added up, subtracted, multiplied or divided. Yet such mathematical algorithms will never work when it comes to an entity as complex as the human mind.
Just as parents cannot change the color of their children's eyes or their ultimate height, I believe we are all born with intrinsic personalities and predispositions. Parental influence cannot be underestimated–but neither can the individual choices of the offspring themselves.
The topic is important and needs further exploration. Too often parents accept the praise and suffer the condemnation for their children's outcomes. The truth is much more complex. As is any discussion of human behavior.