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On the Impossibility of Overriding the Influence of the Family

Am J Dis Child. 1978;132(11):1075-1076. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1978.02120360031001.
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Firkowska and colleagues1 at the Polish Academy of Science have written a fascinating article found in a recent issue of Science on the relative contribution of familial and extrafamilial factors to the mental development of children. This report points up the continuing debate among social planners, governmental officials, and academicians about what effects social policy has on the cognitive and emotional development of children. To state it differently, one can ask how effective can government-sponsored programs be in altering (hopefully remediating) the negative effects of a variety of life factors on child development.

The study is a scientific attempt to isolate variables that seem important in accounting for variations in cognitive development in schoolchildren. Warsaw was rebuilt after World War II following a social policy of equal housing and educational opportunity for all children, regardless of the social, educational, and occupational status of their parents. Consequently, families of a variety


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