Socialized how

Stuart Buck cites an article on homeschooling and socialization by Richard G. Medlin, a psychology professor.

Shyers (1992a, 1992b), in the most thorough study of home-schooled children’s social behavior to date, tested 70 children who had been entirely home-schooled and 70 children who had always attended traditional schools. The two groups were matched in age (all were 8-10 years old), race, gender, family size, socioeconomic status, and number and frequency of extracurricular activities. Shyers measured self-concept and assertiveness and found no significant differences between the two groups.

Then researchers videotaped groups of children playing and asked observers to rate the children’s behavior. Observers didn’t know such groups were traditionally schooled and which were homeschooled.

The observers used the Direct Observation Form of the Child Behavior Checklist . . . , a checklist of 97 problem behaviors such as argues, brags or boasts, doesn’t pay attention long, cries, disturbs other children, isolates self from others, shy or timimd, and shows off. The results were striking — the mean problem behavior score for children attending conventional schools was more than eight times higher than that of the home-schooled group.

Traditionally schooled children were louder, more aggressive and more competitive.

Kids today are ruder than ever before, claims a story on The Brat Pack in Parents magazine.

“I had a child yell at me in class, and I corrected him,” says Shannon Arlington, a second-grade teacher in Middleport, New York. “I told him that shouting was not a polite way to speak to a teacher. That evening, his mother called and yelled at me too, saying how dare I give her child a lecture on what is and isn’t polite.”

Perhaps parents who are with their children all day are less tolerant of obnoxious behavior.

Update: A Christian Science Monitor column uses falling crime, pregnancy and drug use rates to argue that today’s teenagers aren’t self-centered egoists after all.

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  1. That’s an excellent report, and an important one. I think a big component of the problem is the pervasive age segregation that necessarily exists in large schools. The most “natural” condition in any society is for people of all ages to be mixed together a lot of the time; when people spend too much time with others close to their own age they aren’t able to round out their interaction skills successfully. I’ve argued that this is a problem at the university level also: to segregate undergraduates into student ghettos (or even worse, to house all freshmen together where they not only don’t interact with faculty but also don’t even interact with older students) — this is a “Lord of the Flies” recipe. (See some of Christopher Alexander’s comments in the link above also.)

  2. Stuart Buck says:

    Thanks for the link. A minor correction: I couldn’t find Medlin’s article online, and so couldn’t actually “link” to it. Just had to type it out by hand.

  3. I don’t think that homeschooling makes kids more respectful, but that the type of parents that are likely to homeschool, i.e. religious, highly educated, are more likely to raise respectful kids.

    I would love to homeschool my four kids, but financially its not worth it. I also worry about socialization. Luckily, being in the military, my kids hang out with other military brats who are generally well behaved compared with the civilian population.

  4. I’ve changed “link” to “cite.”

  5. I wonder if it isn’t that vaunted socialization that isn’t to blame?

    The Lord of the Flies might not be on the non-fiction shelves but it does describe how kids settle their differences when an adult isn’t around – might makes right. In that atmosphere aggressiveness pays off, civility doesn’t and the stress level is high.

    I wonder if anyone’s done a similar study with kibbutz kids?

  6. Bill Leonard says:

    I wonder how “problem behaviors” are identified, and by whom. “Shy, timid” and “shows off” (more gregarious than the shy or the timid) and many of the others mentioned are personality traits that can be found among different siblings in millions of families. Unless we’re talking truly pathological behavior, how is it necessarily a “problem behaviour”, and why is is so-classified?

  7. Stacy in NJ says:

    We homeschool. I think the reason homeschooled kids are better behaved is primilary because they spend more time with adults one-on-one or in small or family groups. Some schooled children spend very little meaningful time with adults one-on-one. People tend to adopt the behavior of those they spend time with.

  8. As Stacy said, schooled children learn too much about how to behave from their peers. Homeschooled children learn it from adults.

    Rory, I doubt it’s just the type of parents. School can dilute the parents’ influence and example. Ministers are “religious, highly educated”, but some of the worst-behaved kids in my school were the children of ministers. They couldn’t have been worse if they’d been spending their time with their parents instead of other children, and probably would have been better. OTOH, there are some pretty bad parents out there, but I doubt that school instills any better behavior in them than their parents would…

  9. We decided to home-school our children PRECISELY because we observed a family of 4 girls (all home-schooled) over the course of 2-3 years. They were the most well-adjusted teens we’d ever met — they could hold a lengthy, informed, and interesting conversation with adults. Our 4 little kids adored them and loved to have them babysit for us. Then we found out they were popular in their church youth groups. We were sold.

    And now other people compliment us on our respectable, well-adjusted teenagers.

  10. Carolyn says:

    Frankly, I can’t help but wonder how much of this simply has to do with the dynamics of learning in large vs small class sizes. In big classes, do kids have to assert themselves more to get an education?

    I’d like to see a similar study done with homeschooled children vs. children educated in classes with 10-12 students. But then again, how soon do we think our education system will adopt a model of 10-12 students per teacher?

  11. I completely agree with O’Hara that age segregation is the crux of the problem. My school district has been having trouble with bullying, too much and sometimes dangerous fooling around, and rude/bad behavior on school buses. It seems to be almost exclusively students (mostly boys) who are 10-13 years old. This school district has separate schools, and so separate buses, for 5-8, 8-10, 10-13, and 13-18 year old, elementary, upper elementary, middle, and high schools respectively. The trouble occurs on the upper elementary and middle school buses.

    This is age segregation (the only adult in the “room” is driving the bus!) at its finest, i.e., Lord of the Flies. Hypothesis for suggested study: Students riding on age-segregated buses (age range of student population is equal to or less than 3 years) engage in and experience more socially inappropriate behaviors than students riding on non-age-segregated buses.

    I have to admit that my children are homeschooled. We have many reasons for homeschooling but age segregation in public schools is among the top ten.

  12. BadaBing says:

    Non-home-schooled kids are more likely to be left to their own devices after school. They have freedom to hang with the wrong crowd, score weed at the local skate park, get into fights with siblings, spend hours in front of the TV or play video games. I’d like to see in that study how a similar group of kids with stay-at-home moms fare, i.e., moms that choose to stay home vice pursuing a career. Involved parents bring the hammer down on bad behavior and actively encourage [force?] kids to do things like homework rather than veg out watching “Married with Children” or “The Simpsons.”

  13. katharine says:

    I’m a professional woman, but decided to homeschool my two girls, now ages 7 and 10 yrs. My hypothesis is that moms/and or dads are not going to put up with bad behavior when they have to spend the entire day with their kids. Our kids learned the system quickly and our time together is civilized and productive. Disrespect is not tolerated, period. And, we don’t have to worry about someone suing us because we took away a privlege. This study suggests to me that the “socialization” issue that public schools praise is highly overrated. At least this is not how I want my kids “socialized”. BTW, this check list is a common research tool, and it’s not tough to pick out the problem behaviors (they usually have interrater reliabilities).