What's new here isn't really the idea that experiences in early childhood are important. In fact, in the era following the Second World War, the idea that habits established early in life are permanent was, if anything, belabored too much. "If mothers did not nurture their infants properly," Jerome Kagan wrote in 1999, criticizing this widespread belief, "their children would be vulnerable to a dull mind, a wild spirit, and a downward spiral…This view of development rests on the assumption that every experience produces a permanent physical change somewhere in the central nervous system, and therefore the earliest experiences provide the scaffolding for the child's future thought and behavior."
What Kagan was criticizing, though, was primarily the idea that particular styles of parenting were necessary to produce well-adjusted children. Generally speaking, that turns out not to be true: You don't need to play Mozart to your baby or jump through hoops to make sure she's properly "attached." Most middle-class kids turn out okay even though they're exposed to a wide variety of parenting styles.
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