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Judith Rich Harris

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Judith Rich Harris (February 10, 1938 – December 29, 2018) researched psychology. She was an independent researcher, and not a university professor. Her most famous book is The Nurture Assumption.[1] The book asks "Why [do] children turn out the way they do"? Its answer is that "Parents matter less than you think and peers matter more".


Harris graduated from Tucson High School and attended the University of Arizona and Brandeis University, from where she graduated magna cum laude in 1959. In 1961 she received a master's degree in psychology from Harvard University.

The Nurture Assumption

Harris's most famous work is The Nurture Assumption. It was published in 1998. A revised version was published in 2009.[2] Children often act like their parents act. Some psychologists thought this was because of the way that parents raised their children. Harris argues that (some or all of) this similarity is due to genetics. Otherwise, parents are not the most important factor in child development. This book argues that peers are more important. Harris argues that children are socialized by peers.

No Two Alike

Harris also wrote No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality. It was published in February 2006. Harris attempts to explain why people are so different in personality, even identical twins who grow up in the same home.[3]

Opinions of her work

George A. Miller was chair of the Department of Psychology which formally dismissed Harris from the PhD program at Harvard, 1960, on the grounds that her 'originality and independence' did not live up to Harvard's standards.[4]

Later, in 1994, she developed a theory of child development, which focussed on the peer group rather than the family. This formed the basis for a 1995 article in the Psychological Review for which she received the American Psychological Association's George A. Miller Award for an Outstanding Recent Article in General Psychology.[5]


Harris suffered from a chronic autoimmune disorder, diagnosed as a combination of lupus and multiple sclerosis. She died on December 30, 2018 at the age of 80.[6]

Books and articles

Personal life

She married Charles S. Harris in 1961; they have two daughters (one adopted) and four grandchildren. Harris suffered from an autoimmune disease; she died December 29, 2018.[1]

Related pages


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Judith Rich Harris, 80, Dies; Author Played Down the Role of Parents - The New York Times". 2019-01-01. Retrieved 2019-01-04. 
  2. "The Nurture Assumption website (Judith Rich Harris)". Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  3. "No Two Alike website (Judith Rich Harris)". Retrieved 2019-01-04. 
  4. Ridley M. 2003. Nature via nurture: genes, experience, & what makes us human. Harper Collins.
  5. Harris J.R. 2006. No two alike: human nature and human individuality. W.W. Norton.
  6. Verbruggen, Robert. "R.I.P., Judith Rich Harris: The Woman Who Showed Us How Little Parents Matter". National Review. Retrieved 30 December 2018. 

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