Response or Comment
Author's Final Manuscript
The Commentary by Sherlock and Zietsch (2018) raises important questions about how the science of human psychological development moves forward as researchers make dramatic strides in understanding the role of genetics. In this response, we return to these larger questions, but we begin by addressing Sherlock and Zietsch’s specific argument that “genetic contributions should almost always be considered when dealing with associations between parents’ behavior and their children’s behavior” (p. 156). In our 60-year study of the association between warmth of the childhood family environment and late-life security of attachment (Waldinger & Schulz, 2016), we did not mention the potential influence of genetic factors, and we regret this omission. Moreover, we acknowledge that in some places in the article, we used causal language that was not justified by the design of the study. Although we explicitly stated that the association between warmth of the childhood family environment and late-life security of attachment is correlational and not causal, we went on to interpret these findings as indications of support for the influence of childhood environment on well-being in adulthood. Although this is a plausible interpretation, Sherlock and Zietsch are justified in arguing that genetic influences could contribute to this link and that our article should have noted this. The editorial review process encourages investigators to highlight the implications of their work, and in our enthusiasm to convey the importance of an association that spans six decades, we did not adequately address possible alternative explanations for this association.
Waldinger, R. J., & Schulz, M. S. (2016). The long reach of nurturing family environments: links with midlife emotion-regulatory styles and late-life security in intimate relationships. Psychological Science. 27.11. http://doi.org/10.1177/0956797616661556
Waldinger, R. and M. Schulz 2018. "The Blind Psychological Scientists and the Elephant: Reply to Sherlock and Zietsch." Psychological Science 29.1: 159-160.