Is a stable childhood the most important legacy for a child to have a good start in life?
Well, no: the best start you can give a child – apart, obviously, from whether or not you create him or her in the first place - is something over which we have no control. It is to give him/her the right set of genes. With the right mix, they’ll survive any kind of domestic turbulence – or no home life at all.
Given equal sets of genes – I know that’s impossible, but accept it for the sake of this argument – children from split homes will probably mature earlier, be more self-sufficient and more interesting than those who remain parent-dependent until way past maturity. After all, it’s only in relatively recent times that we have lived long enough to know our parents into adulthood, let alone our grand-parents.
Here’s Ian McEwan in Saturday:
“[…] parents have little or no influence on the characters of their children. You never know who you’re going to get. Opportunities, health, prospects, accent, table manners – these might lie within your power to shape. But what really determines the sort of person who’s coming to live with you is which sperm finds which egg […]”.
(I’m not even sure about “health” myself: many mental and physical disorders are inherited.)
So Phillip Larkin got it right
Our parents put us in this plight,
While they in turn can blame their kin
For the mess they left them in.
So, while the ‘stable home’ fallacy will live on (as it should: loving parenthood is Nature’s way of ensuring that we reach puberty, thus perpetuating the human race), it don’t really matter a lot.