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Parents' Genes, Not Parents' Arguing, May Cause Children's Conduct Problems

Date:
February 7, 2007
Source:
Society for Research in Child Development
Summary:
A new study has revealed that parents' fighting is not likely a direct cause of children's conduct problems. Rather, the findings showed that parents' genes influenced how much they fought with their spouses. The researchers studied 1,045 twins and their 2,051 children and found that parents who argue frequently may pass along genes for disruptive behavior to their children, who in turn may have conduct problems.
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Children's conduct problems--skipping school, sneaking out of the house, lying to parents, shoplifting, or bullying other children--are a major source of concern for parents and teachers. As a potential cause of these problems, parents' marital conflict has received a lot of research attention. Now a new study finds that parents' fighting may not be to blame but rather that parents who argue a lot may pass on genes for disruptive behavior to their children.

A group of researchers from the University of Virginia and several other universities looked at this question, studying 1,045 twins and their 2,051 children. Some of the parents were identical twins and shared all of their genes and some were fraternal and shared only half of their genes. The study found that parents' fighting is not likely a cause of children's conduct problems. On the other hand, parents' genes influenced how often they argued with their spouses and these same genes, when passed to their children, caused more conduct problems.

"This study suggests that marital conflict is not a major culprit, but genes are," said K. Paige Harden, the lead researcher and professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. "Our findings have potential implications for treating conduct problems: Focusing on a child's parents, as is common in family therapy, may not be as effective as focusing on the child."

The study was supported, in part, by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.

Summarized from Child Development, Vol. 78, Issue 1, Marital Conflict and Conduct Problems in Children-of-Twins, by Harden, KP, Turkheimer, E, and Emery, RE (University of Virginia), D'Onofrio, BM (Indiana University), Slutske, WS (University of Missouri), Heath, AC (Washington University, St. Louis), and Martin, NG (Queensland Institute of Medical Research). 


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Society for Research in Child Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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Society for Research in Child Development. "Parents' Genes, Not Parents' Arguing, May Cause Children's Conduct Problems." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 February 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070207090943.htm>.
Society for Research in Child Development. (2007, February 7). Parents' Genes, Not Parents' Arguing, May Cause Children's Conduct Problems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070207090943.htm
Society for Research in Child Development. "Parents' Genes, Not Parents' Arguing, May Cause Children's Conduct Problems." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070207090943.htm (accessed June 30, 2015).

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