Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why parenting can never have a rule book: Children's genetics significantly affect how they are parented

Date:
September 3, 2013
Source:
Society for Personality and Social Psychology
Summary:
Any parent will tell you that there is no simple recipe for raising a child. Being a parent means getting hefty doses of advice -- often unsolicited -- from others. But such advice often fails to consider a critical factor: The child. A new review of dozens of studies involving more than 14,600 pairs of twins shows that children's genetics significantly affect how they are parented.

A new review of dozens of studies involving more than 14,600 pairs of twins shows that children's genetics significantly affect how they are parented.
Credit: oksun70 / Fotolia

Any parent will tell you that there is no simple recipe for raising a child. Being a parent means getting hefty doses of advice -- often unsolicited -- from others. But such advice often fails to consider a critical factor: the child. A new review of dozens of studies involving more than 14,600 pairs of twins shows that children's genetics significantly affect how they are parented.

Related Articles


"There is a lot of pressure on parents these days to produce children that excel in everything, socially and academically," says Reut Avinun of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Since children are not born tabula rasa, I felt it was important to explore their side of the story, to show how they can affect their environment, and specifically parental behavior." Most studies of parenting look at only the reverse, how parents affect their children's experiences.

To explore the flip side, Avinun and Ariel Knafo looked to twins. They reasoned that if parents treat identical twins, who share 100 percent of their genes, more similarly than non-identical twins, who share on average 50 percent of their genes, then it suggests that the child's genes shape parenting.

Indeed, across 32 studies of twins, they found that children's genetically-influenced characteristics do affect parental behavior. As published in Personality and Social Psychology Review, they estimated that 23 percent of differences in parenting is due to a child's genetics. The genotype-related differences are ways that the children evoke different responses from their environment. For example, a child that is antisocial is more likely to elicit harsh discipline from parents than a more social child.

In one recent study, Knafo's research group found that boys with less self-control are more likely to experience lower levels of positive maternal behavior. For boys, but not for girls, a particular genotype -- a polymorphic region in the gene that codes for the serotonin transporter -- predicted mothers' levels of positive parenting and the boys' level of self-control. "In other words, boys' genetically influenced level of self-control affected the behavior of their mothers toward them," Avinun says.

Avinun and Knafo also found that children's shared environment -- socioeconomics, cultural exposure, etc. -- accounts for 43 percent of parenting differences. And the non-shared environment -- different schools, friends, etc. -- accounts for 34 percent of the differences. Importantly, the study's findings support the idea that parenting does not necessarily affect children in the same family similarly.

Several factors affect the extent to which genetics influence parenting. Avinun and Knafo found, for example, that age was important, supporting the argument that the child's genetic influence on parenting increases with age. "As children become increasingly autonomous, their genetic tendencies are more likely to be able to affect their behavior, which in turn influences parental behavior," Avinun says.

The research in total, Avinun says, "means that parenting should not be viewed solely as a characteristic of the parent, but as something that results from both parental and child attributes." Therefore, any interventions or treatments to help parenting should consider both the parents and children, and could vary even within a family.

"The discussion of 'nature vs. nurture' has transformed into 'nature and nurture.' We now understand that most characteristics are determined by the interplay between genetic and environmental influences," Avinun says.

Because children are born differently, there never can be a general rule book for raising children, she explains. "There isn't one style of ideal parenting. Each child requires a different environment to excel. So parents should not invest a lot of effort in trying to treat their children similarly, but instead, be aware of the variation in their children's attributes and nurture them accordingly."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. Avinun, A. Knafo. Parenting as a Reaction Evoked by Children's Genotype: A Meta-Analysis of Children-as-Twins Studies. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/1088868313498308

Cite This Page:

Society for Personality and Social Psychology. "Why parenting can never have a rule book: Children's genetics significantly affect how they are parented." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130903194153.htm>.
Society for Personality and Social Psychology. (2013, September 3). Why parenting can never have a rule book: Children's genetics significantly affect how they are parented. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130903194153.htm
Society for Personality and Social Psychology. "Why parenting can never have a rule book: Children's genetics significantly affect how they are parented." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130903194153.htm (accessed December 17, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

AP (Dec. 16, 2014) More departments are ordering their first responders to sit in on training sessions that focus on how to more effectively interact with those with autism spectrum disorder (Dec. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Newsy (Dec. 12, 2014) A study out of Britain suggest men are more idiotic than women based on the rate of accidental deaths and other factors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

AFP (Dec. 12, 2014) As the countdown to Christmas gets underway, so too does the Father Christmas conspiracy. But psychologists say that telling our children about Santa, flying reindeer and elves is good for their imaginations. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Airplane Seat Choice Says a Lot About You

Your Airplane Seat Choice Says a Lot About You

Buzz60 (Dec. 11, 2014) Are you an aisle or window seat person? Expedia and top psychologists say that choice says a lot about your personality. Sean Dowling (Seandowlingtv) has more. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins