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Parents! Your genes play key role in child growth

Posted on Mar 21 2014 | IANS

Washington, March 21 : Debunking the popular theory that how adults parent their children depends on the way they were themselves parented when they were children, scientists have discovered that genes actually play a significant role in parenting.

"While environmental factors do play a role in parenting, so do a person's genes," said S. Alexandra Burt, an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University.

"The way we parent is not solely a function of the way we were parented as children. There also appears to be genetic influences on parenting," co-author Ashlea M. Klahr added.

Klahr and Burt conducted a statistical analysis of 56 scientific studies from around the world on the origins of parenting behaviour, including some of their own.

The comprehensive analysis, involving more than 20,000 families from Australia to Japan to the US, found that genetic influences in the parents account for 23 percent to 40 percent of parental warmth, control and negativity towards their children.

"What is still not clear, however, is whether genes directly influence parenting or do so indirectly through parent personality, for example," Klahr said.

The study sheds light on another misconception: that parenting is solely a top-down process from parent to child.

While parents certainly seem to shape child behaviour, parenting also is influenced by the child's behaviour - meaning parenting is both a cause and a consequence of child behaviour.

Parents have their own experiences when they were children, their own personalities, their own genes.

"On top of that, they are also responding to their child's behaviours and stage of development," Burt noted.

Basically, there are a lot of influences happening simultaneously. We need to be sensitive to the fact that this is a two-way process between parent and child that is both environmental and genetic, the researchers said in a paper is published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

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