Genes Play a Part in Child’s Response to Parenting Study Says

If you have done any kind of observation of families, you can notice two or more children, parented by the same parents, have completely different temperaments. But why? Isn’t the parenting style all the same? Shouldn’t all of the children make good or bad choices based on their parents’ parenting style? Not necessarily. According to one recent study, it’s quite possible that genetics somehow have an influence on the way a child responds to the type of parenting they receive.

Previous studies have revealed that about 1 in 5 children are born with a variant of the 5-HTTLPR serotonin transporter-promoter gene that makes them extremely sensitive to the effects of abusive, neglectful or insensitive parenting. This gene governs the activity of serotonin – a mood chemical – in the brain. It is these studies that sparked a more recent study – one where researchers investigated whether or not those same children might also be overly-sensitive to the effects of good parenting.

During the course of three separate experiments, researchers tested a total of 1,874 children between the ages of 8 and 16 to determine which 5-HTTLPR allele they had. They also noted their overall mood and the overall quality of parenting they had received.

Upon reviewing the data, the researchers found that children with the same 5-HTTLPR allele as those that responded sensitively to poor parenting also responded sensitively to warm and loving parenting, resulting in a child that is well-adjusted and happy.

This data indicates that, while environment obviously plays a part in the temperament of a child, so do their genetics. While some children are more sensitive to bad or good parenting, others are not so sensitive. Hence, the probable reason behind the diversity of childhood temperaments, aside from the actual parenting they receive.

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About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.

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