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Parenting: 23 percent to 40 percent genetic

March 20, 2014 at 1:43 PM   |   Comments

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EAST LANSING, Mich., March 20 (UPI) -- Parenting is not just a child applying what he or she learned from parents, U.S. researchers say genes play a significant role in parenting.

S. Alexandra Burt, associate professor of psychology and co-author of a study led by doctoral student Ashlea M. Klahr, both of Michigan State University, said the findings refute the popular theory that how adults parent their children is strictly a function of the way they were themselves parented when they were children.

"The way we parent is not solely a function of the way we were parented as children," Burt said in a statement. "There also appears to be genetic influences on parenting."

Klahr and Burt conducted a statistical analysis of 56 scientific studies worldwide -- involving 20,000 families -- on the origins of parenting behavior, including some of their own.

The review, published in Psychological Bulletin, found genetic influences in the parents account for 23 percent to 40 percent of parental warmth, control and negativity toward their children.

The study also shed light on another misconception: Parenting is solely a top-down process from parent to child. Parents certainly seem to shape child behavior, but parenting also is influenced by the child's behavior -- in other words, parenting is both a cause and a consequence of child behavior, the researchers said.

Parenting is influenced by many things.

"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 behaviors and stage of development," Burt said.

"Basically, there are a lot of influences happening simultaneously. Long story short, though, 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."

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