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Children's Genes Affect How They are Parented

Sep 04, 2013 04:13 PM EDT

A child's genes significantly affect how they are parented, a new study shows.

Published in Personality and Social Psychology Review, the report estimates that 23 percent of differences in parenting are due to a child's genetics.

"There is a lot of pressure on parents these days to produce children that excel in everything, socially and academically," Reut Avinun of Hebrew University said in a statement. "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."

The researchers hypothesized that If parents treated identical twins, who share 100 percent of their genes, more similarly than non-identical twins, who share an average of 50 percent of their genes, any differences in parenting could then be attributed to these genetic differences.

In all, the team examined 32 studies involving a total of 14,600 pairs of twins. Based on the results, the researchers determined that children's genetic differences evoke different responses from their environment

For example, one recent study found that boys genetically predisposed to exhibit limited self-control are more likely to experience lower levels of positive maternal behavior.

"In other words, boys' genetically influenced level of self-control affected the behavior of their mothers toward them," Avinun said.

In all, the researchers found that children's shared environment, such as their socioeconomic background, accounted for 43 percent of parenting differences while their non-shared environment, such as different schools and friend groups, accounted for 34 percent.

The results, according to Avinun, "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."

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