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Tina Kretschmer: do your genes influence your parenting style?

Do your genes influence your parenting style?

Children’s individual differences come about because children grow up in different environments. We often assume that warm parenting, appropriate monitoring, and a stimulating home environment directly result in healthilyattached children who have fewer opportunities to get into trouble and achieve better school grades.

Tina Kretschmer

However, individual differences are also partly driven by genes. Not only in psychological constructs like psychological health and educational attainment; differences in ‘environments’, including parenting, are also genetically influenced. It is important to keep this in mind when exploring the effects of parents on children. In recent work, such genetic effects are modeled using polygenic scores (PGS). For example, a PGS for educational attainment represents the sum of the effects of all genes on a construct that is usually seen as describing educational attainment, such as years of schooling. This PGS can thus be understood as index of genetic predisposition for educational attainment. In statistical models, these PGS are used in the same way as other variables, such as ‘number of books in the home’. By doing this PGS help to identify whether a relationship between parenting and child outcome is partly genetic. For instance, we tend to think that reading out stories at bedtime is good for children’s literacy. It may well be however, that genes that are related to reading out stories are already transmitted at conception and explain children’s literacy and love of books.

So, yes it looks like parenting is partly genetic and these insights should contribute to parenting and child development research.

prof. dr. T. (Tina) Kretschmer
First name
Social development across the lifespan, with a focus on genetic and environmental origins of individual differences
Last modified:03 September 2019 10.39 a.m.
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