KIPS Blog: Parenting Assessment in Practice & Research

Is 23% of Parenting Really Due to Children’s Genes?

Posted by Phil Gordon on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 @ 01:05 PM

I just read an interesting article that warrants some discussion.  I found the article because the press was reporting that a study found 23% of parenting was attributable to the child’s genetics.  What concerned me was that some  were interpreting this to mean that one need not try to work with parents because their children’s genetics run the show.  This flies in the face of the voluminous research stating that parenting is a primary factor major in children’s health and development and that working to improve parenting benefits children (for earlier posts on this see 1, 2, 34 & 5).  The study conducted by Reut Avinun and Ariel Knafo, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, was a meta-analyses of 32 published twin studies of parental behavior.  Twin studies can be used to ascertain the degree to which something is heritable, because identical twins share 100% of the same genes, where fraternal twins share only half the same genes.  The meta-analyses employed studies that assessed parenting using parent self report, child self report and observational measures.  The authors state in their abstract, “ meta-analysis of 32 children-as-twins studies of parenting revealed a heritability estimate of 23%, thus indicating that genetically influenced behaviors of the child affect and shape parental behavior.”

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Tags: Parenting Assessment, assessing parenting, parenting and genetics