Epigenetics Genetics News

Researcher: Parenting doesn’t matter after all

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It’s all in our genes …

From Brian Boutwell at Quillette:

Why parenting may not matter and why most social science research is probably wrong

Based on the results of classical twin studies, it just doesn’t appear that parenting—whether mom and dad are permissive or not, read to their kid or not, or whatever else—impacts development as much as we might like to think. Regarding the cross-validation that I mentioned, studies examining identical twins separated at birth and reared apart have repeatedly revealed (in shocking ways) the same thing: these individuals are remarkably similar when in fact they should be utterly different (they have completely different environments, but the same genes).3 Alternatively, non-biologically related adopted children (who have no genetic commonalities) raised together are utterly dissimilar to each other—despite in many cases having decades of exposure to the same parents and home environments.3

This is becoming a minority position in the age of epigenetics. See, for example, here, here, and here.

It would be odd indeed if identical twins were one of the few areas where the genes were set in cement, but we shall see. From Boutwell again:

Natural selection has wired into us a sense of attachment for our offspring. There is no need to graft on beliefs about “the power of parenting” in order to justify our instinct that being a good parent is important. Consider this: what if parenting really doesn’t matter? Then what? The evidence for pervasive parenting effects, after all, looks like a foundation of sand likely to slide out from under us at any second. If your moral constitution requires that you exert god-like control over your kid’s psychological development in order to treat them with the dignity afforded any other human being, then perhaps it is time to recalibrate your moral compass; does it actually point north or just spin like a washing machine (see Pinker’s work for this same point made more eloquently10)? If you want happy children, and you desire a relationship with them that lasts beyond when they’re old enough to fly the nest, then be good to your kids.10 Just know that it probably will have little effect on the person they will grow into. I think it’s fitting to let Judith Rich Harris6 have the last word. More. (December 1, 2015)

Brian Boutwell Research Interests: The genetic and environmental underpinnings of human violence and aggression, as well as the intersection of general intelligence with behavioral outcomes. Additionally, his work also focuses on the biological evolution of various human traits. More recently, Dr. Boutwell’s work has begun to explore the biosocial underpinnings of race differences in behavior.

ResearchGate Profile: Teaching Areas: Research Methods, Statistics, and The Science of Evil as well as courses in criminological theory.

Education History: PhD, Florida State University

See also: There’s a gene for that… or is there?

Do we inherit more than genes from Dad? Prediction: Epigenetics will clear decks of many useless social controversies. What if much that we need to know about a person is not in their genes anyway?

Researcher: Corals alter their DNA to cope with acidity Like punctuation marks in an alphabet, this changes the result (proteins made) without altering the original letters (the DNA)

Do twins inherit an equal amount of “smartness”? No, apparently. Lifestyle choices matter too, especially exercise.

Big Gay may not like this, but…

Guinea pigs tweak their own DNA too This just in: The selfish gene is having a nervous breakdown. Pirates and bandits are now running his business, and worse, nothing is going wrong.

Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!

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Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

4 Replies to “Researcher: Parenting doesn’t matter after all

  1. 1
    ppolish says:

    Gasp, my goodness, wow – this has “power-pose science” written all over it.

  2. 2

    News,
    There’s three categories here, and you should be careful not to confuse it as a 2 category problem. Nature vs nurture is a two category problem. Nature vs. family vs nurture is a 3-category issue. If you speak to any “old world” citizen, be they from China or from Africa or from Moldavia, they will tell you the same thing: marry someone from a good family. What they are saying is: be careful of epigenetics.

    Identical twins have identical genes, but they also have near-identical epigenetics. What the father contributes to the baby is not just 1/2 the genes, but something like 3/4 of the epigenetics. And its the epigenetics that make the biggest difference in the measures that are being studied.

    So nurture is good for things like having piano lessons, good personal hygiene, literacy. Epigenetics, however, explains musical talent, being a movie star, writing the great American novel. And also things like: bouts of depression, bipolar or schizophrenia, addictive personality, etc.

    Genetics makes it possible to have kids. Epigenetics makes it possible to have talented kids. And nurture makes it possible to have talent lessons for the kids.

  3. 3
    News says:

    Thanks, Rob Sheldon, we will need much clarification in the years to come. I’ve never thought of epigenetics as “environment,” more like copyediting the genome.

    (Oi spent me life as a copy editor. 😉 )

  4. 4
    tjguy says:

    Parenting doesn’t matter after all

    This is so bad, I’m surprised the guy has the courage to write such a thing! But thanks to science, we now know that parenting doesn’t matter!

    I think we can certainly say that “parenting isn’t everything,” but the claim that it doesn’t matter at all or even very much at all is so far removed from reality as to be simply laughable.

    This is an extreme, but it is an example of what people are willing to believe when they swallow the evolutionary story hook, line, and sinker. This shows the influence our worldview has on our thinking, beliefs, and conclusions.

    It also shows us how important worldview is. If we are messed up there, we could really mess up our kids. Since no parent is perfect, we all know that we cannot avoid impacting our kids in a negative way at least to some extent. Hopefully though the positive impacts will outweigh the negative.

    But still, in the end, our kids must make up their own minds as to what to believe, how to live, what worldview to hold, etc. Kids are not robots and we cannot control them, but we can and should influence them. It is one of the most important reasons God designed the family.

    Malachi 2:13-16
    “You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? AND WHAT WAS THE ONE GOD SEEKING? GODLY OFFSPRING.[emphasis added] So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

    Here, God is reprimanding his people here and He explains why God created marriage and family in v. 15! The purpose is so that we can raise godly offspring.

    So, obviously, God wants parents to teach their children the ways of the Lord:

    Deuteronomy 4:9-10
    “Make them known to your children and your children’s children— 10 how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’”

    Also:

    Deuteronomy 6:6,7
    “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

    So, while Mr. Whoever is welcome to his opinion, I think he would be foolish to challenge God on this one.

    It’s amazing how “science” can trump common sense and make people believe the weirdest things!

    This guy is a perfect example of what it looks like to be a faithful believer in and follower of Scientism.

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