It’s all in our genes …
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
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