Parents and child in oceanA team of researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) has conducted an in-depth study of parenting styles and concluded it has about as much to do with genetics as it does family tradition. The way an individual parent relates to his or her children is partly a continuation of the parenting styles the now-adult child grew up with but there's more to the parenting picture than that.

The MSU study also reveals parenting isn't a one-way street. The personalities and characteristics of an individual child influence the way the parent responds to the child. In multi-child households, parents may relate differently to each child.

The MSU research team — doctoral student Ashlea M. Klahr and Associate Professor of Psychology S. Alexandra Burt — analyzed the parenting styles of more than 20,000 families in Australia, Japan, and the United States. The family data was gleaned from 56 studies, including some of the researchers’ own studies, delving into the origins of parenting behavior.

The research team discovered that genetic influences account for 23% to 40% of a parent's style for traits that include control, negativity toward the child, and parental warmth. Still not clear, according to Klahr, is whether the genetic influence on parent personality is direct or indirect.

The influence of child to parent is "one of the most consistent and striking findings to emerge from this study," write the co-authors. They describe a child's behavior as both that cause and consequence that shapes the parent's style of relating to the child.

Also affecting the parent-child relationship is the child's stage of development. Parents relate to their children differently as the child grows physically and emotionally.

These many factors — genetics, family tradition, child's stage of maturity, child's unique personality — all play a role in parental style. The old adage that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree contributes but is not the sole factor that determines an adult's style of parenting.

The full report of the team's findings have been published in the print issue of the research journal, Psychological Bulletin. The journal is a publication of the American Psychological Association.


Source: "Genes Play Key Role in Parenting." Michigan State University / Today. Michigan State University. Mar 20, 2014. Web. Apr 3, 2014.