Why Are Some Parents Good At Parenting? Harvard Study Reveals It's In The Genes

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald April 21, 04:00 am
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Some parents are wired to become good at parenting because of their DNA, Harvard experts said.
(Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Parenting is a learned skill and some stumble with a few trial and error. A new study, however, points out why some parents are good at parenting than others. The experts say it's likely in the genes.

Harvard researchers conducted a genetic study on mice to determine the foundations on parenting. The findings, published in the Nature journal, revealed some parents could likely possess good DNA that influences their parenting style as well as their attitude towards monogamy.

The experts compared genetic behaviors between species of deer mice and oldfield mice, as well as a hybrid of these species. Deer mice and oldfield mice, however, don't breed in the wild but it's a different case in the lab environment.

The experts mixed single male and female mice in different cages and observed their mating and parenting tendencies once they had pups. They learned deer mice are more promiscuous, while oldfield mice's offspring usually come from the same dad.

Deer mice also showed less parenting tendencies, more so with the male types. Oldfield mice, both male and female, on the other hand, showed more parental concern even as their pups matured.

The experts also performed cross-fostering to determine these behaviors, as well as boosted some of the mice's hormones to see the effects of the changes. Oldfield mice's behavior presented a significant change.

The experts said as mice are mammals, the same ideas on good parenting genes could also apply to human DNA or in the study of human behavior. "What I find very interesting is that we found different genes may explain the evolution of paternal and maternal care," researcher Andres Bendesky said, via Harvard Gazette.

"That's interesting because it tells us that if some mutation in a population increases maternal care, it may not affect the behavior of males," Bendesky added. "So these behaviors may be evolving independently."

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