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Baby Personality: Is Baby More Like Mom or Dad?

by Katlyn Joy | January 18, 2014 2:51 PM
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Does your son have his father's nose, but your dimples? Is your baby girl curly-haired like you, or freckled like him? Besides physical traits, we also look for ourselves to be reflected in our children in their personalities and temperaments.

What Does Science Say About Personality and Inheritance?

The field is relatively young, and much of the research is limited or conflicting. Here are some examples:

A 2012 study of 800 sets of twins points to genes playing a significant role in determining personality factors such as sociability, success and self-control.

Dr. Michael W. Krauss, Ph. D., in an article for Psychology Today, states, "On the one hand, genes clearly seem to contribute to personality, but on the other, much of the genetic evidence has not supported this view. I'm cautiously optimistic about the future of gene work."

A 2013 study of zebra finches found that environment was a stronger determinant of personality than genes. While there is a considerable jump from finches to humans, the lead researcher, Dr. Nick Royle of the University of Exeter states, "Although this study considers personality inheritance in zebra finches, it raises questions about the inheritance of personality in other species, including humans. Do adopted children inherit the personality characteristics of their birth parents or their adoptive parents? Is the environment more important than genetic inheritance in the development of personality?"

In a 2003 article for the American Psychological Association, Beth Azar, pointed out that while finding personality genes is decades off, some indications point to a genetic link with at least a few types of personality traits such as novelty-seeking ones, or harm avoidance ones.

So What's a Parent to Think about Personality and Genes?

Enjoy noticing how Junior hates getting his hands sticky just like Dad, or how little Katie loves animals more than most kids, just like Momma. You may be absolutely convinced that some of your child's traits are hardwired and inherited from a family member. And why not? Science can't confirm or deny at this point, and who knows your child better than you?

Enjoy watching your baby's personality develop as she grows. Encourage her positive growth, and be supportive through the more difficult phases or aspects of his personality or temperament.

For instance, if little Blake loves to talk to everyone in babble, enjoy it and carry on "conversations" with him. Read aloud to him and engage him.

If Sofia is quite shy and fearful, and it is not just age-related stranger anxiety, be supportive of her difficulty with new people and situations by not forcing her to interact or rushing her into unfamiliar places. That doesn't mean letting her sit shyly and alone, or never going anywhere new, but give her ample warning and time to adjust. Don't thrust her into a stranger (to her) and old friend's arms and then chide her for bursting into tears. Let her warm up. Praise her bravery.

Adopted and Donor Insemination Baby Personalities

Maybe your child doesn't share both, or either parent's DNA. Does that mean she won't be anything like you? That is highly unlikely. Environment plays a key role in shaping who we are, how we act and feel. You may watch in surprise as your adopted child mimics your husband's range of expression or exact walk.

Enjoy the Discovery of Your Baby's Uniqueness

While it's fun to see how a child is like us, it's complete joy to see a child develop into himself. Don't let labels limit who your child grows to be. Some families are quick to pigeonhole a child, even in the earliest of years, comparing them to another family member and framing every trait and event to fit the picture they are have in mind.

Let your child discover her own abilities, foibles and quirks. If everyone in your family is an athlete, but your little one shows an intense interest in music, give him a tambourine, a horn and a chance. If it goes further, get lessons and an interest in something more like a concert than a track meet.

Remember the excitement waiting to meet your baby, while you were pregnant? Keep that excitement as you discover who your baby is growing to be.


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