What is it about?

This study looked at how the influence of parenting quality on child social development may depend on a child's genetics. Certain genes, including one genetic marker of the serotonin system (5-HTTLPR), are thought to mark an individual's sensitivity to environmental influences. The present study observed interactions between parents and their 6 year old children and rated these interactions for parenting quality, including positive parenting (sensitivity, stimulation) and negative parenting (intrusiveness, negative effect). Parenting and child genetics were then assessed in relationship to child social skills development from ages 6 to 9 years. Findings suggest that positive and negative parenting predict child social skills growth, but only for children with the genetic marker of environmental sensitivity (i.e., the SS genotype of 5-HTTLPR).

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Why is it important?

This study challenges the classic nature versus nurture debate in child development. Rather, it highlights that both parenting environments and genetics are important for social development, and in fact, that a child's biology may provide a context for parenting. Every child is biologically different, and biology will in part determine what a child needs from their environment to flourish.


Studies that examine the joint influence of genetics and parenting on child development are in their infancy, and much more research is needed before applying this research in clinical settings (e.g., delivering certain parenting interventions based based on child genotype).

Barbara Caplan
University of California San Diego

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The nature and nurture of social development: The role of 5-HTTLPR and gene–parenting interactions., Journal of Family Psychology, August 2019, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/fam0000572.
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