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Nature vs. Nurture in Families

cartoon father and son laughing and walking iStockvect0r0vich

I attended a five-year old's birthday party last week and was struck by the sight of my brother and his oldest son having casually struck the same pose in midst of their conversation, one arm crossed over the other, heads tilted to the same angle. This began a discussion amongst my fellow observers about learned vs. inherited behaviors. Was this an example of Nature vs. Nurture in our family? The coversation spread to include one of my nieces that has the same distinct speaking patterns as one of her aunts that none of the other family members share.


The National Institute of Health published a report that said, in part, "Decades of research on twins, adoptees, and families have led to the inescapable conclusion that most reliably measuresed psychologicial characeristics are influenced to some degree by genes."


Migrating ducks

Some behaviors are instinctual, such as birds are born knowing how to migrate. There have been several articles in genealogical circles about generational transferences of memories of catastrophes. Survival of the fittest in the famine transferring the learned behaviors of success genetically?  The ongoing evolution of the human species bears witness.


Do bad parenting skills necessarily cause a new generation of bad parents, or a inspire a new generation of doting, involved parents?


We know some cancers are linked to certain genes, like BRCA1 and BRCA2 and breast cancer. We know that a family history of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis or diabetes means that you are more likely to develop them as well, but what don't know if one gene or 10,000 cause these health problems. While they have not determined a specific gene that causes sickle cell anemia, the FDA recently approved the editing of a patient's genome with CRISPR technology wherein edited/modified blood stem cells are transplanted into the body that will generate normal blood cells.


Still so much to learn!


Red haried boy with freckles

Who or what do you see when you look at your family besides the obvious chin dimple, hair color or freckles? Inheritance of phobias, allergies, mannerisms, baldness, or tongue rolling are all great conversation topics for the holiday season as we learn more about ourselves and our families.


DNA tests and site memberships are still on sale everywhere! Get Grandma tested before dinner and get her to talk about her parents, memories, and traditions.


Blessings of the holiday season to all you you!

Leslie Ryan

“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.” ― Dalai Lama XIV


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Further reading:

National Institute of Health Medical Library


Sickle Cell Anemia "Cure"





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