Page URL:

Behaviour nurture not nature, says IVF children study

20 December 2010
Appeared in BioNews 589

A long-term study following 1,000 families with children born using IVF between 1994 and 2002 in the UK and US has shown the importance of parenting in the outcome of a child's behaviour.

In the study, which investigated the mental well-being of both the parents and children, some of the children were biologically related to their parents, while others were unrelated and conceived using either donor sperm or eggs, or both. This gave the researchers a unique opportunity to compare the role of nature (genes) and nurture (the environment) in the development of a child's behaviour.

The researchers asked the mothers and fathers of the children to complete a questionnaire, which covered topics such as their mental well-being (depression, aggression), their parenting towards the child - positive (warmth) and negative (hostility), as well as their child's mental well-being. The researchers then compared the data from the different groups of related and unrelated parents.

Professor Gordon Harold, a psychologist who led the study said: 'Associations were found between parent and child symptoms of depression and aggression among parents and children who were genetically related, but, crucially, also among parents and children who were not genetically related'.

Until recently, Professor Harold was the head of The Centre for Research on Children and Families at Otago University in New Zealand. He told the New Zealand Herald: 'Interventions that target hostile behaviours from parents are likely to pay dividends in reducing behavioural problems in children'. But cautiously added: 'What this paper is not saying is that genetic factors do not matter in human development. Absolutely not!'

The work itself, however, was carried out by scientists at Cardiff University and University College London in the UK, and was funded by the Wellcome Trust. The findings were published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

20 June 2011 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
Female cheating may be a byproduct of genetic variants that promote cheating in males, according to a new study on zebra finches. Paired-up male finches who tried cheating with other females had the same genetic variants as female finches who were more prone to cheating....
29 November 2010 - by Dr Aarathi Prasad 
Researchers at Edinburgh University's department of psychology report that there is a biological mechanism underpinning the loyalty that a person feels to their social group....
8 November 2010 - by Harriet Vickers 
US researchers have claimed that having a particular gene variant and a sociable time in your teens may mean you are more likely to be politically liberal....
4 October 2010 - by Chris Chatterton and Rose Palmer 
Last week researchers from Cardiff University published a study in the Lancet, where they claimed to have uncovered evidence of a genetic link to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)...
4 May 2010 - by Harriet Vickers 
Scientists have identified a number of genetic mutations that appear to be associated with the number of cigarettes people smoke a day, the chance of taking up smoking, and the ability of being able to quit smoking...
26 April 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Genetic influences are estimated to account for up to 82 per cent of a child's reading ability, but children can only make the most of their natural abilities if this is combined with excellent teaching, a study published in the journal Science last week has found...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.