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Scientists claim children are less their parents than we thought | UK | News

Scientists claim children are less their parents than we thought | UK | News
Scientists claim children are less their parents than we thought | UK | News

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It may not be a case of “like father like son” or the “apple not falling far from the tree”, as scientists claim children are less like their parents than we previously thought.

A new study has suggest people inherit very little of their personality, so much so that parents their children are only slightly more likely to have a similar temperament than strangers.

According to The Times, researchers look at character traits of parents and adult children, assessing how neurotic, extrovert, open, agreeable and conscientious they were

The study also looked at siblings as well as “second-degree” relatives including half-siblings and grandparents and grandchildren.

Studies have previously explored how closely matched relatives tended to be by rating their own personalities, reports The Times. This is however potentially flawed, with self-assessments seen as unreliable.

The new study used data from “gene donors” at the Estonian Biobank, a database established in 2000. It contains more than a thousand pairs of relatives.

Each person was asked not only to rate their own traits, but to also find someone to act as an “informant”, delivering a second opinion. 

The self-ratings were then combined to those given by the informants to gain a model of a participant’s personality.

Results suggested that about 42 percent of the difference seen between the participants’ personality traits came from the kind of genetic factors that make children and parents to be alike, claims René Mottus of Edinburgh University, who led the study.

This figure was higher than previously thought – up from 25 percent on average – but makes it impossible to spot a child’s personality traits from knowing their parents. 

The study considered what the outcome would be if a group of parents and their adult children completed a personality test and were told that for a particular trait they were in either the bottom, middle, or top third of the population.

It said, theoretically, only 39 percent of offspring would be in the same category as their parent. Whereas the number between strangers would be 33 percent. 

“More than 60 percent of children are in a different [category] from their parents for any given personality trait,” said Mottus.

“In other words, children and parents are a little more likely to be similar than random people, but not sufficiently so to allow us to accurately predict children’s traits from their parents.”

He added: “In almost every major language you seem to have some saying along the lines of ‘like father, like son’, presumably because people have an intuition about it — but it turns out this intuition is not very correct.”

The study has been released as a “pre-print” on the PsyArXiv website. It has been submitted to a journal but has yet to be peer-reviewed.

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