Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

The Kids Are All Right; Research Takes the Worry out of Parenting

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

The Kids Are All Right; Research Takes the Worry out of Parenting

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Burlace

FOR decades we have heard that the nurture we give our children is key to their progress and success.

But what if that nurture mattered little? Or we couldn't determine which aspects of nurture would boost kids' futures?

Robert Plomin is a geneticist and psychologist who says the evidence is that half our differences and similarities are set by our genes.

The other half is the result of factors we don't yet understand - some random and some intentional on the part of anyone who influences that child's development.

Dr Plomin and his views are controversial and some people think it means we are doomed to a life set by those genes.

But all is not lost. He argues that once we have an idea of how a person's genes affect them we can provide better support to maximise their progress and minimise problems.

Clare Wilson from New Scientist grilled him on his theories recently and they are also in his book Blueprint: How DNA makes us who we are.

This is about averages - there will always be individuals who do not fit. Plomin agrees his theory only applies to the vast majority of the population.

And anyone who has been severely abused does not fit the pattern because the abuse can override the impact of genes.

He bases the theories on studies of twins and particularly on twins separated at birth.

In many cases and for many factors that have been measured, twins grow up to be remarkably similar regardless of sometimes massive differences in upbringing.

One example he gives is bodyweight. A child who is adopted and raised next to a child who becomes overweight will not necessarily also become overweight, despite having the same diet and family circumstances.

However, twins split at birth and raised in different circumstances are likely to have very similar bodyweights, regardless of differences in food, activity and the like in their adoptive family. …

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