Inherited personality traits

Mary P. (my partner, for readers who don’t know) has weighed into the perennial “nature vs. nurture” debate on her blog.

Mary’s blog is aimed at the parents of small children. Rather daringly, she argued that we overestimate the impact of parenting on how our children turn out. Core elements of a child’s personality are determined by nature (genetics) rather than parental influence.

One of Mary’s readers raised the subject of mannerisms and Mary replied with an interesting story.

“Mannerisms, in particular, can have a wonderfully creepy echo effect, even skipping generations.”

quizzical baby faceMary P.:
“I commented to one of my clients about a particular distinctive face and posture her son adopts when he’s offended with you. She nodded and said that the first time she saw it, she was quite unnerved, because it was her father to a T – her father who died before her son was born!”

The story fascinates me because mannerisms express personality traits. I would argue from such evidence that personality itself is largely determined by nature rather than environment — or at least, significant elements of personality.

In fact, Mary illustrated her post by reference to introversion and extraversion, which I would describe as personality traits.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. juggling mother
    Nov 04, 2006 @ 11:17:06

    Much as I prefer to think otherwise, experience has shown me that nature has quite a big influence on how people turn out.

    Of course nurture is pretty important too! But depending on what you consider to be “personality” as opposed to social conditioning, there is only so much you can do with the basic stock.


  2. Stephen
    Nov 05, 2006 @ 10:16:48

    There is only so much you can do with the basic stock.


    I agree that nature and nurture are both significant factors. It’s hard to distinguish between them in order to apportion the impact of each. Studies of identical twins, separated at birth, are the only way to get at it scientifically.

    Mary P. is a convert on this subject. When she was a new Mom, she really believed her parenting would determine how her children would turn out. Now that her children are entering adulthood, she recognizes how much of who they are was simply innate.


  3. j
    Sep 12, 2008 @ 14:19:51

    cute kid


  4. Trackback: Parental Influence: How Much Do Parents Really Matter? « The Not So Simple Truth

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