Being less affectionate can make your child anti-social: study

Findings suggest that less parental warmth and more harshness at home can affect how aggressive children become

Entertainment Desk October 21, 2018

Parents, take note. A new study has found that less affectionate and strict behaviour towards children can make them aggressive and anti-social, reported Economic Times.

Research suggests that parenting skills might be inherited

The findings suggest that less parental warmth and a harsh home environment affect how aggressive children become and whether they lack empathy and a moral compass - a set of characteristics known as callous-unemotional (CU) traits.

Associate professor at the University of Michigan and co-author of the study, Luke Hyde said, "The study convincingly shows that parenting - and not just genes - contributes to the development of risky CU traits. Because identical twins have the same DNA, we can be more sure that the differences in parenting the twins received affects the development of these traits."


For the study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the research team involved 227 identical twin pairs.

The team of researchers analysed small differences in the parenting that each twin received to determine whether these differences predicted the likelihood of anti-social behaviours that were emerging. They also assessed the child's behaviour by asking the mother to report on 35 traits related to aggression and CU traits.

Researchers found that the twins who experienced stricter treatments and less emotional warmth from parents had a greater chance of showing aggression and CU traits as compared to those who were dealt with leniency.


A subsequent adoption study of parents and children who were not biologically related, turned up consistent results. Lead author and assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Rebecca Waller stated, "We couldn't blame the children's anti-social behaviour on genetics because they don't share genes with their parents."

However, she added, "But it still didn't rule out the possibility that something about the child's genetic characteristics was evoking certain reactions from the adoptive parent."

Good parenting: Need for spending quality time with children stressed

In other words, the results of the study revealed that parents who are warm and positive may have a hard time maintaining such behaviours if the child never reciprocates.

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