Can values be transmitted genetically?

Israeli-led research finds that some beliefs are genetic

February 14, 2017 02:38
1 minute read.

DNA structure [Illustrative]. (photo credit: INIMAGE)


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Values are transmitted to children not only from the way parents act and speak, but also partially via their genes. A new study led by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has revealed that already by the age of seven, some of the values children obtain from parents make their presence known via genetics.

One of the main goals in children’s education is to pass our values on to them, said Hebrew U. psychology Prof. Ariel Knafo-Noam, psychologist Dr. Florina Uzefovsky from Ben-Gurion University and psychology Prof. Anna Doering of the University of Westminster in England. It was published in the journal Social Development.

Is it important to act according to norms accepted in society or to take risks and look for new experiences? The answers are connected to the values that direct our behavior. “As they get older, we hope they will hold similar values in their decisions. Indeed,” they wrote, “it seems that there is a significant correlation between our values and those of older children.

But how can we explain the relationship between the values of parents and their children?” Their study of twins showed that seven year olds can rate the importance of different values very much like adults do – contrary to conventional thought that values emerge only around adolescence. The study was the first test showing values in young children using a tool developed by Doering using drawings.

By comparing identical and non-identical twins, the researchers concluded that there are values like consideration (thinking about and helping others); promotion of self (achievement) and aspirations and tradition, as well as security can be explained by the emergence in their personality, among other things, of hereditary factors.

In contrast, the values associated with openness to changes and experiences can be explained solely by environmental factors, they said.

One of the environmental factors associated values is the degree of religiosity of the family. It is reported that children from religious families rank values associated with conservatism and tradition more than children from secular families who preferred values associated with openness. In addition, it was found that girls give higher importance to values of helping others than boys, who value more strength and higher achievement.

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