Harsh parenting practices, and not genetics, have been held responsible for behavior problems in children in a new study recently published in Psychological Science. The study consisted of several pairs of twins whose parents had different ways of treating them.
The study indicates: The identical twins whose genes are a perfect match, but have been treated differently by their parents, showcased different behavior in the future. The children who were spanked or yelled at more than the others were more likely to show antisocial behavior.
Physical Punishment & the Alternative Theory
There are dozens of research studies all confirming that parents’ usage of harsh punishment, especially physical punishment is responsible for the increase in negative outcomes for their children, with particularly higher levels of behavior problems. The research team also examined a common alternative argument that genetics plays a role in child behavioral problems.
If the genetic argument is taken into consideration, it implements that parents with the tendency of behaving roughly with their children might have passed on genes linked to aggression and acting out.
The Research & the Findings
The team knew it was unethical to take families with similar genes and randomly assign them to spank or be verbally harsh to their children. To avoid such a scenario, the researchers at Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and UT Austin studied twins. The complete research included 1,030 sets of twins, of whom, 426 pairs were genetically identical. Many were treated differently by their parents than the other one.
The researchers found that in families where one twin sibling received harsh punishment but not the other, there was a foreseeable increase in physical aggression and delinquency for the child who was hit or yelled at more than the sibling. However, there was no evidence to support any genetic explanation.