Niceness is in the DNA (Oh, That’s Why My Kid is Being a Grump)

Photo: Shannon Guyton
Photo: Shannon Guyton

I’ve wondered since the day they were born why my two kids are so different. My son Nathan, who is extraordinary in many ways, was also born intense, brooding and pessimistic (see above pic of him with his best friend – it tells all). My daughter Sophia, born just 2 years later, was all joyful smiles, giving, and optimistic from day one. Yes, I was slightly (okay, significantly) more neurotic during his babyhood than hers, but I’ve always sworn they’re just built differently. It irks Nathan deeply to have such a happy-go-lucky sister (“why are you so HAPPY all the time?!”); it’s almost like he even knows this about himself.

Turns out, there is science to support this theory. A recent study, led by psychologist Michel Poulin of the University of Buffalo, found there are particular genotypes inherited by parents that create either a “nice” receptor or a “not nice” receptor for the two hormones that create feelings of love and generosity — oxytocin and vasopressin.

The study surveyed 711 people who provided saliva for DNA analysis. They were asked questions about their outlook on the world, their charitable activities, and how threatening they found the world to be. Those who had a negative view of other people and the world were still able to be nice and charitable as long as they had the “nicer” receptor gene.

This new study backs up findings of research done last year by scientists at the University of Edinburgh that showed identical twins (sharing 100% of their genes) were very similar in their generosity and world outlooks, versus fraternal twins (who shared 50% of their genes) who had very different outlooks (clearly both sets had the same parenting).

Fortunately, the genes work in combination with how a kid is raised, so all hope is not lost for my brooding boy (yikes, the pressure is on)!

Plus, more from The Bump:

Personality Traits of 2012 Babies

What Baby’s Sign Could Mean for Her Personality

15 Ways to Deal With a Fussy Baby