Long ago, I read a jest that most people believe in the shaping power of environmental nurture—until they have their second child.
That pretty well sums up the results of a not-yet-published survey of 1000 Americans by an Emily Willoughby-led University of Minnesota team. The researchers report that “educated mothers with multiple children” were particularly cognizant of the heritability of traits, adding: “Parents, after all, have the ability to observe firsthand the results of an empirical experiment on the heritability of human traits in their own home. They can see that their children resemble them along multiple dimensions; furthermore, a parent of multiple children can see how the shared environment does not necessarily make them alike.”
That has been my wife’s and my experience as parents of three children who share some of our traits, but who were distinct individuals right out of the womb. And perhaps your experience, too, as you compare your children, or observe your own or other siblings?
These researchers noted another interesting finding, related to political leanings: When asked about the relative gene and environment contributions to various traits, liberals more than conservatives saw genetics having a strong influence on psychiatric disorders and sexual orientation. As a result, liberals tended not to view sexual orientation as a choice, and they tended to have more compassionate views of those with psychiatric disorders. Conservatives more often saw a strong genetic influence on intelligence and musical ability, thus suggesting that those with these strengths had been largely “born that way” rather than advantaged by opportunity.