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Bad Behavior Tied to Bad Genes?

Bad kid behavior linked to bad genes
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Bad kid behavior has been linked to almost everything lately, from irregular bedtime routines to spanking to even spending too much time in day care. But researchers from Oregon State University are now saying the answer may be simpler than that: your kid is bad because ... well, because you're no picnic yourself.

The new study is blaming anger management and poor self-control in the preschoolers they studied on good old-fashioned bad genes. Of the 233 families who were studied, parents who had high levels of negative emotions and poor self control, themselves, were much more likely to have kids who displayed the same exact behavioral issues. In other words, the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree.

But if you're thinking all this bad behavior is probably learned, think again. Researchers even studied adopted children, and found strong links between their birth parents' characteristics and behaviors, even though the children hadn't been raised by them.

So what can you do about it?

According to the study's lead author, Dr. Shannon Lipscomb, "We aren't recommending that children are genetically tested, but parents and caregivers can assess a child's needs and help them get to a setting that might be more appropriate.

"Assuming that findings like this are replicated," Lipscomb continues, "we can stop worrying so much that all children will develop behavior problems at centre-based care facilities, because it has been a concern ... some children (with this genetic predisposition) may be better able to manage their behavior in a different setting, in a home or smaller group size."

The study's findings clarify just why certain kids struggle in larger groups and more social interaction, while others actually flourish in those kinds of settings. As Lipscomb suggests, it may have nothing to do with the parent or the teacher at all; but more to do with the fact that such kids are struggling on a purely biological level.

Other significant takeaways? Researchers found that children who spend more time in preschool playgroups have fewer problems developing friendships with other kids; but those who spend a lot of time in one-on-one care with grandparents or family members tend to have more problems connecting with peers later.

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