Genes May Be to Blame for Hard-to-Handle Toddlers01/21/14
TUESDAY, Jan. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- DNA might be a key
factor in excessive physical aggression in toddlers, a new Canadian
Even if a child's genes do foster such behaviors, however, all
is not lost because parents can still work to curb aggression in
kids, the researchers said.
"It should be emphasized that these genetic associations do not imply that the early trajectories of physical aggression are set and unchangeable," study author Eric Lacourse, of the University of Montreal, said in a university news release. "Genetic factors can always interact with other factors from the environment ... explaining any behavior."
The findings might lead to improved ways to reduce childhood
aggression, according to Lacourse's team, which compared nearly 700
sets of identical and non-identical twins.
The twins' mothers were asked to rate their children's levels of
physical aggression -- actions such as hitting, biting, kicking and
fighting -- at the ages of 20 months, 32 months and 50 months. The
researchers then looked at genetic and environmental factors --
such as family or parent influences -- that might affect aggression
levels in the toddlers.
The development of physical aggression was strongly associated
with genetic factors, and to a lesser degree with social
environment, said the researchers, whose findings were published
Jan. 21 in the journal
Long-term studies of physical aggression also show that most
children, teens and adults will eventually learn to control
physical aggression, Lacourse said.
He said aggression in young children needs to be dealt with
carefully because in-kind responses from parents, siblings and
peers can simply reinforce the aggressive behavior. That could lead
to a kind of "vicious circle" effect, he said.
"These cycles of aggression between children and siblings or parents, as well as between children and their peers, could support the development of chronic physical aggression," Lacourse said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians outlines how parents
change their children's behavior.
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