Genetics of nurture: A test of the hypothesis that parents’ genetics predict their observed caregiving.

Twin studies have documented that parenting behavior is partly heritable, but it is unclear how parents’ genetics shape their caregiving. Using tools of molecular genetics, the present study investigated this process by testing hypotheses about associations between a genome-wide polygenic score for educational attainment and parental caregiving in 702 members of the Dunedin Study, a population-representative birth cohort. Data have been prospectively collected from when Study members were born through to midlife, and include assessments of the caregiving they provided once they became parents. Results showed that parents’ polygenic scores predicted warm, sensitive, and stimulating caregiving, both in personal interactions with their young children (as captured on video) and through the home environments they created for their families (as observed by home visitors). The magnitude of this effect was small. Polygenic-score associations were independent of well-established predictors of parenting, such as parents’ own childhood experiences of parenting and the age at which they became parents. Polygenic-score associations were mediated by parents’ early-emerging cognitive abilities and self-control skills. Findings have implications for theory and research about genetic influences on caregiving and child development. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)