Are violence and aggression genetic or a response to our upbringing? As this ScienCentral news video reports, psychologists say it's both–but parenting can shape the effects of childrens' genes.
Nurture just might trump nature when it comes to certain aspects of behavioral development. Psychologists who studied rhesus monkeys, which share over 92 percent of their genetic material with us, found that mothers not only took care of their young but also corrected any bad behavior.
"Mothers are very good at giving the kind of inputs that change behavior," says J. Dee Higley, a research psychologist at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "but that's happening at the very time that the brain is changing, when it needs that kind of input. It's almost as if evolution said, 'let's put mothers there so that the brain gets the right kind of input.'"
Higley and his team separated some infant monkeys from their moms and raised them only with their peers, other young monkeys. Then they looked at differences in a gene that controls a brain chemical called serotonin, which influences behavior. "Serotonin appears to be the 'brakes' of the brain," says Higley. People with a shortened copy of the serotonin gene have psychological problems like depression and anxiety.