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It is not your fault -- considering impact of DNA instead of environment in shaping who we are

The science of genetics is rapidly advancing with much knowledge gained in just the last few years. I recently listened to a podcast published in July 2020 with Robert Plomin and Sam Harris. Robert Plomin is the MRC Research Professor in Behavioral Genetics at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London and has previously taught at the University of Colorado Boulder and at Pennsylvania State University. He has received lifetime research achievement awards from the major associations related to his field (Behavior Genetics Association, Association of Psychological Science, Society for Research in Child Development, International Society for Intelligence Research), as well as being made Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, British Academy, American Academy of Political and Social Science, and Academy of Medical Sciences (UK).

Robert’s latest book, Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are, makes the case that DNA inherited from our parents at the moment of conception can predict our psychological strengths and weaknesses.

I think a couple of key takeaways are that our DNA can tell us a lot more about our propensities to be who we are than really anything else. Shared environment plays a much smaller role than we might think. So parents -- ACCEPT your children and for who they are. Maybe pause before trying to direct, mold and control and consider watching your children grow without judgment and with boundless love. Develop positive relationships with them. No matter what they do or don't. Your goal is to provide support and be there for them when they are not feeling well. Don't contribute to their suffering. Just be there with them fully.

And further, expression of our DNA through symptoms of who we are being labeled as disorders is not an accurate or helpful model. For instance, DNA for all the traits that make us who and how we are are distributed normally throughout the population. We don't label being taller than 6'4" a disorder which is rarer than experiencing depression. We have to learn to live with both. Thinking about the normal expression of DNA as a disorder can itself create greater suffering. And genetics is already helping to find the right treatment to alleviate some of those expressed symptoms. Consider the recently developed blood test at Indiana University by Dr. Alexander Niculescu using genetics to find a tailored treatment for various psychological symptoms. For parents, understanding your children's genes and what they suggest in terms of probabilities of your children's development can be great tools to be better, more loving parents. Try and resist the urge to row against the current, and consider being there for and with your children. They will get to where they are going with our without you, but it is so much better with, than without.

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