Children who experience less parental warmth and more harshness in their home environments may be more aggressive and lack empathy and a moral compass, according to a study by researchers at Michigan State University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“The study convincingly shows that parenting — and not just genes — is associated with the development of risky callous-unemotional traits,” said S. Alexandra Burt, co-director of the MSU Twin Registry and professor in MSU’s Department of Psychology. “Because identical twins have the same DNA, we can be surer that the differences in parenting the twins received affects the development of these traits.”

In a study of 227 identical twin pairs led by Penn psychologist Rebecca Waller, the research team analyzed small differences in the parenting that each twin experienced to determine whether these differences predicted the likelihood of antisocial behaviors emerging.

They found the twin who experienced stricter or harsher treatment and less emotional warmth from parents had a greater chance of showing aggression and CU traits.

“Some of the early work on callous-unemotional traits focused on their biological bases, like genetics and the brain, making the argument that these traits…

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Mayra Rodriguez

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Mayra Rodriguez
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