Family Tendency: Understanding Traits and Behaviors

family tendency

What is a family tendency? A family tendency is a family trait that is developed over time by virtue of being members of the same family. These tendencies are driven by genetics or learned behavior. Examples include diseases to which multiple family members are prone or dietary choices that directly result in conditions for multiple family members.

Dave was only 47 when he had a mild stroke and had to get an angiogram to see whether blockage contributed to the event.

After the procedure, the doctor sat Dave down and explained to him that he had to change his lifestyle and diet.

If Dave wanted to increase his chances of living a long life he would need to exercise more, minimize his meat consumption, and maximize his intake of fruits, vegetables, and seeds.

Dave reeled in disbelief and asked the doctor to elaborate. The doctor told Dave that he was highly likely to get another stroke because Dave had lost both his parents to strokes.

He could not control his genetics, there was a tendency in his family to be prone to strokes, but he could control his behaviors.

Dave believed that the effect and impact of genes was the driver of his doctor’s concern, not his diet and lifestyle choices.

The doctor saw it quite differently He explained that because Dave’s family is prone to this potentially fatal condition, Dave needed to do everything in his power to prevent him from suffering the same fate as his parents.

When looking at other instances of physiological and sociological traits, one may fail to realize one genetic makeup as a significant contributor in impacting an individual’s lifestyle.

Another example is the story of Paul. His family sat one day discussing how badly he was behaving; not taking care of his family and failing to manage his finances well.

In frustration, his sister uttered a statement that echoes the sentiment most people have of parental upbringing as a significant contributor to mental and sociological issues.

She said, “I have no clue how he turned out to be like this when we grew up together in a family with two responsible parents!”

These two stories feed the curiosity of what exactly has more impact on our lives; genes or upbringing. In the case of Dave, was it merely because of genes that he was prone to heart problems?

Were there no underlying factors from his behaviors and choices that contributed to the state of his health, apart from genes?

When analyzing Paul, was it true that because he was raised in a particular family, then his behavior as an adult should be reflective of that upbringing?

Is there a possible link between sociological factors of parenting and choices, and biological factors driven by genetics in shaping a person’s destiny?

What then is more influential, genetics or environment? To answer this question, it is essential to explain genetic and sociological factors and their contribution to someone’s overall make-up both physically and socially.

The Role of Parents in Behavioral Development

Parents are the most influential contributors to the healthy development of a child’s emotional well-being. According to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, children pass through stages of development during which they acquire skills and abilities that will empower them to be successful in life.

Parents can support their child’s development through these stages by making use of a strategy known as scaffolding.

Scaffolding allows parents to support cognitive growth by providing the support that makes sense for their children, ensuring their needs get met as they work to meet their goals.

An example of scaffolding would be to help a child sound out words as they are learning to read. Think of it as a ladder. If the child is not yet ready to climb, what can be done to help them climb?

Cognitive development theories by Bruner in which parents make use of a strategy known as scaffolding to enable and support cognitive growth.

This follows from Piaget’s cognitive theory which speaks of developmental stages of cognitive behavior in which there is a level at which a child’s environment has to be conducive for learning for the future.

It highlighted that the future learning or knowledge scope of any adult were shaped in their childhood. If not acquired within the school environment, it was developed at home.

Interestingly, where a teacher and a parent were not synchronized, children usually reflected the parent’s influence in their behavior thus giving the likely explanation that parents had more impact on children. 

Another angle to the argument is that by simply living as part of a particular family, a person may inherently catch on to the daily habits of members of that family.

In the case of health, for instance, a family where eating habits are not consistent and there is an inclination towards fatty foods and junk food, it may be found that most of its family members are obese or suffer a certain weight challenge.

While some would be quick to point out that this weight issue is genetic, there is the other side which is of the view that it is more the influence of habit rather than biological make-up. This is the basis of what has become known as the nurture or nature theory.

Genes may contribute to the health of a person so that those from the same family may have similar diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

Learned family habits, which fall under environmental influences, become the major contributor to behavioral developments and related health conditions.

What are some examples of Family Tendencies in Behavior?

family tendency

The reason Paul’s sister is surprised to learn that he was behaving contrary to how they were raised.

In a study on the possible causes of delinquency in boys measured at the age of fifteen, statistics have pointed out that almost 75% of boys raised in single-parent homes or disrupted families were wont to be known for delinquent behavior leading to rehabilitation of some sort.

This was in comparison to those boys who reached the age of 15 living in intact family structures (Juby, 2001).

In the corporate world, it has emerged that most effective managers are those who have come from stable families and whose parents had an active role to play in their upbringing.

Even when analyzing children of school-going age, educationists have found that child concentration and school performance were likely indicators of parental or family situations.

For instance, Gajre et al (2018) investigated and found that children who had family breakfast times in the morning before school started were more likely to maintain concentration in class, thus performing considerably better than those who had none or inconsistent breakfast arrangements at their homes.

Smoking policies of 2010 in the UK were implemented after findings that adult smokers were mostly those associated with smoking parents or siblings.

This is why it includes a clause on non-smoking zones, particularly those away from children to reduce those influences on children in their later years.

From the above stories, behavioral examples may include values and general approach towards life’s occurrences.

This means that it may be possible to predict how someone may respond to a situation based on prior family knowledge of that person in terms of how the parents would have approached a similar situation.

Often, we have heard people introduce a point with, “as my dad would say,” which means there is much that we apply in the later years of life that we would have acquired while growing up.

In linguistic development, there is the interactionist theory which posits that children learn language from their environment, and the rate of development is dependent largely on that environment.

The same can be said of general behavior.

Natural Tendencies Through the Influence of Genes in an Individual

Psychologists state that personality traits are a result of concerted genetic influence in small effects over a period of time within the individual’s genes.

Some have gone on to endorse that certain personality traits are direct genetic influenced. In citing instances in which this has been noted, it has been found that most people with anti-social behavior are like that because they come from families of low interaction and anti-social tendencies.

However, the attribution of genes towards a person’s behavior is rampantly seen through disease and physical conditions.

It is for this reason that one’s family medical history is always required whenever a person presents themselves at the doctors for the initial visit.

To know what may be influential what to expect and how to advise a patient, the doctor needs to have a full understanding of their family history.

Taking us back to Dave, there is a lifestyle that he has to lead if he is to minimize the influences of his genetic make-up on his health condition.

Because his family has a history of heart attacks and stroke, Dave has to be intentional in his lifestyle by practicing those habits that reduce or avert heart challenges.

Through genetic make-up, a person’s likelihood of attacks from certain diseases is on the increase.

This may be explained in part through the explanation of how certain blood types and health conditions are typically prone to some diseases, allergies as well as medical reactions.

The Link Between Nurture and Nature Influences

It emerges, therefore, that while there are some factors of a person that are primarily influenced by genetics as well as others that are influenced by the environment, there are certain interloping factors of a person’s overall make-up that have the influences of both genes and parenting tactics.

An example of these may be in some cases with a history of obesity or remarkable weight gain. In such cases, one finds that most family members in that family have the same eating behaviors.

They eat the same numerous meals, cooked the same way, and contain the same fat and starch quantities. 

In that case, where the parents ought to intervene and regulate meals and limit fatty foods, they share the same tendencies with the children, thus perpetuating a lifestyle of obesity and weight gain.

In another sense, with the inclination to weight gain, if the parents actively introduce a new diet and enforce it, the children may not fall prey to unhealthy eating, thus reducing their vulnerability to obesity.

Generally, when a person is borne into a family with a history for a particular health condition, their doctor calls this to their attention.

Regular checks and tests might need to be done to ensure either the control or prevention of that health condition. But what if the trait or tendency that is handed down is not biological or medical?

Lifestyle Choices and Family Tendencies

It has been seen that the lifestyle of a person is mainly impacted by their family background.

Much of their family set-up and culture even in future families may have been founded on the values that they would have picked from their childhood.

This may be seen in some cultures where traditions follow throughout a family’s genealogy. But to what exactly may the effect of the family be attributed; is it genes or parenting skills?

Parenting Skills and Family Tendencies

The definition of parenting is loosely explained as the role of raising a child and supporting them spiritually, emotionally, physically as well as providing for them materially.

This is usually for a child of the ranges between birth and eighteen (18), which is the age of maturity in most countries.

After the age of eighteen, the individual is believed to be old enough to make major decisions themselves, and it is at this point that the influence of the parent throughout the individual’s growth life is said to be most apparent.

Dr. Rosenthal of The Attached Family life center explains that it is more of the overall parenting style or pattern rather than a singular decision that most likely attaches itself to the future behavior of any individual.

Parenting styles are, therefore, a topic of interest in this regard. There are mainly four parenting styles that are recognized and adopted by parents overall; Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Uninvolved.

Psychologists have concurred that these can be grouped into two main components of parenting such as responsiveness and demandingness. 

Responsiveness is how much attention you give based on a situation, and the demandingness is basically how much you expect in terms of obedience and the measures used to obtain these demands.

These parenting styles may be explained as follows;

Authoritative

This is the parenting skill that is warm but quite stern. A child growing under this form of parenting knows discipline but also knows love, so they are usually warm well-behaved children with grounded life skills.

The parents of these children want their children to be both assertive but responsible, so they make time to communicate with them.

Authoritarian

These are the very demanding parents who believe being a parent is like a boot camp. Children ought to obey and not be listened to.

They make no allowance for negotiations. The children raised in such a manner are usually very timid and lack self-esteem and extremely cautious about life.

Their approach to life is not very assertive, and they require innovation in most cases, having been used to their parents being in charge of significant decision-making.

These usually follow through from having had the same background themselves. At times, these are parents who may have been juvenile and believe that children need an iron fit if they are to behave and turn out well.

Unresponsive

These parents are somewhat out of touch. They neither offer nor demand anything. They give much room for freedom of basically everything.

There is no discipline and no obligations from the children. These kinds of parents are slightly negligent, and this tendency is characteristic of parents undergoing personal challenging times themselves.

Children raised in these families are somewhat inattentive themselves or may turn out to be overly-responsive.

They would have realized that they ought to be their support and may quickly mature to make up for their parent’s “immature” parenting approach.

Permissive

Giving instead a bit more than they demand, permissible parents are the spoiling type of parents who believe that children deserve to be pampered and loved rather than disciplined.

At times, this may be a sign of parents who try to make up for what they cannot give their children emotionally by being more lenient and less demanding on them.

Workaholic parents are usually in this category. Their children may turn out well with the right environment of nannies and relatives, or they may take advantage f the permissiveness of their parents.

Given the above, it becomes apparent that when a parent is raising a child, how they run their household, their skills and style of parenting will determine both their child’s emotional and social make-up.

If a child is neglected, they turn out rather juvenile or may become overly burdened with the task of having to be the adult.

The best approach, therefore, is always to ensure that the children get a balance from both authority and permissiveness. 

Final Thoughts

Whether a child has specific genes to make them prone to particular physiological challenges and characteristics, these do not determine much of their sociological development.

Their emotional and mental growth is slightly more of a parenting skill issue than genetic make-up.

Where parents are more proactive and take a more active and demanding role with their children, even some of the genetic challenges may be overcome.

Case in point- the over-eating child who may have obesity tendencies would be better saved by the parent who exercises caution and does not allow the child to eat any which way.

Dr. Patrick Capriola

Dr. Patrick Capriola is the founder of strategiesforparents.com. He is an expert in parenting, social-emotional development, academic growth, dropout prevention, educator professional development, and navigating the school system. He earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Florida in 2014. His professional experience includes serving as a classroom teacher, a student behavior specialist, a school administrator, and an educational trainer - providing professional development to school administrators and teachers, helping them learn to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of students. He is focused on growing strategiesforparents.com into a leading source for high-quality research-based content to help parents work through the challenges of raising a family and progressing through the school system.

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