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The roots of personality

How parents behave towards their children may have much less influence on their personalities than most of us assume. Jerome Burne reviews research which suggests that genetic inheritance together with peer group pressure is what really counts

By Jerome Burne   January 1998

If a young man committed a serious crime in pre-colonial China his parents were liable to be executed with him, on the grounds that they were also to blame. This logic is reappearing in contemporary social policy: parents are responsible for shaping their children’s behaviour; delinquency is rising; parents must be doing something wrong. If a few were made an example of, the rest might mend their ways and bring up their children properly. But do even the best of parents have that much control?

One of the best kept secrets of psychological research over the last ten years is…

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