Are Values Learned or Inherited?
February 17, 2017
The Jerusalem Post — A new study finds that values are transmitted to children not only from the way parents act, but also partially through their genes.
Dr. Florina Uzefovsky, senior lecturer in BGU’s Department of Psychology, joined Hebrew University Prof. Ariel Knafo-Noam and Prof. Anna Doering of the University of Westminster in England for the study, which was published recently in the journal Social Development.
For their research, the team studied twins to better explain the relationship between genetics and upbringing in cultivating values in children. Families were invited to the laboratory where the children were observed separately from his or her twin to avoid any bias effects.
The children were shown a series of images reflecting different value sets, such as helping others, following the rules, or being rich and powerful. The children were asked to rank each image according to five levels of importance ranging from “not at all” to “very” important.
Values of self-transcendence, self-enhancement and conservation were found to be significantly affected by genetic factors. The researchers found that more boys tended to value ideals related to self-enhancement (money, power, education) whereas girls gravitated toward self-transcendence (helping others, benevolence).
Conversely, there was little difference between how boys and girls ranked photos reflecting an “openness to change,” suggesting that this value is gleaned more from the familial environment than genetics. Factors such as religiosity seemed to play a large role, as children of Orthodox families gave less importance to the value of openness and ranked values associated with conservatism higher.
“Girls and boys are exposed from a very young age to gender stereotypes in the family and in childcare settings, and are exposed to different demands regarding behavior,” the researchers say.
“Future research on younger children would benefit from studying at what age value priorities become influenced by gender.”