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Marital Conflict Not a Major Culprit in Child's Behavior: Study

But genes passed on by quarreling parents may increase risk of disruptive conduct

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 7, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Parents' fighting likely doesn't cause children's behavioral problems, such as skipping school, lying, shoplifting or bullying. But parents who quarrel constantly may pass on genes for disruptive behavior to their children, a new U.S. study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Virginia and several other universities studied 1,045 adult identical and fraternal twins and their 2,051 children.

The researchers concluded that genes influenced how often the parents argued with their spouses and that these same genes, when passed on to children, increased the risk of behavioral problems in youngsters.

The findings are published in the January/February issue of the journal Child Development.

"This study suggests that martial conflict is not a major culprit (of behavioral problems in children), but genes are," lead researcher K. Paige Harden, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, said in a prepared statement.

"Our findings have potential implications for treating conduct problems: focusing on a child's parents, as is common in family therapy, may not be as effective as focusing on the child," Harden said.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about children's behavior.

SOURCE: Society for Research in Child Development, news release, Feb. 7, 2007
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