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Credit: Son Nguyen

Harsher parenting styles may affect resulting personality traits in children, according to research published earlier this month by Penn, University of Michigan, and Michigan State University researchers.

Researchers from Penn, the University of Michigan, and Michigan State University recently discovered that children exposed to harsher parenting are more likely to develop callous-unemotional (CU) traits. Their findings were published earlier this month on Science Direct. 

According to an article by EurekAlert!, the study looked at 227 pairs of identical twins and analyzed the differences in parenting toward each twin. The study found that the twin subjected to less warmth at home was more likely to exhibit CU traits. These behaviors include limited empathy and guilt as well as a lack of a moral compass, according to the Association of Psychological Science

This research provides a new perspective on the development of CU traits. Previous findings on the subject suggested that CU traits developed as a result of genetics and biology rather than parenting and environmental factors, according to Penn assistant professor of Psychology Rebecca Waller, who led the study. 

Waller’s specified research areas focus on “socioemotional development, child psychopathology, and personality development,” with the goal of implementing “prevention and intervention strategies for reducing antisocial behavior.”

Looking forward, Waller hopes that these results will help parents by introducing small “interventions” so that children are less likely to develop CU traits or other antisocial behaviors, according to EurekAlert!.  

“These results show that small differences in how parents care for their children matters,” Waller told EurekAlert!. “Our focus now is on adapting already-successful parenting programs to include specific interventions focused on callous-unemotional traits as well.”

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