Why genes mean little in how our children act


I’ve read some eye-opening books during 2017, but none more so than Oliver James’ Not In Your Genes.

Subtitled “The real reasons children are like their parents”, the book reveals the truth about how little impact genes have on the way we turn out as people.

At the core of this is the seemingly-little-known revelation that genes play no part in things like mental illness, our skill at various things like sport or music, or what we enjoy learning at school.

The fact that conditions such as depression or ADHD are not at all genetic and inherently down to nurture is a bit of a shock.

The long-held assumption is that genes are the cause of mental illness – this has been totally refuted by the Human Genome Project, yet not properly explained to the wider world.

Your parents and parenting affect everything

Two of James’ suggestions in his conclusion are quite striking.

“Understand how the past is operating in your present…
Using those insights, change the way you relate to your children if they are still young, or even if they are grown up.”

In other words, how both you and your mum and dad were parented will have a direct impact on your personality and – consequently – how you treat your own kids.

Unless you make deliberate, conscious efforts not to repeat potentially toxic behaviour.

If you have a child that is ‘difficult’, then that’s not genetic. The ‘difficulties’ are down to behaviour he/she has seen or had inflicted on them.

While revelatory, the book is also uncomfortable at times as there will be behaviours or issues that you’ll recognise in yourself.

However, James makes it clear that everything is salvageable – as long as you put the effort in and make conscious changes.
Oliver James’ Not In Your Genes is a surprisingly easy read and definitely worth your time.

One thought on “Why genes mean little in how our children act”

  1. The songs I wrote for my band’s new EP (‘NO FATE?’ – The Vaulted Skies – out on Alya Records Nov 10th) explore the themes of nature vs nurture and free-will vs determinism. I look forward to reading this book and furthering my exploration of the topic.

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