The position that parenting efforts have nothing to do with predation since genetic propensities of the child may interfere with or not respond to parenting efforts is an overly simplistic view of the interaction between genetics and environment. It has been recognized for many years that all types of childhood behavior have both genetic and environmental (i.e. parental) influences in its development. While it may be difficult to tease out exactly how much of childhood behavior can be accounted for by parental influence vs. genetic influence, this is not to say that both don’t contribute. This include childhood predation.
The research in the area supports this viewpoint as it has demonstrated both genetic and environmental links for predation and in children, although the degree to which each plays a role in aggressive antisocial behavior varies based on age and gender. In a 2013 twin study, the investigators showed that genetic determinants of aggressive antisocial behavior increased for boys and decreased for girls over time while the opposite pattern was found for shared environment. Wang, Niv, Tuvblad, Raine & Baker, 2013). There is also a large body of literature suggesting an intergenerational pattern of violent behavior such that physically abused children often grow up to perpetrate violence on others. This body of research has shown that this relationship is related to many factors above and beyond genetics including attachment, social learning, social information processing, and neurophysiological factors (Wisdom and Wilson, 2015).
This research suggests that there is a strong interaction between genetic and environmental factors that lead to the development of childhood and adolescent predation. The contribution of social learning and social information processing suggests that there also could be a confound in the effects of parental violence on childhood behavior. If behavior is genetic, then one or both of the parents will display the same behavior. Yet if this is the case, then there is also likely an effect of modeling or learning that accounts for some of the relationship. Children learn how to behave especially in early and middle childhood predominantly from their parents. So when parenting behavior includes violence and children begin to display this behavior as well it is likely from what the literature suggests that there is a genetic predisposition in the child to become violent which is then reinforced and increased through the environmental factor violent parenting behavior. This is an important point since while interventions cannot alter a child’s genetics the can alter environmental influences including parenting behavior.
- Wang, P., Niv, S., Tuvblad, C., Raine, A., & Baker, L. A. (2013). The genetic and environmental overlap between aggressive and non-aggressive antisocial behavior in children and adolescents using the self-report delinquency interview (SR-DI). Journal of criminal justice, 41(5), 277-284.
- Widom, C. S., & Wilson, H. W. (2015). Intergenerational Transmission of Violence (pp. 27-45). Springer Netherlands.