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Love and genes can overcome poverty

Love and genes may help children overcome poverty, according to a new study.
/ Source: Reuters

Love and genes can overcome even the most abject poverty, according to a study into the effects of environmental factors on child development.

The study of 1,116 mothers and their five-year-old same-sex twins in poor households in England and Wales found that poverty did not have to be a life sentence and the right combination of parental care and genetics could triumph over adversity.

“Children in our study experienced more than just poverty as measured by family income level, Julia Kim-Cohen of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College in London wrote in the May issue of the journal Child Development.

“Living in the poorest neighborhoods, their homes were rated as being overcrowded, damp or in disrepair,” she added.

The study differentiated between twins sharing all the same genes and those sharing only half.

It showed that genetic makeup does play a role in the ability of children to rise above their poverty and not suffer behavioral or cognitive setbacks, but it was not the whole answer.

“The warmth, mental stimulation and interest that parents pay toward their young children can make a big difference in their children’s lives,” Kim-Cohen said.

Fellow researcher Terrie Moffitt said they only studied mothers because in many of the poorest households the father was absent, so trying to look at both parents in families where the father was still present would have skewed the study.

“The main point of the research is that neither genes nor poverty can determine a child’s fate,” Kim-Cohen said.