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It is well documented that from infancy, children have innate temperaments that can be shaped by early care giving practices (Ainsworth, 2001; Baumrind, 2001). What is interesting is that these practices can actually act as stimuli that influence the expression of hormones responsible for certain behaviors. A recent study of 185 mother-infant tandems showed that maternal care giving behavior (MCB) could change the expression of hormones that regulate responses to new environments or situations among infants (Hane and Fox, 2006). In this study, it is demonstrated that infants who received low-quality MCB are more stress reactive -- showing fearfulness, less positive joint attention to a shared object, and low sociability -- in a new environment compared to those who received high -quality MCB. In another aspect of the study, in their natural home environments, those infants characterized as stress-reactive are inherently more distressed and prone to crying than the infants in the high MCB group. This observation prompted the investigators to surmise that the infants' temperament influence the mother-child relationship (Hane and Fox, 2006). Hence, this study not only demonstrates gene-environment interaction but also gene-environment correlation -- innate infant behavior altering the quality of maternal behavior - in child development.
Some adoption design studies portray similar GXE correlations. Research shows that adopted kids whose biological parents have a history of substance abuse/personality disorders are more likely to show problematic behavior such as lack of self-control and being antisocial compared to those adopted kids with untroubled biological parents (Ge et al., 1996 in Shakoff and Philips, 2000). More often than not, these behaviors in turn result in harshness and less nurturing from the adoptive parents. Hence, inherited characteristics can invoke complementary treatment from parents (Shakoff and Philips, 2000).
Contemporary views on nature-nurture interactions, as justified by molecular and behavioral genetics studies, only reiterate the complex and dynamic relationship between genes and environment in the actualization of attributes and behavior of human beings. However, these studies also improve understanding of some maladaptive behaviors and learning disabilities and provide a framework for the design of effective early intervention programs.