Do your children have the same personalities? Or, are they all very different from one another? Most people are perpetually amazed how their children can be so very different from one another. Even families with identical twins will say the twins have distinct, and even opposite, personalities– same parents, same family but different children. Conscientious parents have some unruly, selfish children. Chaotic, undisciplined parents have some highly conscientious, hardworking, rule-abiding children.
Many people believe these are inherited traits in their children. But in 80 years of studying families, my colleague, Dr. Martin, and I have found these are learned ways of behavior that children learn in all families. And, each parent, in turn, learns these ways of behavior from their own family during their growing up years. In turn they teach their children and grandchildren and so on throughout each generation.
A family’s culture is different for each child born into that family, even for children born at the same time, as in twins or triplets. Parents hold differences in their minds as to how they see each child. They then project these thoughts onto their infants. So, for example, a boy infant of a twin pair may be seen as fragile and special, needing exquisite care and coddling. The girl twin may be seen as hardy and needing less attention from her parents than her twin brother. For children born at different times, family size, economics, duration of parents’ marriage, and circumstances of hardship all play a role in how each baby is seen and raised by the parents.