Genes Play a Major Role in Shaping a Child’s Personality – 14th MV Arunachalam Endowment Oration


Chennai, 07 August 2016:  “As much as 50% of a child’s personality is determined by genes and only the rest by the environment, which includes parents, peers, society, television, movies, and others. Hence, while counseling children, we must take the particular genetic predisposition (the individual nature) of the children into account and give realistic advice,” said Dr RH Belmaker, MD, President, Israel Psychiatric Association and International Neuropsychiatry Association.

Delivering the 14th MV Arunachalam Endowment Oration titled “Why do children turn out the way they do? – A neuropsychiatric viewpoint”, organized here today by Neurokrish and Trimed, Dr Belmaker said that psychology tests use many personality traits to quantitatively measure a child’s personality. These traits can be grouped into five major personality clusters (“Big 5”): neuroticism anxiety & depression, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness & altruism, and conscientiousness (self discipline and deliberation).

It is perfectly alright if a child scores high or low on any of the traits. He urged parents have to accept their children as they are. Even children born to well-educated parents may not show interest in academics due to independent assortment of genes.

Parents should seek medical intervention and counseling for their children only when they are extreme in two different and conflicting traits (a very high score on depression and a very low score on openness to new experiences, for instance).

Dr Belmaker said that contrary to the widely-held belief, the overall contribution of a common family and environment component to the behavior of children is small and negligible.

Quoting several studies on the influence of genes (“nature”) and environment (“nurture”), he said that we may assume that children come as a clean slate (“tabula rasa”) and they can be changed according to the will of therapists and environment. It is not the correct assumption.

Parents may change their behavior for good. They can give their children access to a positive environment – they can make sure that their children have good peers, watch good movies or put them in a radically new environment. But how the children will grow to be is not entirely in the hands of parents. “It is like planting a tulip. We can give good manure, water, and sun light but we cannot determine the color of the flower,” he said. “Even the environmental influences are so complex that they remain outside of the domain of systematic scientific investigation for a long time,” he added.

Dr Belmaker also observed that parental advice does not work much because children mostly choose to learn more from their peers than from their parents. He cited the case of picking up a new language. When parents happen to move to a new country or a new language zone, they speak the new language with some accent. But their young children speak the new language without accent. This is possible because children choose to learn a new language from their peers and not parents, though they spend more time listening to how their parents speak the new language and less time listening to how their peers speak. “Children are not designed to listen to their parents, however successful the latter are. They are programmed to listen to their peers, who represent the future success,” he pointed out.

Mr MV Murugappan, Trustee, Vellayan Chettiar Trust presided over the function in the presence of Mr A Vellayan, Executive Chairman, Murugappa Group. Dr E S Krishnamurthy, Founder, Neurokrish and Trimed, welcomed the gathering.

About Murugappa Group

Founded in 1900, the INR 295 Billion Murugappa Group is one of India’s leading business conglomerates. The Group has 28 businesses including nine listed Companies traded in NSE & BSE. Headquartered in Chennai, the major Companies of the Group include Carborundum Universal Ltd., Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Company Ltd., Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Company Ltd., Coromandel International Ltd., Coromandel Engineering Company Ltd., E.I.D. Parry (India) Ltd., Parry Agro Industries Ltd., Parry Sugar industries Ltd, Shanthi Gears Ltd., Tube Investments of India Ltd., and Wendt (India) Ltd.

Market leaders in served segments including Abrasives, Auto Components, Transmission systems, Cycles, Sugar, Farm Inputs, Fertilisers, Plantations, Bio-products and Nutraceuticals, the Group has forged strong alliances with leading international companies such as Groupe Chimique Tunisien, Foskor, Mitsui Sumitomo, Morgan Advanced Materials, Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM), Yanmar & Co. and Compagnie Des Phosphat De Gafsa (CPG). The Group has a wide geographical presence all over India and spanning 6 continents.

Renowned brands like BSA, Hercules, Montra, Ballmaster, Ajax, Parry’s, Chola, Gromor, Shanthi Gears and Paramfos are from the Murugappa stable. The Group fosters an environment of professionalism and has a workforce of over 32,000 employees. For more details, visit

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