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How You Got Your Parents’ Looks: Heredity and its Contributions in Physical Attributes of a Child

When a parent hears someone say that their child’s physical features resemble them, it brings them pride. An individual enthusiastically shares such stories with loved ones. They can see themselves in their child and adore the process to help their little bundle of joy growing up. Sometimes it may also get a little feisty when they try to win an argument about who is the most significant influencer upon the child! 

Genetics is one of the most critical factors that affects and shapes a child’s physicality. Children share fifty percent of their genes with each of their parents. Among all the traits or attributes a child inherits from their parents, the physical factors are most visible. However, the complex interplay between genes and the environment shapes the child’s physical development. 

How does it work?

A child’s inherited genes can be roughly divided into two versions – the dominant and recessive versions. These versions are called alleles. When a baby gets the father’s eye color over the mother’s, it means the father’s allele is dominant. A dominant gene has a 75% chance to show up among the children. 

Researchers use Parental studies and Twin studies (both paternal and maternal) to know about these kinds of genetic influences.

How much is up to ‘genes’?

  • If the children receive a proper diet and their health is not at risk, heredity determines their height, rate of physical growth.
  • Children show “catch-up growth,” which catches up to the genetically influenced growth pattern after the environmental hazards or biological problems- such as illness or lack of nutrition (if not severe) ends.
  • Genes also control the production of hormones in the children’s bodies and determine how sensitive their bodies will be, which in turn affects their growth.
  • Scientists have also revealed that children’s body weight is also partially affected by their parents’ genes, though it is still under research. 
  • In terms of facial features, it’s a total game of mix and match. Sometimes children can be a carbon copy of their parents, or sometimes they can get a completely different look. According to studies on siblings that look alike, the reason is that they receive a similar mixture of genes from their parents. 

Physical dysfunctions or disorders and their genetic connections:

As children carry their genetic blueprints from their parents, they can sometimes inherit genes that may cause or be associated with physical abnormalities. Growth hormone deficiency, Cushing’s syndrome, Turner Syndrome, Down syndrome, Noonan syndrome, Russell-Silver syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome are some of them. 

However, the most common disease that has a genetic influence is Obesity. Several genes affect appetite, satiety (the sense of fullness), metabolism, food cravings, body-fat distributions, and the tendency to use eating to cope with stress. According to researchers, if one family member has dealt with obesity, there is a 25% to 80% chance that the child may also develop it. Hence, it is advisable to undergo genetic testing for the optimal development of a child. 

Genetic influences are like the seed of a tree. It is vital to ensure the health of the seed before sowing it. Once it receives proper nurture, care from the environment, it will eventually grow into a healthy sapling! Similarly, when a parent provides optimal care, support, and guidance for their child, they bloom into their best possible version.

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