While some children are genetically predisposed to have a darker disposition, there is a bright side: University of Denver researchers found that being raised by uplifting parents can help reduce the gloom.

The study consisted of two experiments with 1,900 children between the ages of 9 and 15 who had a shortened version of the 5-HTTLPR gene, HealthDay reports. This variation is linked to depression, anxiety and lower levels of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter connected with feelings of happiness and well-being. In the first experiment, the parents reported how much they used positive, supportive parenting techniques with their children and their actions were observed in the second. Researchers found that positive parenting strategies led to happier children, but those with unsupportive parents had a less positive outlook.

“So if you’re a parent, and you have a kid who has a difficult temperament, your parenting matters a lot,” said study author Benjamin L. Hankin. “Being a positive parent can accomplish a lot.”

Hankin compared raising children to the care taken when cultivating plants versus the presence of weeds. “A weed will grow anywhere,” he said, “but if you’re an orchid, you’re probably more reactive and responsive to your environment. If you have a really negative, punishing environment, you’re probably not going to grow up to be a beautiful orchid.”

Source: HealthDay

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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