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Genetic roots of 'orchid' children

Some kids may inherit sensitivity to family contexts, for better or worse

By
3:44pm, April 6, 2011

A Swedish expression that translates as “orchid child” refers to a youngster who blossoms spectacularly if carefully nurtured but withers badly if neglected. Scientists have now identified gene variants that may help to cultivate orchid children by heightening their sensitivity to both good and bad parenting.

In a group of kids tracked from ages 5 to 17, those who inherited certain forms of a gene involved in learning and memory and had inattentive parents displayed higher rates of delinquency and aggression than their peers, says a team led by psychologist Danielle Dick of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Children who carried the same gene variants but grew up with involved parents misbehaved less often than other kids, the researchers report in a paper to appear in Psychological Science.

Dick’s team focused on CHRM2, a gene that modulates brain transmission of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that boosts brain-ce

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