Maternal Connections

It’s no surprise that we inherit almost all of our traits from our parents, but 23andMe researchers found that more of those traits come from our mothers than our fathers.MothersDay_InfographicSo as we near Mother’s Day we thought we’d highlight some of these findings and give you a few more reasons to thank your mom.It turns out that whether you can carry a tune, or eat your vegetables or happen to cry easily, hinges a lot on whether your mom also has one of those traits.To figure this out 23andMe researcher Emma Pierson examined the connection between parents and children in 15,000 anonymous mother-father-child “trios” among 23andMe’s customers who consented to research. Although this is a robust number of trios, for some traits that Emma looked at the sample size was in the hundreds instead of the thousands because not every customer answers survey questions. But in each case the ‘p-values’ – essentially the measure of both the strength of the correlation and the sample size – indicated that the correlation was statistically significant.She found what you would expect – traits in parents are highly correlated with the traits in their children.  Only some of this is attributable to genetic factors. Emma also found that, remarkably, there were no cases in which a parent having the trait made it statistically significantly less likely that the child would have the trait.But what’s more interesting here is what Emma discovered about the mother and child connection.  Emma found that the correlations between parent and child tended to be stronger for mothers than for fathers.“If you’re trying to guess if a child has a trait, you’ll tend to get more information by looking at their mother,” Emma said. “When you break this down by the sex of the child, you find the discrepancy is due to daughters.”  
  • Charly

    I don’t understand the last sentence … how is the discrepancy due to daughters?

    • Scott23H

      Yes that quote should be put into more context. Basically what she is saying is that overall traits are more strongly correlated to mothers than fathers. But the strength of that correlation is largely due to how strongly traits are correlated between mothers and their daughters.

      • Dana

        Depending on what the trait is, expect sons to inherit more from their mothers in some areas too, due to the Y chromosome missing a “leg” and therefore some genes. Males get slightly more DNA from their moms than from their dads. You only looked at a few traits here.

    • Israel Navas Duran

      There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.

  • Emma Tosch

    Could you post a gist to the script that was used for the analyses?

  • Scott23H

    Mr. or Mrs. Engineer,
    There is no link to a published study because we haven’t published on this yet. And you are correct that only two of the traits listed are clearly genetic. We will likely be do a paper that focuses more broadly on traits passed down from parents to children.

  • Dana

    No, the other traits can be heritable too. I’ve heard enough stories about the similarities of identical twins and the differences in adoptees versus their adoptive parents and first parents to believe that a lot of temperament arises from your DNA. Not all of it, but definitely more than most people think.