Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mothers, be Good to Your Daughters

In honor of Mother's Day, at 23andMe we took a look at how our traits correlate with our parents' using 15,000 father-mother-child trios; full post here. We found, of course, that the child's trait tends to be highly correlated with both parents' [1]. Somewhat remarkably, we found no cases (among hundreds of traits) where children show statistically significant tendencies to be different from their parents. The more interesting part, though, is that this effect is stronger for mothers: if you compare the strength of the correlation between the father and the child to the strength of correlation between the mother and the child, the mother's correlation is stronger for most traits. And when we break this down further by the sex of the child, we find it's primarily due to daughters: sons are more influenced by each parent for roughly equal numbers of traits, but daughters favor their mothers. To showcase the quirky ways in which we take after our mothers, 23andMe's designers made this beautiful infographic:


Previous research has found that daughters often do take after their mothers -- in BMI, for example, which might in turn be due to maternal influence on diet -- but the reasons for this are probably very complicated. Some of it could be due to the different genetic material we inherit from each parent -- mothers, for example, give us mitochondrial DNA -- but some of it could also be due to the different roles parents play in our lives: mothers spend more time with children, for example. 

Happy early Mother's Day to my mom, a force of nature who I'm proud to feel similar to: I don't need statistics to know she's done as much as anyone to get me where I am today. 

Notes:
[1] I also ran regressions controlling for age and race, which yielded similar results.


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