GodsDesign Sampler FULLSAMPLER-compressed - Page 32



How and When to Tell Your Kids about Sex
THE DEVELOPMENT OF GENDER IDENTITY AND SEXUAL
ORIENTATION
As we explored in the last chapter, the origins of gender identity are essentially a scientific mystery at this point; the research is too limited and simply
inconclusive. But there are two key points rarely mentioned in the popular
interpretations of the research that parents should understand and that are
relevant to this significant question: Does parenting make a difference in
shaping sexual orientation and gender identity?
The first has to do with genetics. Genetics may contribute to the development of sexual orientation (and perhaps gender identity) in a ­mild-­to-
­moderate way. But genetics contributes at a similar or even stronger level to
almost every other psychological characteristic that human beings exhibit!
In other words, the contribution of genetics to the development of sexual orientation is similar to or weaker than its contribution to most other
human traits!1 This, in turn, suggests that there is nothing unique about
development of this sexual characteristic compared to others.
For example, researchers in human personality have suggested that
underneath all the variation, there are five basic dimensions of personality:
extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism.
The heritability of genetic influence on each of these traits exceeds that estimated for sexual orientation.2 Further, there is a similar or stronger genetic
influence on tendencies toward psychological problems such as alcoholism,
depression, anxiety, and so forth. Genetic influences of similar strength have
been found even toward religiosity, religious fundamentalism, and even discrete ­action-­patterns like church attendance3 and television watching!4
What’s our point? No loving, responsible parent would hear that genetics has an influence on or contribution to outcomes for their child and then
shrug and say, “Well, my parenting will make no difference, so I give up.”
No! It is the job of parents to take the raw material of a child’s personality,
with the inclinations that are prewired into them, and shape them toward
the best possible outcomes, given who they are.
Each of us recognizes that our children are born with different inclinations. It is not only genetics that have influence. A loving parent, hearing
that only 50 percent of the teens in their neighborhood graduate from high
school, does not say, “I give up.” If you were in that situation, you would
likely say instead, “My kid is graduating from high school or I’m going to
die trying!”
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