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Early experience, not genes, shapes child abusers

by Gaia Vince

Child abuse may be more of a learnt behaviour than a genetic trait, new research on monkeys suggests. If true, the understanding may provide the opportunity to break the cycle of abuse that runs in some families. As many as 70% of parents who abuse their children were themselves abused while growing up. Maternal abuse of offspring in macaque monkeys shares some similarities with child maltreatment in humans, including its transmission across generations. This pattern of abuse has led to speculation that it may have a genetic basis.

Darius Maestipieri, a primate expert at the University of Chicago, US, tested the theory by observing a population of macaques across two generations. He took some of the newborn female infants from the group and cross-fostered them among the mothers, about half of which were abusers.

Read the original article at: New Scientist Breaking News

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