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For years, psychologists have argued about which traits a baby inherits from his parents. These traits include physical characteristics, health problems, genetic problems, mental issues, and some say IQ. However, there is debate whether talents and interests are inherited.

Basics of Inheritence

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The biology of genetics and inheritance is really fairly simple. Every cell in our body is complete with 23 sets of chromosomes, each with perhaps thousands of strands of information, or DNA. These DNA strands blueprint who we are. For each physical, genetic, health or mental trait we inherit, we receive a dominant and recessive gene. Most people have seen the pundit square where dominant and recessive genes are listed, similar to a four square design. For example, which hand you use is genetic. Mom will carry two bites of information for which hand you use. Dad will also carry two bits of information. In order to inherit a recessive gene, both parents must have a recessive trait or a recessive one.

Physical Characteristics

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Every physical trait that you have is inherited, from how tall you are to whether you have a dimple in your chin, can be attirbuted to your genes. You can credit your hair color and eye color to inheritence. On a personal note, my daughter has turned-in feet that were inherited from her father. Our son has a flat head in the back that was inherited from two of my uncles. So thank your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles for the way you look.

Medical and Health Issues

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Not all medical issues are inherited, but a large portion can be. Whether or not you are prone to heart problems, if you have asthma and how strong your immune system is are all inherited. Also, whether you have allergies or are prone to gain weight are each inherited characteristics. However, environmental factors, accidents, poor diet and other outside factors can play havoc with your inherited traits.

Genetic Problems

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Some would group genetic problems with health issues, but these are developmental and physical problems that are carried on the genes and are usually present at birth. For instance, sickle cell anemia, muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis are all carried in the genes. However, for a child to end up with a genetic issue,present from birth, both parents would have to carry the gene. But there are other health issues present from birth that are not inherited. A Down syndrome child is born with an extra chormosome on the 21st chromosome. Most cases of cerebral palsy are due to a lack of oxygen at birth.


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Intelligence is a difficult trait to consider as so much plays into just what a child's intelligence is. However research has shown that people within the same family tend to have intelligence scores that are within 15 points of each other. We have all known families where every one is smart or not very smart. And intelligence can be greatly influenced by nutrition and environment. If a child is set to inherit a high intelligence from his parents, but he has poor nutrition and is never played with or read to, he probably will not reach his full potential. Much research has been done on the topic of intelligence and inheritance.


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The important thing to remember is that all almost all traits are acted on by our environment. We may be programmed to be tall, but if we do not receive proper nutrition, we won't reach our full genetic height. You might have inherited a tendency to heart problems, but knowing this you ate super nutritious foods, watched your cholesterol level your entire life and never smoke or drank. You might not ever show the inheritance of the heart problems.