Many parents fret about ensuring their childrens' happiness,
but those worries could be too late if happiness is mainly
inherited, as a researcher now suggests.
Epigenetics research has shown how life
experiences and a person's environment can impact gene
expression and change the traits that parents pass on to their
kids. That provides some indirect support for this latest
"It is well known, of course, that parental
behavior affects children, and that the genes that a child
gets from its parents help shape that child's character."
said Dr. Alberto Halabe Bucay of Research Center Halabe and
Darwich in Mexico. "My paper suggests a way that the parent's
psychology before conception can actually affect the child's
Halabe Bucay points to brain chemicals
that accompany different moods, and suggests that they could
affect eggs and sperm. Such chemicals may alter
the way that specific genes are expressed in the cells that
ultimately fuse to form the next generation — and in
turn influence how a child develops.
The new paper is detailed in the May issue
of the journal Bioscience Hypotheses, which showcases
scientifically intriguing ideas and hypotheses rather than
peer-reviewed studies. That means this new idea has not been
tested nor reviewed thoroughly by other experts in the field.
However, some related research last year
found that happiness is partly determined by personality traits
that are largely inherited from parents. Psychologists identified
common genes which express personality traits that predispose
people to the sunny side of life.
"Although happiness is subject to a wide
range of external influences, we have found that there is
a heritable component of happiness which can be entirely explained
by genetic architecture of personality," said Alexander Weiss,
a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh who lead the
Of course, parents can't gift happiness
to their kids wholesale. The keys to happiness are manifold,
and life experiences seem to play an important role, other
studies have shown. Kids will still struggle through their
usual challenges of adolescence and eventually adulthood,
and try to seek happiness any way they can — whether
by finding a great place to live or being charitable.
But if future evidence emerges in support
of the idea of inherited happiness, whatever joy that young
people gather may somehow find its way, at least in part,
to the next generation.