Creativity has been defined as a way of thinking that leads to original, yet potentially useful outcomes. It brings humans numerous benefits, such as leading or adapting to changes, increasing social standing, and making high-quality decisions. Therefore, nurturing creativity is essential in preparing individuals for a better life and has been the long-standing goal of society as a whole. Given its importance, a number of studies have been conducted to identify the underlying mechanisms that contribute to creative thinking and extensive research has found that family, especially parenting style, is one well-studied source of influence on creativity.
Parenting style refers to the emotional and behavioral interactions between parents and their children.
It has been reported that there are three main types of parenting, namely authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative. Authoritarian parents tend to over-control their children’s behavior and attitudes while permissive parents are often extremely tolerable to their impulses. Authoritative parents tend to behave between the two extremes, encouraging personal independence and expression of feelings while also setting reasonable limits. Many theoretical perspectives have argued that creativity is fostered in environments that provide psychological safety and freedom. Therefore, parental authoritativeness and permissiveness are inclined to lead to higher creativity; parental authoritarianism, by contrast, has been demonstrated to result in lower creativity. However, there is evidence showing that not all individuals exposed to authoritative and permissive parenting would be more creative. Some individuals with permissive parenting were even found to be less creative than their counterparts.
One of the possible reasons for these inconsistent results is that individuals are differently affected by their rearing experience. Different genotypes might moderate how individuals experience environmental influences instead of having a direct effect on creativity. One of the candidate genes is the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene (COMT) gene which encodes the key metabolic enzyme responsible for the degradation of catecholamines. Extensive molecular genetic studies of creativity have shown that variations of COMT (and DRD2), as well as the interactions between these variations were closely related to individual differences in creativity, suggesting the importance of dopamine and norepinephrine-related genes in creative potential.
To further identify the genetic factors that moderate context sensitivity, which are likely to influence the relationship between parenting style and creativity, researchers examined the interaction of each individual polymorphism in COMT and the following parenting styles: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative. These factors were evaluated in 427 Chinese undergraduate students aged 18–22. Creativity levels were measured with three figural divergent thinking (DT) tasks which were selected from the Runco Creativity Assessment Battery and have been widely used in previous creativity research. The Parental Authority Questionnaire was used to assess parenting styles of both fathers and mothers of participants. Intelligence was also measured by the Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices because it may have an impact on creativity. Among nine tag SNPs in COMT, neither single polymorphism nor parenting style was independently significant, however, mother authoritativeness and COMT genotypes interactions were found to be significant in predicting creativity, after controlling for participant gender and intelligence. Specifically, maternal authoritative parenting was associated with creativity in individuals with the GG genotype of rs5993883, suggesting that individuals with the rs5993883 GG genotype were more susceptible than others to the environmental influence of their upbringing.
This study is not without its limitations, including a small sample size and lack of an objective measure of the parenting style, such as observations of parenting behaviors. Future studies simultaneously employing both the subjective and objective measures of parenting style would provide more convincing results. In this study, the influence of parenting style on creativity was measured by the interaction of variants in COMT and DRD2. Read more about the study here:
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