Scientists studying monkeys have found that child abuse appears to be a learned behavior passed on from generation to generation. As this ScienCentral News video explains, researchers were trying to determine if abuse was learned or genetic.
All too often we hear of a parent arrested for abusing his or her child. Inevitably, someone asks, "how can this happen?" While the exact reasons for any human behavior are complicated, researchers now have evidence that sometimes such behavior may be passed on from one generation to the next.
Because infant abuse is found in animals as well as humans, researchers have been able to study animals like Rhesus Monkeys to see if there are lessons that can be applied to humans.
In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Dario Maestripieri of the University of Chicago reported that the infant's "early experience" being abused seems to be how the behavior is passed on, adding, "It doesn't seem to be genetically transmitted."
He found this by swapping infants "at birth between [the] abusive and non-abusive mothers" eliminating the possibility of a genetic link between mother and any abusive traits the offspring might later show.
When the infants grew up and became mothers, Maestripieri found that, "The individuals that had been reared by abusive mother had a high chance of becoming abusive mothers, themselves. Whereas, those that were born to abusive mothers, but were reared by control mothers did not become abusive parents."