When You Don’t Look Like Your Parents: A Personal Commentary on Genetics

Photo: BBC’s “Variation and Inheritance” (see link above)

During family get-togethers, we frequently have discussions on genetics and “who resembles whom”. There is always a debate over whether I most resemble my mother or father, but the general consensus is this: I look a great deal like my paternal grandfather. His daughter (my aunt) says she’s reminded of her dad whenever she sees me, and many agree. So why do I look more like a grandparent than a parent?

The idea of recessive genes and traits that “skip” a generation is fascinating to me. I recently read a great book by my favorite author, Jodi Picoult, called Second Glance. Much of the plot is based on eugenics, as well as the mistreatment of northeastern Native American cultures. One of Second Glance’s main characters views these darker-skinned humans as “scum”. Little does he know that his wife is the daughter of a Native American, as the dark skin was not passed down to her. When they have a child, however, the dark skin reappears and causes much of the novel’s conflict. It’s strange to think that genes can sort of “disappear” and “reappear” simply because of their recessive nature. It makes genetics even more unpredictable.

Another one of our family discussions considers “inherited personality”. Growing up, I was obsessed with frills, sparkles, and stereotypical “girly-girl” things, and to this day, I still pine over cute shoes and bags. My mom always asks, “Where did you come from?” because my parents are nothing of the sort. In fact, my family jokes that I’m my aunt’s daughter – the one I mentioned before – for she is very much a “shoe, bag, and girly accessories” kind of person. What’s most interesting, however, is that she greatly resembles her father, just as I do. I’ve seen photos of my aunt when she was little, and I think my own childhood photos look quite similar.

I remember our class discussion of the foxes that were bred to be kind and gentle – they eventually began changing appearance as well. Along with friendliness came curly tails. I have to wonder – is there a strong link between appearance and personality that we’re not fully aware of? If we resemble a family member, will we also act more like them? It can’t always be the case, for twins can be exact opposites. But it seems odd that the family members I most look like are the ones I behave like as well.

-Brenna Thummler

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One thought on “When You Don’t Look Like Your Parents: A Personal Commentary on Genetics

  1. Hi Brenna!

    I am very tempted to introduce this experiment in my own family get-togethers! I do agree with you on the theory that perhaps physical traits can possibly be linked to certain personality traits, and even the absence of one can indicate another. An interesting take can be perhaps to create a family tree, but instead focusing on characteristics and quirks that family members have!

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