Nature versus nurture is one of the oldest debates that exists. Are we born talented or do we acquire skill purely through practice? Is entrepreneurship something that we come across in life, or are some people better at starting up profitable businesses?
These questions are especially relevant when it comes to deciding how to raise children. After all, parents want the best for their children. While that may involve making the most of their children's natural abilities, as a parent, you probably have a few ideas on the type of work you'd like them to pursue. And if it's entrepreneurship, how do you push them in that direction?
Once again, science has the answer.
The relationship between entrepreneurship and genetics.
A study in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization has found that genetics affect an individual's tendency to pursue entrepreneurship and other occupational choices. Based on a research involving twins, scientists have found that preferences for certain occupations, types of work, and skills are determined by the genetics we inherit.
Specifically, the study explains how identical twins, whether raised together or apart, have more similar job interests than their other siblings. This is significant because identical twins share 100 percent of their genes, while other siblings might share around 50 percent of their genes. A higher correlation between work interests and genetic similarities means a greater likelihood that the two are related to one another.
When twins were examined for heritability of occupational choices between being a manager, sales person, and teacher, a genetic component of 0.30, 0.46, and 0.43 respectively was found. There was also a heritable tendency for some twins to prefer self-employment and entrepreneurship.
Although the evidence does point towards heritable preferences, there is one important point to make: Genetics alone do not determine whether your child will be interested in entrepreneurship. They merely predispose certain individuals towards it more than others. Most of the variance is due to environmental, rather than genetic factors.
The role nurture plays in entrepreneurship.
To see exactly how environment affects entrepreneurial tendencies, let's take a look at a study published by the University of Chicago Press that evaluates the relationship between parents and entrepreneurial children.
Using adoption data in Sweden, researchers compared children to both their adoptive and biological children. The results show that adopted children were 20 percent more likely to be entrepreneurs if their biological parents were entrepreneurs as well.
But the study showed something else: if the adoptive parents were also entrepreneurs, the children were 45 percent more likely to become entrepreneurs later in life. This 25 percent boost shows how a child's environment can influence their decision to pursue entrepreneurship even more than the genetics they were born with.
Of course, children sometimes decide to pursue the same work as their parents due to available capital and resources, including a thriving business ready to be handed down. Knowing this, the researchers controlled for these variables to focus solely on the effect of parental teachings and influence.
The results? Children were more likely to open businesses of their own at similar rates to other children with financial resources and inherited businesses, as long as the parents provided an entrepreneurial influence.
Influencing your children to become entrepreneurs.
While being both an entrepreneur and a parent can put your child on track to become an entrepreneur as well, the study on adopted children in Sweden shows that environment plays an even larger role. Teaching them and immersing them in memorable experiences creates a positive impact on them as they grow up.
When I was younger, I remember attending programs and classes that fostered innovation. One program enabled me to work with a group of similarly energetic and excited individuals and go from numerous ideas to designing a product. These valuable learning experiences helped not only in creating great memories, but also made me become more interested in business.
According to a study published in Child Development, the factors involved in helping kids develop mentally, socially and academically involve frequent communication, providing kids with a sense of responsibility, and linking education to success. When applied to entrepreneurship, this means talking with your children about what entrepreneurship is like, supporting their endeavors, and showing them what they learn now can help them become successful entrepreneurs later.
If they have a fledging business, ask them questions about it. Share your own experiences, including both the good and the bad. And most importantly, lead by example through your own continual learning.
It doesn't mean that your children have to eventually start their own businesses, though. If they can learn valuable traits in the process, such as creativity, vision, and hard work, then you'll have succeeded in helping them develop into adults who are curious and dedicated about their field.