Patterns in the transmission of influence through the family tree

Personality traits and behavior patterns are transmitted at two levels, a genetic level and an environmental level.

Influence transmitted down through family trees occurs primarily in the form of the mixing of genetic data (which code for physical and psychological traits) from two parents to the descendant. This type of influence can be seen genetically as parentally-determined constitutional physical and psychological qualities.

The second level of influence is environmental, in the form of the specific personal cohabitative groupings (combinations )of the objects and people comprising the upbringing environment. This level of transmission includes the response conditioning one is subject to in their home group (family). The amount of conditioned response that takes place is typically greater in the first decade or so of life (formative phase). Imprinting appears to be primarily experienced as a child in the home group. The amount of influence exerted on the individual by the environment diminishes as the individual learns to control environmental (situational) factors. The influence is two-way: as one gains control and begins to leave their mark on the world, the world is simultaneously leaving its mark on the person.

The second type of influence takes place at a psychic level, based on the specific membership in a family group. A family group refers to any number of people living together in one residential unit. Each person has membership in one genetic family (as specified by their genetic lineage) and one or more social families, which refer to the groups of people in which they live. The home family is the primary social family, but the secondary social groups may also be considered as a type of family, such as work family. A child of separated parents may belong to two social families e.g., father's home family and mother's home family.

The binary qualities of this process lead to binary patterns in the empirical data. For example, there is an action-reaction process that takes place between successive generations. Parental action is complemented by child reaction. Although the influence primarily travels downstream from ancestor to descendent, there may be other (perhaps indirect) influence traveling "up" the family tree. For example the "child as parent's teacher" type of relationship will have the causality flowing upstream. Causal polarity (dominance) is a property of the binary relationship which exists between parent and child, and between grandparent and parent. Other binary relationships to consider include the parent-parent and the grandparent-child interaction.

The principle of least work (tendency for systems to function so as to minimize work done) is seen here as the child develops response patterns to accommodate parental expectation. In a parent-child relationship, the parent is generally causal, and the child is reactive. Although there will always be similarities between parent and child, there will also be complete opposites in some respects as a result of the action-reaction process which is binary. Since some response patterns are formed as a complement to stimulus, there will be alternation as a modulo 2 repeating cycle. In this way the grandparent is sending influence to the child; the child is reinventing the grandparents response pattern as a further-adapted trait, tailored to suit the experience with parents. The grandparent and child have in common the experience of living with and relating to the parent, although at different times and at opposite ends of the "table". Empirically this will be seen as "family traits skipping a generation."

Ancestral influence takes place in two directions, although in different ways. In other words, heredity is the primary influence between generations downward, but at both the social and psychic level, one's actions can influence one's ancestors (especially but not only if they are alive, more so with periodic contact).