Is There a Gene for Motherhood?

Health & Fitness

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George Doyle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Rory Dalven is a 3-year-old girl who has not been out of diapers that long, but she already knows something about changing them. Her sister, Saorise, is a 5-year-old kindergarten student who already knows what she wants to be when she grows up, a mom.

Their inclinations to nurture and feed baby dolls and play with items like strollers at such a young age could be something they were born with, and something that will definitely affect their futures, researchers at Rockefeller University in NYC say.

In a study with mice, the researchers determined that a single gene exists that could be responsible for motivating mothers to protect, feed and raise their young.

The study’s findings mean there could be a valid explanation for why some women seem born to be maternal figures, while others come across as detached or cold or even completely not interested when it comes to children.

Some are calling the discovery the “mommy gene.”

Moms who spoke with ABC News were divided on the possible link to motherhood, with some saying it makes sense and others saying it is not that simple.

“I can always remember playing with dolls and always thinking, ‘I’m going to be a mom,’” one New York City mother said.  “I do have friends who say they just don’t have it in them to want a baby or to take care of them.”

“On a good day, I’m incredibly nurturing,” another mother said, raising the argument that maternal instinct might have more to do with circumstance than genetics. “On a bad day, it’s a little harder.”

One blogger who leads a parenting website worried that the gene study might present mothers with another reason to look harshly on themselves, and other moms.

“I worry that it could almost invite us to look at someone that does something differently than we do and say, ‘She doesn’t want to breast-feed.  She doesn’t have the ‘mommy gene,”” said Melissa Lawrence, co-founder of

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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