Examples of Family Traits (Inherited and Learned)

Published June 5, 2020
father taking a selfie with his son

Family traits are passed down from generation to generation within a family line. Check out examples of family traits to see what physical characteristics and learned behaviors your family passed on to you or you might pass on.

What Is a Family Trait?

There are many definitions of family, but only one for traits. A trait is "a distinguishing quality or characteristic." When a trait is described as a family trait, it typically refers to characteristics that you inherited through genes from your blood relatives. However, family traits can also be learned. These types of learned traits can occur in any family, blood-related or not.

Physical Family Trait Examples

Physical traits are dependent on the genetic material passed on by blood relatives. These traits are also called inherited traits because you inherit them from your parents, grandparents, and other ancestors. This can be simply explained by seeking out information on genetics for kids.

Common Genetic Traits

A list of common physical family trait examples, or inherited trait examples, can help you understand which traits are genetic.

  • Earlobe attachment - Earlobes appear either attached from or detached to the side of your head.
  • Eye color - A quick eye color genetics explanation shows that brown is the most common eye color while green is the most unique.
  • Freckles - Genes control the number and appearance of freckles on your face.
  • Hairline shape - You could inherit a widow's peak where your hairline comes to a point, or a straight hairline.
  • Hair texture - Inheritance patterns are not highly predictable, but certain groups like African Americans are more likely to have curly hair.
  • Male pattern baldness - This is a genetic disease that can occur in both men and women, but is far more common in men.
  • Right handedness - The preference for using the right hand is more common than the preference for using the left hand.
  • Tongue rolling - The ability to curl up your tongue into a tube shape is more common than not being able to do it.

Unique Physical Family Traits

Some physical traits that are passed through families are relatively rare in the general population.

  • Cleft chin - A cleft chin, or a chin with a y-shaped dimple or apparent "crack," is not a common trait to inherit.
  • Dimples - You can inherit having one dimple on one cheek or one dimple on each cheek.
  • Fraternal twins - The ability to give birth to fraternal twins is a genetic trait where women release two eggs at once.
  • Hitchhiker's thumb - Somewhere around 25% to 30% of people inherit a thumb that curves when giving the thumb's up signal.
  • Red-green colorblindness - This particular trait is only passed on by women.
Group of multi-generational family

Learned Family Traits

Learned traits are also called acquired traits. These traits are not things you are born with, but things you develop during your life. Acquired, or learned traits, include things you have learned to do or things that have happened to you. Experts disagree on whether these are truly passed through families.

Examples of Behavioral Learned Traits

Behavioral traits, or characteristics, can be passed through families because children will model the behaviors of the most important adults in their lives. These aren't definitively passed on, but could be.

  • Fears - If your mom is afraid of dogs and won't let you around them or teaches you to be afraid of them, you might do the same to your children because it's what you know.
  • Nursing your children/using only formula - If your mom never nursed any of her children, you might not want to nurse yours.
  • Smoking - If your father smokes cigarettes, you are more likely to smoke.
  • Speaking Spanish - All languages are learned, and your family is likely to favor one or two languages that they'll teach you.
  • Swimming - Some families place an emphasis on learning to swim, while others might not encourage the skill.

Examples of Physical Acquired Traits

Some acquired traits are seemingly passed through families, partly because they are normalized and partly because kids model their parents. These physical learned traits could be passed through families because of beliefs, modeling, or expectations.

  • Increased muscle mass from exercise - Seeing your family exercise regularly can encourage you to do the same.
  • Obesity - While genetics may play a role in obesity, it is largely influenced by environmental factors.
  • Short hair/long hair - Some families might encourage girls to keep long hair and boys to opt only for very short haircuts.
  • Tattoos - Some belief systems of certain families encourage tattoos.

Unintentional Family Gifts

Family traits are like little gifts passed on to family members without even meaning to share them. They happen almost automatically. In some cases these family traits are desirable, but in others they are not. Take a look at your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and great-grandparents to see which traits are strongest in your family.

Examples of Family Traits (Inherited and Learned)