Written By David Greisman

The hairline is the most noticeable characteristic: bey-ond receding, basically bald.

Then there is the sense of humor, the taste in music, the love of the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Redskins and the feeling of dejection when neither is victorious.

My father and I had the same major in college (English). We talk in the same cadence, and we both amplify our conversations with the same unnecessary hand movements. A friend of my father’s saw a video of me on YouTube: “He looks like a younger, smaller you,” the friend wrote to my dad.

I am either becoming my father, or I have already become him.

There are a handful of clichŽs describing a child who takes after his dad: “He’s a chip off the ol’ block.” “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” And, of course, “Like father, like son.”

The clichŽs exist for a reason.

Kids are bound to take after their parents, both in the way they look and the way they act. Such traits and behaviors, experts say, are a matter of nature as well as nurture.

“You could argue, from a biological position, that it’s simply in the tissue,” said Cathy Orzolek-Kronner, chair of the social work department at McDaniel College in Westminster. “Children who have very little or no contact with their parents will often imitate behaviors that their parents had. They’re not seeing it. They’re not exposed to it. But it happens.

“Then you have the nurture idea, where kids may grow up to be like their fathers or mothers,” she said. “Kids are going to emulate or model what they’re exposed to, what they observe.”

As sons reach adulthood, that emulation can take the form of the kind of women men are attracted to, their attitudes toward life, what they say to misbehaving children, and what field of work they go into. But the echo can also take the form of unpleasant characteristics that sons gravitate toward because they are familiar.

Orzolek-Kronner, who says this is called “identity foreclosure,” points to George Bailey, the character played by Jimmy Stewart in the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“He just moves right into banking. He has no choice. His father was a banker,” said Orzolek-Kronner. “Often times we see this in family businesses. They just move into it. You come from a long line of shoemakers, lawyers, whatever it is. You never have to contemplate, think about your own values and what’s important. You just do the same thing.

“Consequently you’re spared a lot of family conflict or challenge because you’re stepping into something that’s already been carved out and is accepted by everybody else,” she said. “Then there’s the whole idea that some people try out different things, and then they find that the way their dad lived was pretty successful.”

Dwight Baugher is the fourth generation of males running his family’s farm in Westminster.

Baugher’s great-grandfather bought 60 acres in Carroll County back in 1904. Over the next century the amount of land grew, and the family trade has passed down from generation to generation, down the line from Daniel Baugher to Edward Baugher to Allan Baugher to Dwight.

“There were definitely times when I got to be a teen that I was forced to work, but as a child growing up Dad was the coolest person in the world. He was my role model and mentor. I was working big equipment by the time I was 8, 10 years old. My parents never forced the farm on me at all. They always said ÔIt’s here if you’re willing to do it, but you’re going to have to work hard.’ And itÔs what I knew and what I grew up doing, so it’s what I chose to do.”

“Now I’m managing the farm. I shoulder plenty of responsibility around here, but it makes the days go fast,” he said.

Says Orzolek-Kronner: “It seems like the people who are satisfied with being like their dads are those people that had good relationships with their dads. Often it’s met with affection and gratitude, and the person appreciates that they have the same talent or idea or whatever it is.”

Interestingly, there are those who take after their parents’ behaviors without ever truly observing them, she said, speaking specifically in one case of her two boys, whose father died when they were very young.

“They have some mannerisms that they could never have observed,” Orzolek-Kronner said. “At two-and-a-half, you learn cognitively, but typically not gestures and things as such. My one son has the same walk, the same stance.”

Physical characteristics have a 50 percent chance of being inherited from a child’s mother, with the same odds of a characteristic coming from the father, said Dr. Louise Paquin, professor of biology at McDaniel College. But some behavioral characteristics also have a degree of “heritability,” the portion of a trait that is due to genes, or one’s nature, instead of their nurture, she said.

“Behavioral traits can have higher or lower heritability depending on what they are,” Paquin said. “Some things we know for sure, like psychiatric disorders, have high heritability. Ordinary day-to-day traits can have miscellaneous heritability. Very often that means that there are a number of different genes involved, and each one of them contributes a little bit to the total, as do the environmental components.”

So a child who has the same gait as his father could walk like him without ever seeing him, she said.

“Some of it is because of the musculature or the bone structure that they obviously directly inherited from their father,” said Paquin. “That clearly contributes to it. It’s not just a psychological thing. How you walk is largely biological.”

I walk like my father, too. At times those walks are with him, on the same sidewalks and paths in the neighborhood where I was raised. These days when I visit we are two bald men, exchanging bad jokes, talking sports and moving our hands far too much along the way.