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The term “like father, like son” refers to the various kinds of similarities, both physical and behavioral, that can exist between fathers and sons. There are many different contexts where this idiom might be used, and it can be complimentary or insulting depending on the specific area of comparison. Similar idioms exist which make the same basic comparison, including the female version: “like mother, like daughter,” and the more general “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Experts suggest that there is often some truth to these idioms, partly for reasons of genetics, and also due to parenting styles and environmental conditions during a child’s developmental years.
From a genetic perspective, each person has a direct combination of genes from their biological parents. They might have similarities in appearance with one parent or both, along with certain temperamental tendencies and identical physical traits. Generally, parents try to impart some of their values to children, who will often mimic some of their behavior, especially during the developmental stage of life. The term “like father, like son” existed before people really understood much about the reasons for these similarities, but it does generally refer to the common-sense understanding of the basic tendencies in familial similarity. From a scientific perspective, the term “like mother, like son” could just as easily be true, but societies often have a general cultural expectation that sons will be more like their fathers and daughters will be more like their mothers, even though there isn’t really a scientific basis for such a bias.
People use the term “like father, like son“ in many different situations and for the purposes of several different comparisons. It could be used to suggest that a father and son have a similar hair color, or a common quirky facial feature. Some people use it specifically to describe behavioral tendencies that seem identical, or hobbies that a father and son may have in common. Most of the time, it is used to point out things that are especially notable and similar in a memorable way. For example, if a child learns a musical instrument, and his dad was a professional musician, people might say, “like father, like son” as a way of referencing that similarity. Other terms, such as “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” and, “like mother, like daughter,” work in basically the same way and fit into similar contexts.