The Easy Gene

If you want to know if your kids are going to be the sort that sleep around or the kind that prefers long-term relationships, you might just want to have them get a DNA test.  Even if they’re still too young to know about such things, you can still get some idea of what they’ll be like.  And, if you’re not happy with what you find out, it’s your own fault.  After all, they got their genes from you.

Well, perhaps not entirely.  While genes may encourage a certain preference or proclivity, they certainly don’t guarantee a particular course of action.  Still, researchers have found that a specific gene may very well be responsible for a predilection for cheating and sleeping around.  One type of dopamine receptor gene, called DRD4, has been linked previously to alcoholism, gambling addiction, and a love of horror films.  A new study, published this week, however, adds a history one-night stands and infidelity to the list.

Admittedly, the study was small — just 181 people were involved — but the results were still significant.  Those with the gene variant were almost twice as likely to report promiscuous sexual experiences and more the twice as likely to have cheated as those with the alternate gene.  Further, of those who did cheat, those with the gene variant being studied where half again as likely to have multiple extra-relationship partners.

So how does this gene work to turn people into cads?  “The motivation seems to stem from a system of pleasure and reward, which is where the release of dopamine comes in,” said Justin Garcia, a postdoctoral fellow at Binghamton University, State University of New York, one of the researchers involved in the study. “In cases of uncommitted sex, the risks are high, the rewards substantial and the motivation variable all elements that ensure a dopamine ‘rush.'”

Garcia notes, though, that not everyone with this gene will sleep around or that everyone with the alternate gene variant will be a prude.  He says only that “the study merely suggests that a much higher proportion of those with this genetic type are likely to engage in these behaviors.”  Which means you might as well forget about that DNA test and concentrate on teaching your kids the values you want them to have.

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