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Science discovers the naughty gene
For many children, naming an emotion or behaviour helps them to process that feeling or experience. However, naming a gene that might explain the hostile and destructive behaviour displayed by some pre-teenagers might be of little consolation to many parents.
It might give them a better understanding or a peg on which to hang the unacceptable behaviour of their child on, but it does not help them in the day to day parenting of that child.
Recent research carried out at the University of Arizona has looked into the link between variations on the SLC6A4 gene and antagonistic behaviour. Observations were carried out on 138 children aged between 18 and 54 months. The parenting quality and skills displayed by their mother’s were also taken into account.
All of the children were tested for variations in the SLC6A4 gene which has long since been associated with a sense of wellbeing, contentment and happiness as it transports serotonin around the body.
Serotonin is a chemical that gives the human body a natural high and it helps keep our moods under control by assisting with sleep, calming anxiety, and relieving depression.
In the journal Developmental Psychology the researchers wrote that “The findings support the notion that SLC6A4 haplotypes index differential susceptibility to variability in parenting quality, with certain haplotypes showing greater reactivity to both supportive and unsupportive environments.”
The results of a previous study into the links between SLC6A4 and aggressive behaviour by Haberstick found that “the short variant of the serotonin transporter promoter gene has been found to positively correlate with aggressive behaviour in a general sample of middle school children. “
He went onto say that:
“within-family tests suggests an association between the sallele of the 5HTTLPR and higher aggressive behaviour in middle childhood. The strongest association was at age 9 and for an aggregate measure of teacher-rated aggressive behaviour.”
Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald. “Mily-based association test of the 5HTTLPR and aggressive behavior in a general population sample of children.” Haberstick, B.C., Smolen, A., Hewitt, J.K. Biol. Psychiatry (2006)