by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted January 11, 2009 in DNA Testing
Trolls have been around these here parts. They’re upset because I wrote disparaging remarks about a particular company marketing DNA tests for detecting a child’s “innate talent.” But contrary to their accusations that I deny the genetic basis of behavior, predisposition, and temperament, I actually believe that many, if not almost all, human traits are influenced by genetic make-up.
My problem with genetic testing companies that target parents seeking to hothouse their children is that the biological mechanism of the few behavioral genes that have been identified are poorly understood. In addition, we have limited data on how these genes interact with other genes and with environmental exposures. Parents who think they will raise the next Bill Gates or Mozart by purchasing a test that focuses on a limited panel of genotypes are sadly deluded.
Last year I shared a Steven Pinker quote from Curious Minds: How a Child Becomes a Scientist that I think about all the time when parenting my own children:
With constitutional factors (genes and chance) being important but invisible, people tend to blur cause and effect in thinking back on supposedly formative childhood vignettes. …Rather than childhood experiences causing us to be who we are, who we are causes our childhood experiences.
This Sunday’s New York Times features My Genome, My Self – Steven Pinker Gets to the Bottom of his own Genetic Code in which Dr. Pinker points out that no matter how parents contrive to create the perfect environment for their children, when the children become adults, they will most likely gravitate towards experiences that suit their innate genetic tendencies. Would this be an argument for or against genetic testing in childhood?
A common finding is that the effects of being brought up in a given family are sometimes detectable in childhood, but that they tend to peter out by the time the child has grown up. That is, the reach of the genes appears to get stronger as we age, not weaker. Perhaps our genes affect our environments, which in turn affect ourselves. Young children are at the mercy of parents and have to adapt to a world that is not of their choosing. As they get older, however, they can gravitate to the microenvironments that best suit their natures.
Of course every parents has the right, and the power, to subject their children to genetic testing. In some cases, these tests may predict future debilitating diseases. And with these results, parents can help children live healthier lives with preventive lifestyle changes. Such is the power of genetic testing.
When it comes to genetic testing for academic, musical, or athletic talent, however, the results are far more ambiguous. Not only will the child be directly impacted by the results, the rest of the family will be impacted as well. Say parents scrimped and saved to get their child tested so they can make sure she becomes a success in life and help guarantee the family’s financial security. If the cost of the test plus other enrichment courses suggested by the test results impinge on the family’s overall well-being and lifestyle, it’s possible the investment may not be worth it. Or what if it turns out the child has a very average genetic profile? Would the parents be less likely to devote any time or effort into raising her?
Regardless, a child who supposedly has genes for high IQ may very well also have the trollism gene that relegates him to being a low-EQ jerk. Hardly a marker of future success. And as Peggy pointed out, genetic testing companies that target parents most likely will not include negative genes in any report. Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news. Unless you’re a troll, that is.
Storing and Testing Children’s DNA...
Genetics = Real Science...
Parents Feel Guilty Over Giving Children Bad Genes...
Eye on DNA Links for 10 July 2007...
Types of Genetic Tests...
Family History of Disease Scares Parents More Than Genetic Test Results...
Collecting DNA from Innocent Children to Prevent Crime...
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.
Search Eye on DNA
- Genetic Genealogy on Faces of America
- DNA Network Tweet Cloud
- Genetics = Real Science
- Larry David’s DNA Test
- Lopez Tonight First Late-Night Show to Offer DNA Testing
- American Genes Don’t Exist
- Knowledge about Genetic Risk is Power or is it Fear?
- Murderer Gets Reduced Sentence Because His Genes Made Him Do It
- Video: Knome’s Ari Kiirikki Speaks with Medgadget
- DNA Toys: Ben 10 and Digimon Digivice
- 100 Facts About DNA
- Salaries for Jobs in Genetics
- Fetal Gender DNA Tests Answer Common Pregnancy Question...Or Not
- How To Determine Paternity Without A DNA Test
- What does DNA mean to you?
- Eye on DNA Interview: Dr. Tzung-Fu Hsieh of RedTracer DNA Test for the Red Hair Gene, MC1R
- Books About DNA: The Crime of Reason by Robert B. Laughlin
- Genetically Modified Organisms Bring in the Cash
- Navigenics Introduces Physician Portal and Annual Insight Service
- People Who’ve Had Their Genomes Sequenced
09/29/2009 07:03 am
- Larry David’s DNA Test
11/17/2009 02:52 am
- 23andMe DNA Tests for $399, Down From $999
09/10/2008 04:33 am
- Crazy Genetic Marketing Ideas
07/05/2008 09:14 pm
- Parenting Children Using Genetic Tests
05/18/2009 02:09 am
- Business of DNA
- DNA @ Google Answers
- DNA and Disease
- DNA and Genealogy
- DNA and the Law
- DNA Around the World
- DNA Fun
- DNA in General
- DNA Inventions and Gadgets
- DNA Lab Talk
- DNA Podcasts and Videos
- DNA Quotes and Excerpts
- DNA Testing
- Gene Therapy
- Genetic Engineering
- Genetically Modified Foods and Organisms
- Jobs Involving DNA
- Personalities with DNA
- Polls About DNA
- January 2010
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- August 2007
- July 2007
- June 2007
- May 2007
- April 2007
- Nurse Practitioner News
- Science With Me!
- Yann Klimentidis’ Weblog
- The Antidote
- Infrared Sauna Info
- Evolution…Not “Just a Theory” Anymore
- Anxiety, Addiction and Depression Treatments
- Microarray Blog