Quality parenting may be able to neutralize genetic risk for substance abuse
According to a study recently conducted by the University of Georgia, quality parenting may be able to neutralize risks for substance abuse posed by a genetic factor (a gene known as 5HTT). The study, which was published in the February issue of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, suggests that high levels of involvement and supportive parenting effectively combat a genetic predisposition for substance abuse. Gene Brody, co-author of the study and Regents Professor in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences, commenting, said, “We found that involved and supportive parenting can completely override the effects of a genetic risk for substance abuse… It’s a very encouraging finding that shows the power of parenting.” The following is an excerpt of an article from Medical News Today that reviews the study in more depth:
Brody and his colleagues, which include UGA Institute for Behavioral Research director Steven Beach and University of Iowa Associate Professor of Psychiatry Robert Philibert, focused their attention on a gene known as 5HTT that’s involved in the transport of the brain chemical serotonin. Most people carry two copies of the long version of the gene, but those with one or two copies of the short version have been shown in several studies to have a greater likelihood of consuming alcohol and other substances and to have higher levels of impulsivity and risk taking.
The researchers interviewed 253 African-American families in rural Georgia over a four-year period. After obtaining informed consent from the parents and youth, they collected saliva samples for genetic testing.
The researchers found that nearly 60 percent of the youth had two copies of the long gene, while the remainder had one or two copies of the short gene that confers risk. As expected, the use of substances was low among 11 year-olds and increased as the youth aged. By age 14, 21 percent of the youth had smoked cigarettes, 42 percent had used alcohol, five percent had drank heavily and five percent had used marijuana.
Among youth with the genetic risk factor, those who received low levels of involved and supportive parenting increased their substance use at rate three times higher than youth with high levels of parental support. Among youth with high levels of involved and supportive parenting, the difference in substance abuse was negligible – regardless of genetic risk.