Every so often newspapers get excited about a 'gene for,' schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, depression or some other mental-health problem. Although genes can increase people's vulnerability to certain conditions the causes of mental-health problems are usually the result of a complex relationship between genetics and environmental factors. This turned out to be the case when researchers from the University of Georgia looked into the effects of a gene called 5HTT which is known to increase children's propensity to consume alcohol and drugs, and to raise levels of impulsivity and risk-taking. The study followed 253 African-American families in rural Georgia over a four-year period. Among children with the genetic risk factor those who received low levels of informed and supportive parenting were three times as likely to have substance-abuse problems as those with high levels of good parenting. However, for those children who received good parenting the difference between those with and without the genetic risk factor was negligible.
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