September 02, 2008
Ruthless Gene Test For Marital Happiness.

The gene AVPR1a codes for the arginine vasopressin receptor 1A which influences altruism, monogamy, and other behaviors. Genesis Biolabs wants you to test your prospective spouse for versions of AVPR1a to discover if he or she will be altruistic toward you. But what if a woman wants a man who will be ruthless in his pursuit of higher positions in a corporation?

Screening for the "ruthlessness" gene is likely an indicator of marital happiness. Marriages born out of mutual respect and mutual interest rather than self-interest are much more likely to succeed and probably less likely to end in divorce. Is your fiancé just after your money? Those with the "ruthlessness" gene may very well be. Those with the altruistic version of AVPR1a probably aren't. Ruthless people will lie, cheat and steal to get what they want. Genetics may not be a guaranteed indicator of human behavior and motivation [genetics is only one half of the nature vs. nurture debate] but genes don't lie. Before you make a lifetime commitment, have your fiancé tested.

What if an ambitious high status man wants a woman who will give his offspring genes that will make his kids hard chargers and ruthlessly ambitious? People could easily use this test for reasons opposite of the marketing pitch for it.

The research that led to this test came out only 9 months ago. In a few years we'll know of dozens of genes that influence fidelity, ruthlessness, and assorted other characteristics relevant to

Jerusalem, December 6, 2007 – Are those inclined towards generosity genetically programmed to behave that way? A team of researchers, including Dr. Ariel Knafo of the Psychology Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, believes that this could very well be the case.

Through an online task involving making a choice whether or not to give away money, the researchers found that those who chose to give away some or all of their money differed genetically from those involved in the exercise who chose not to give their money away.

The scientists conducted the experiment with 203 online "players". Each player could choose to keep the equivalent of $12 he was allocated, or to give all or part of it to an anonymous other player.

Those involved also provided DNA samples which were analyzed and compared to their reactions. It was found that those who had certain variants of a gene called AVPR1a gave on average nearly 50 percent more money than those not displaying that variant. The results of the study were published online recently in the research journal Genes, Brain and Behavior.

Do you want your wife giving all your hard-earned money away to charity? Do you want your husband to be an easy mark when his loser brother comes begging for money? I expect scientists will find genetic variations that contribute toward selective altruism for offspring and other genetically very close relatives. Maybe a woman will prefer a husband who is genetically more inclined to sacrifice for the kids and not for strangers.

New research from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden suggests AVPR1a influences stability of human relationships.

Hasse Walum and his colleagues made use of data from The Twin and Offspring Study in Sweden, which includes over 550 twins and their partners or spouses. The gene under study codes for one of the receptors for vasopressin, a hormone found in the brains of most mammals. The team found that men who carry one or two copies of a variant of this gene -- allele 334 -- often behave differently in relationships than men who lack this gene variant.

The incidence of allele 334 was statistically linked to how strong a bond a man felt he had with his partner. Men who had two copies of allele 334 were also twice as likely to have had a marital or relational crisis in the past year than those who lacked the gene variant. There was also a correlation between the mens gene variant and what their respective partners thought about their relationship.

Among the tested Swedish males 40% had at least one copy of the genetic variant that seems to decrease relationship stability.

Might such a simple switch be found in humans? A team led by Hasse Walum of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, sequenced the AVPR1a gene in about 500 pairs of adult same-sex Swedish twins, all of them married or cohabiting for at least 5 years, and their partners. One variation of the gene was particularly common; about 40% of males had either one or two copies of a version--or allele--of the gene known as "334."

These results are not surprising. A previous twins study found a genetic influence on the rate of female infidelity. Also, another twins study found evidence of a genetic contribution to psychopathy. We are going to see a big stream of discoveries which will make romantically motivated genetically testing become desirable. Genetic tests will yield such valuable insights into future behavor that I expect genetic privacy to become indefensible. People will surreptitiously take genetic samples and get tests done on the genes of their dates and lovers.

All this genetic testing will change who manages to get a mate and reproduce. Even among those who reproduce the testing will change who will reproduce with who. I expect we will see more mating of like with like. The most monogamously inclined will seek out others of their kind for marriage and babies. So societies will divide more deeply between those with stable marriages and those who engage in serial monogamy and promiscuity.

Update: More details on the study about avpr1a gene connection with marital happiness.

"A study by Erica Spotts, National Institute on Aging, using this sample was one of the first to show genetic influences on marital relationships, but did not reveal which genes were involved," says Neiderhiser. "The work on pair bonding in voles was very exciting because it suggested to us a specific gene to examine."

Neiderhiser, Paul Lichtenstein, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and colleagues interviewed 2,186 adults taking part in the Twin and Offspring Study in Sweden (TOSS). The TOSS study collected detailed information from pairs of twins and their partners or spouses about their marital relationships, personality and mental health, as well as genetic data.

They report in this week's on-line issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that, in men, having allele 334 was inversely linked to measures of the strength of a person's bond to their mate. They also report that men who carried two copies of allele 334 were more than twice as likely to report serious marital or relationship problems, such as facing threat of divorce, as men who had did not carry it. These men also were almost twice as likely to be unmarried as men with no copies, despite having a long-term relationship with their mate.

Women married to men with one or two copies of allele 334 reported lower scores on measures of marital quality than women married to men not carrying this allele.

Allele 334 is also associated with increased activity in the amygdala, a brain region involved in regulating emotions.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 September 02 09:55 PM  Bioethics Reproduction

rob said at September 3, 2008 5:36 PM:

It looks like this is not a SNP, but promoter region triplet repeat. I wonder if the hapmap has allele ratios of this gene for geographic populations. Any bets on the relative distributions? My guess is it does not follow Rushton's Rule.

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