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May. 16 2009 - 12:07 pm | 753 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

‘Nurture’ Treatment for Genetically Troubled Youth


Teen genes expressing themselves

You’ve probably heard of women opting for mastectomies after finding out about their genetic predisposition to breast cancer, or men brushing their hair a little more gently after tests revealed a risk for male-pattern baldness. Now, a new example of preventative health measures thanks to genetic screening: counseling for “genetically troubled” youth.

For two-and-a-half years, researchers at the University of Georgia tracked 11-year-olds from 641 families: some enrolled in a family-centered prevention program called Strong African American Families (SAAF), and a comparison group. A DNA analysis showed some youths carried a genetic variation, found in around 40 percent of people, known to be associated with binge drinking and substance abuse.

According to this study, teens with the geen who partook on SAAF were no more likely than their peers without the gene to engage in drinking, pot use and sex. But youths with the gene in the comparison group were twice as likely to have gotten drunk, stoned or frisky.

The SAAF program involved weekly seminars, where parents learned about strategies like monitoring, emotional support and family communication. Teens were taught about goal-setting, as well as dealing with peer pressure and stress.

“We found that the prevention program proved especially beneficial for children with a genetic risk factor tied to risky behaviors…The results emphasize the important role of parents, caregivers, and family-centered prevention programs in promoting healthy development during adolescence, especially when children have a biological makeup that may pose a challenge.”

This “prevention program” sounds a lot like high school sex ed with a little bit of life-management thrown in – pretty harmless stuff. The less benign element of the new study is the unquestioning acceptance that this sort of “genetic screening” ought to be a determinant for how we raise our kids. If such screenings were done at birth, I can imagine an entirely new set of more serious implications. Infanticide, anyone?

And don’t even get me started on this SAAF program. Maybe teens in George are particularly well-behaved, but I know that no amount of stress-management education was going to keep me from keg stands when I was 15. Then again, I have yet to be genetically screened for binge-drinking DNA…


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    Ya, I mean, it isn’t obvious that “binge-drinking genes” (whatever those are) are exclusively responsible for binge-drinking behaviour. Furthermore, this type of study is only the first in figuring out ways one can mitigate the effects of genetics. Sure, infanticide is the scariest fringe case, but I think what can be equally scary is that perhaps decisions about what you are allowed to do could be determined by genetic screening. So, for example, if you’re genetic screening shows you are predisposed to pedophilia or something, then certain career paths could become shut down to you.

    I dont think that we are headed for a Gattaca-type world (and god forbid Uma Therman ever gets accepted into a space program), but to avert this, we should probably take evasive action sooner rather than later.

  2. collapse expand

    There are numbers of residential treatment centers offer holistic treatment approaches to treat the genetic disorders of children. Clinics offer medication and non medication treatments, psychotherapies, psychiatric intervention and assessment, behavioral therapies for dealing with severe genetic problems in kids. Teenagers can get rid of all harassing problems with the help of certified counselors and therapists. Wilderness camps also offer naturalistic outdoor programs for dealing with problems of troubled adolescents.


  3. collapse expand

    Great discussion on nurture treatment for troubled youth, Thanks a lot for giving me details of SAAF program, nice this program involved weekly seminars, where parents learned about strategies like monitoring, emotional support and family communication. Great discussion and thanks to the publisher of this resource for sharing these nice details.

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    I'm a full-time heath & science writer at Sphere and a contributing editor at True/Slant. I also contribute military health news to Danger Room at Wired.com, and have recently written for Marie Claire, World Politics Review and Next American City.

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