Pressure From Genetics?


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Peer Pressure Picture.jpg

"Peer pressure" is a topic that we have all been lectured about at some point in our lives.  We've all been made aware of the potential dangers associated with allowing ourselves to be manipulated by our peers.  However, no one ever acknowledged that perhaps part of the reason some people feel motivated to succumb to peer pressure isn't because of a personal weakness, but is actually biologically relate.  At least, that's what a study in ScienceNews suggests.

The study is based on the fact that "[s]ome teens show DNA-related sensitivity to substance use levels at school," and it examined various aspects of a high school student's life and genetics that could potentially lead them to be more likely to be affected by peer pressure.  This subtitle already got me thinking, is it possible this could be a nature vs. nurture argument?  Is there really biological evidence that there is a gene associated with peer pressure?

Not surprisingly, the study featured in the article found that students in schools with heavy drinking and smoking were more likely to partake in these activities.  However, the study found that "[t]hese trends were stronger in teens with two copies of a short version of a gene called 5HTT than peers with two long versions."  This trend in genetics overruled the influence from the environment of the school the students were attending.  The explanation for this is that "[t]he 5HTT gene helps regulate transmission of serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain."

I found this connection between peer pressure and genetics very surprising.  In my experience, I have always found that the kids who were more likely to succumb to peer pressure were the ones who were insecure about themselves and felt they needed to fit in.  This was not even a matter of personality, though.  These insecure kids could have been very shy and unable to stand up for themselves because they were afraid to speak out or they could have been the kind to overcompensate for their insecurities with a big personality.  Despite how they managed their insecurity, a low self-esteem seemed to be what drove individuals to give in to peer pressure.

The findings in this study "join a growing number of studies indicating that variants of certain genes increase a person's sensitivity to both positive and negative aspects of their surroundings."  I would be interested to read more about these connections and will be sure to report in my next entry.

3 Comments

I was really interested by this post because i feel like I have trouble sometimes dealing with peer pressure. However I have never thought that there was some genetic reason for this, although it does makes sense when you think about it. As someone who has always been a little bit shy and quiet, to read that there is a possible genetic reason for that is eye-opening. After this study, I wonder if it will ever be possible for surgeons to go in and alter this gene, to eventually "cure" peer pressure.

Quite an unexpected correlation! I read the article your blog post refers to and although a credible source, it confused me. The study didn't take into account many factors that affect the issue at hand. For one, the study never mentions any results about students who attended lighter drinking schools but had the longer genes. Do these students partake in drinking more or less than a student at a higher drinking school but with the shorter gene? Also, what about third variables such as household income and home life? These things must affect the way a student makes decisions about drugs and alcohol. Maybe some different supporting studies and more evidence would persuade me to think genetics is connected to peer pressure!

Wow I never compared peer pressure to genetics. I wonder if there are facts and studies done to show this. This article from the New York Times speaks a little more about the topic. http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/09/13/reviews/980913.13tavrist.html I know that my mom and I are very similar in many ways especially socially. I think one's household is a big factor that contributes to how easily a person will fall to peer pressure. I also think it is up to how much freedom parents give a child in general. Some kids have the urge to rebel if their parents are holding them back. I wonder what genetically is transferred that correlates with peer pressure. This would be very cool to research and experiment on. I feel like my household put a good head on my shoulders and I am not afraid to say no! What about you guys? Do you feel you and your parents go about peer pressure the same way?

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