DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior

By R. Grant Steen | Go to book overview

9
Mental Disorders

Evidence abounds that intelligence is heritable, which of course implies that a range of other mental states are also heritable. Mental illness was known to run in families centuries ago, and both manic-depression and schizophrenia were recognized as familial diseases by Sigmund Freud. But progress in defining the genetic basis for mental illness has been slow, in part because a definitive diagnosis of mental illness is often so hard to make. In fact, research into the behavioral genetics of mental illness has been filled with false starts, misleading data, and dashed hopes.

However, there is more reason now than ever before to be optimistic that the genetic basis of mental illness can be deciphered. Mental illness is understood in a way fundamentally different now than before; we know that mental illness is a medical problem, not demonic possession or divine visitation. Psychoanalytic tools have become sophisticated enough that psychiatrists can achieve consensus on most diagnoses. While this may sound like a small achievement, it represents a fairly profound advance over the situation of just a generation ago.


Mental Retardation Is Strongly Heritable

Mild retardation is probably only the lower end of a broad spectrum of intelligence, whereas severe retardation may be a genetically more distinct entity. The genes involved in determining high or low intelligence appear to be quite distinct from

-137-

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DNA and Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • 1 - Genes and Human Behavior 1
  • 2 - The Old Nature Versus Nurture Debate 21
  • 3 - The Dark History of Eugenics 33
  • 4 - The Nature of Nurture Defining Environmental Influences 49
  • 5 - New Tools for an Old Problem 63
  • 6 - New Improvements in the Old Tools 79
  • 7 - The Inheritance of Disease a Paradigm for the Inheritance of Behavior? 93
  • 8 - Intelligence 113
  • 9 - Mental Disorders 137
  • 10 - Personality Traits 161
  • 11 - Sexual Orientation 185
  • 12 - Alcoholism and Addictive Behavior 203
  • 13 - Crime and Violence 217
  • 14 - Sex, Genes, and Testosterone 239
  • 15 - Biology and Social Responsibility 261
  • Epilogue 279
  • References 283
  • Index 293
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