Complex Behaviors Complex Causes

Thus, for use and abuse of alcohol, we know that the importance of genetic and environmental effects changes with sequencing in the use and abuse of alcohol, from abstinence or initiation to frequency of regular consumption, to problems associated with consumption, and ultimately, to diagnosed alcoholism and end-organ damage from the cumulative effects of alcohol. Similar stories could be told for many other behaviors of interest. Thus, for the major psychopathologies, from depression and schizophrenia in adults to attention deficit disorder in children or eating disorders in adolescents, genetic influences are invariably part of the story but never the whole story.

Genetic effects are always probabilistic and not deterministic. And the action of genes on behavioral outcomes is likely to be indirect. So we conclude with the same message with which we began: There are no genes for behavior, but behavioral development always represents an exquisite interplay between genes and environments. Gene-behavior correlations are modest and nonspecific; they alter risk but rarely determine outcome. Genes represent dispositions, not destinies.

Richard J. Rose and Danielle M. Dick

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