Tag Archives: biology

Your choices/experiences shape your grandchildren?

Anybody see the Nova episode on PBS last night? I caught only 15 minutes of it. Apparently it aired in 2007. Here’s a transcript of it.

The part I watched was about the impact of diet and chemical exposure on the lifespan and health two generations later.Very interesting!

Check out this little snippet:

NARRATOR: The diagram showed a significant link between generations, between the diet in one and the life expectancy of another.

OLOV BYGREN: When you think that you have found something important for the understanding of the seasons itself, you can imagine that this is something really special.

MARCUS PEMBREY: This is going to become a famous diagram, I’m convinced about that. I get so excited every time I see it. It’s just amazing. Every time I look at it, I find it really exciting. It’s fantastic.

NARRATOR: Much about these findings puzzles researchers. Why, for instance, does this effect only appear in the paternal line of inheritance? And why should famine be both harmful and beneficial, depending on the sex and age of the grandparent who experiences it?

Nonetheless, it raises a tantalizing prospect: that the impact of famine can be captured by the genes, in the egg and sperm, and that the memory of this event could be carried forward to affect grandchildren two generations later.

MARCUS PEMBREY: We are changing the view of what inheritance is. You can’t, in life, in ordinary development and living, separate out the gene from the environmental effect. They’re so intertwined.

NARRATOR: Pembrey and Bygren’s work suggests that our grandparents’ experiences effect our health. But is the effect epigenetic? With no DNA yet analyzed, Pembrey can only speculate. But in Washington state, Michael Skinner seems to have found compelling additional evidence by triggering a similar effect with commonly used pesticides. Skinner wanted to see how these chemicals would affect pregnant rats and their offspring.

Application to counseling and psychology? Do you think about the impact of your behaviors and experiences on the next generation? Do you think about your grandparents choices and experiences on your daily life? Your mood? We could easily become either fatalists (I’m controlled by others) or deniers (I’m in charge of me). But consider how trauma or suffering is passed on in family lines.

Which do you tend to be? A denier or a fatalist?


Filed under counseling, Cultural Anthropology, Psychology

Are you a genetic fatalist?

Definition of a genetic fatalist: If I have genetic markers for _____, then I will have _____ problem.

Maybe this doesn’t happen to you but I find that when I have conversations about a wide variety of counseling related issues, they end up hitting upon the genetic question? Whether we are discussing anxiety, depression, alcoholism, sexual identity or similar concerns, I can count on being asked,

“Do you think it is genetic?”

The questioner seems to think that if the answer is “Yes,” then the individual in question has no responsibility for the situation–or no control over what is taking place. “If my alcoholism is genetic then it wasn’t my fault.” “If my son’s sexual identity confusion is genetic then he can’t do anything about it.”

Here’s what I want to say to most of these questions:

1. Probably but we don’t really know. There are lots of researchers trying to discover genetic markers and how our genes express themselves. Some we understand really well (like eye and hair color) and others we understand less well.

But even if tomorrow we discover that your husband’s OCD is genetically based, what does that mean? Is he forever trapped in acting on his OCD?

2. Thinking about genes this way doesn’t really help us right now. We all have genetic markers for various cancers and diseases but not all of us contract the problems. Women may have markers for breast cancer but never have the disease. How can that be? It can be that way because disease states or mental health matters are multifactorial in their origination. There may be genetic markers as well as environmental insults as well as psychological stressors that all work together to either protect from the disease or cause it to get started.

So, are you a genetic fatalist? Do you give your deciding vote to genetic markers when considering responsibility and control regarding behavioral issues, mental health problems, personality?


Filed under christian psychology, counseling, News and politics, personality, Psychology