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'Resilience Gene' May Save Kids in Troubled Families
Date:2/16/2011

rguments and separation anxiety symptoms over the prior three months.

A measurement of "parental impairment" was derived by choosing difficulties such as substance abuse, mental health conditions or criminal problems that would predispose parents to be inconsistent, impaired or unavailable for relationships with their children.

More than 59 percent of the children had a parent reporting at least one of these difficulties, according to the study. About one-third carried the OPRM1 gene variant.

Over a three-month period, children with the variant who lived in problematic households reported significantly fewer arguments and far more enjoyable interactions with their parents than did children without it, although no such association was found in children who came from stable homes.

"I am generally a skeptic about being able to find these [genetic] markers," Copeland said, noting surprise at his results. "When we make a hypothesis, by no means do we know what the answer is going to be. Otherwise we wouldn't have asked the question."

Robert Plomin, a research professor and deputy director of the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Center at King's College London in England, said it was interesting to learn that the opioid gene variant is associated with parent-child relationships only when parents have problems.

"Although it's a plausible finding, we need to be wary because the [study] sample is relatively small, especially when the sample is divided by whether or not parents had problems," Plomin said. "Reports of simple associations such as a gene variant associated with parent-child relations have been notoriously difficult to replicate and this is especially the case when an interaction is reported . . . only for a particular subsample."

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