Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genes May Explain Why Children Who Live Without Dads Have Earlier Sex

Date:
September 21, 2009
Source:
Society for Research in Child Development
Summary:
Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, researchers used a novel and complex study design to better understand the association between fathers' absence and children's sexuality. Contrary to previous research, this study shows that the association can be best explained by genetic influences. The researchers also suggest that, while there's no "father absence gene," there are genetic contributions to traits in both moms and dads that increase the likelihood of earlier sexual behavior in children.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, researchers used a novel and complex study design to better understand the association between fathers' absence and children's sexuality. Contrary to previous research, this study shows that the association can be best explained by genetic influences. The researchers also suggest that, while there's no "father absence gene," there are genetic contributions to traits in both moms and dads that increase the likelihood of earlier sexual behavior in children.

Previous research has found that children raised in homes without a biological father have sex earlier than children raised in traditional nuclear families. Now a new study that used a novel and complex design to investigate why this is so challenges a popular explanation of the reasons.

Among prior explanations of why children who live in homes without fathers have sex earlier are that early childhood stress accelerates children's physical development, that children who see their parents dating may start dating earlier, and that it's harder for a single parent to monitor and supervise children's activities and peers. All of these are environmental explanations.

"Our study found that the association between fathers' absence and children's sexuality is best explained by genetic influences, rather than by environmental theories alone," according to Jane Mendle, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, who led the study.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Oregon, the University of Virginia, the University of Chicago, the University of Indiana, Columbia University, and the University of Oklahoma, the study appears in the September/October 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

Mendle and her colleagues looked at more than 1,000 cousins ages 14 and older from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The study design tested for genetic influences as well as factors such as poverty, educational opportunities, and religion. It compared children who were related in different ways to each other, and who differed in whether they'd lived with their fathers. The more genes the children shared, the more similar their ages of first intercourse—regardless of whether or not the children personally had an absent father. This finding, the researchers say, suggests that environmental theories don't fully explain the puzzle. Instead, genetic influence can help us understand the tie between fathers' absence and early sex.

"While there's clearly no such thing as a 'father absence gene,' there are genetic contributions to traits in both moms and dads that increase the likelihood of earlier sexual behavior in their children," notes Mendle. "These include impulsivity, substance use and abuse, argumentativeness, and sensation seeking.

"These traits get passed down from parents to children, resulting in a situation known as 'passive gene-environment correlation,' because the same genetic factors that influence when children first have intercourse also affect the likelihood of their growing up in a home without a dad."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Research in Child Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mendle et al. Associations Between Father Absence and Age of First Sexual Intercourse. Child Development, 2009; 80 (5): 1463 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01345.x

Cite This Page:

Society for Research in Child Development. "Genes May Explain Why Children Who Live Without Dads Have Earlier Sex." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090915100955.htm>.
Society for Research in Child Development. (2009, September 21). Genes May Explain Why Children Who Live Without Dads Have Earlier Sex. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090915100955.htm
Society for Research in Child Development. "Genes May Explain Why Children Who Live Without Dads Have Earlier Sex." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090915100955.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) A new study says children born less than one year and more than five years after a sibling can have an increased risk for autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping School Violence

Stopping School Violence

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A trauma doctor steps out of the hospital and into the classroom to teach kids how to calmly solve conflicts, avoiding a trip to the ER. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A tiny cyst in the brain that can cause debilitating symptoms like chronic headaches and insomnia, and the doctor who performs the delicate surgery to remove them. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Burning Away Brain Tumors

Burning Away Brain Tumors

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) Doctors are 'cooking' brain tumors. Hear how this new laser-heat procedure cuts down on recovery time. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins