Genes may explain why children who live without dads have earlier sex

September 15, 2009,

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 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, 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."

More information: Child Development, Vol. 80, Issue 5, Associations Between Father Absence and Age of First Sexual Intercourse by Mendle, J (University of Oregon), Harden, KP, and Turkheimer, E (University of Virginia), Van Hulle, CA (University of Chicago), D'Onofrio, BM (University of Indiana), Brooks-Gunn, J (Columbia University), Rodgers, JL (University of Oklahoma), Emery, RE (University of Virginia), and Lahey, BB (University of Chicago).

Source: Society for Research in (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Sep 15, 2009
actually there IS a fatherlessness gene... but its in the meta system of methylation...

they have done research on this in which they believe that MHC and the smells of it trigger genetic signals in the children.

for instance, praeder willi syndrome, and obesity genetic condition, is mitigated by father presence.

the probglem is that these people want a marxist definition to justify holding environmental pressures long enough that those favored artitifically are bred like dogs to be new socialist man. social engineering, is not enginerering an applied science, , its social experimentaion on masses of people.

these effects of father absence have been well known even before genetics, which is why heteronormative family was dominant.

such genese and other such things would show that we are genetically tuned to be what we are, and that crapping our enfironments and behavior causes aberante and negative behavior.

Sep 15, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Sep 15, 2009
So, people who engage in irresponsible procreation have children that are genetically inclined do the same thing? This is very close to say stupidity is heritable and not totally the fault of society.
not rated yet Sep 15, 2009
It probably is genetic. In primitive societies breeding early and often is a good survival strategy. If you get eaten by a predator, or killed by your neighbor, you have a better chance of leaving offspring. Thus, such behavior would be pro-survival, and people who engage in it will be more likely to pass on their genes.

In an agricultural or industrial society, it's less of an advantage, and in modern times, ones offspring have a better chance of survival if one waits. Children interfere with education, and better education usually results in greater material wealth and social status. Both of those increase the chance of ones offspring surviving, so it's better to wait.

On the other hand, in lower income areas, urban and rural, education isn't an advantage, as there are few jobs to gain from it. And, the leading causes of death are often accidents and violence, much like primitive societies. Thus, waiting isn't always pro-survival for people in those situations.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.