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Some men carry 'commitment-phobia' gene

September 3, 2008 | 10:17 am

Walum_4 Forget the prenup. Couples pondering whether to tie the knot should proceed straight to gene testing.

Well, that's one conclusion you can draw from a study in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Researchers at the Karolinksa Institute in Sweden examined a gene allele 334 in people enrolled in the Twin and Offspring Study in Sweden. This gene can affect the production of a hormone called vasopressin, which has been shown to influence monogamy in animals. They found that men who had two copies of allele 334 were twice as likely to have had a marital or relationship crisis in the last year compared with those who lacked the gene variant.

These men seemed less able to bond with their partners, says lead author Hasse Walum, a postgraduate student in medical epidemiology and biostatistics. "Women married to men who carry one or two copies of allele 334 were, on average, less satisfied with their relationships than women married to men who didn't carry this allele.

But, men, if you're tempted to use genes as an excuse for bad behavior, forget about it. Walum notes that though the study may shed some light on the genetic underpinnings of human bonding, "there are, of course, many reasons why a person might have relationship problems."

Walum's research is aimed at improving the understanding of vasopressin and its role in disorders such as autism and social phobia.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Karolinska Institute researcher Hasse Walum. Credit: Sebastian Dahlgren, courtesy of Karolinska Institute.