Thursday, December 4, 2008

Are You Genetically Reckless, or Behaviorally?

So, children of parents who smoke are more impulsive and more likely to take risks. In fact, both the children and their parents are more impulsive, according to Nationwide Children's Hospital.

It's all about your "delay discounting" ability, which is fancy talk for being able to put off a small reward in the present for a greater reward in the future (although in the case of smoking, it's more like ditching a small reward in the present to avoid a massive punishment in the future, but who am I to argue with science?). The cigarette-smoking parents want their rewards right here and now; it's why they smoke. The study is showing that apples don't fall far from their respective trees since the children of smokers are also choosing the immediate rewards.

Of course, they left off the crucial question: do they make these choices because they were raised that way, or is it part of their genetic makeup? Would it have made a difference if they had laid down some ground rules?

I can put off something good in the present if I'm sure there's something great in store for the future, but I think it's something my parents taught me.

What about you? Where do you think it comes from?

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Atif said...

Maybe its genetic.

But we need to remember that a child's brain is very intelligent and remembers stuff! He must have seen his parents smoking when he was a kid and that made him to think that there's no harm in smoking.

It's harder to quit smoking once you are addicted. Almost 90% of people who have successfully quit have a history of 3-4 failed attempts.

Anonymous said...

My parents don't and have never, to the best of my recollection, smoked cigarettes and I do. My mother has always hated the habit, as her mother died from it.
Of course, I'm not the average smoker. I have maybe 1 or 2 cigarettes a day, and some days I got without smoking at all. It's more of a hobby to me.
Does the tendency to drink also follow this? I've known people who's parents drink a lot and they absolutely abhor it or drink responsibly instead.
The human element can be a mystery sometimes.

Stanley! said...

@Atif: Seeing his parents smoke and thinking it's harmless puts it back into the behavioral camp.

It would certainly be tough to quit smoking if your parents still smoke! Of course, having all your friends still smoking when you want to quit doesn't help either, and that's another situation where you've got your environment working against you, regardless of what your genes are disposed to.

@mr joan croft: Would you describe your parents as either impulsive or risk-takers? Could it be that their willingness to take risks elsewhere led you to "risk your health" with cigarettes? (Although in your case, it sounds like you aren't really putting much at risk right now, I hope you can keep it that way!)

I think some of these behavioral studies are all smoke and mirrors anyway, pointing at two aspects of behavior, claiming they're related, and then making up a story to explain it.

@Both:Thanks to you both for stopping by!

JEANNE said...

Interesting... my husband smokes and he's a total risk taker, whereas I don't and am not. Neither of our parents smoked, but my husband was adopted so he doesn't have the same genes as the people who raised him. Hmmmm....

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