Genetics Behind Psychopathology: A Convenient Excuse for Parents

[Written around 2007.]

By and large I do not believe genetics to be behind such psychological “disorders” known as schizophrenia, depression, autism, and bipolar. I believe that psychological trauma and other environment horrors lie at their root far more than most are willing to concede – or even imagine. And yet the psychological field so often promotes – however scientifically flimsily – genetic origins. Genetic arguments serve to protect the parents – and basically let them off the hook for their pathological, traumatizing behavior. This is convenient. Or is it? What shocks me is that if these disorders really were genetic, you’d think that the psychology field would be the first to encourage schizophrenic and depressed and autistic and bipolar parents to stop having children – in order to protect life’s future children from receiving these supposedly defective and debilitating genes!

Yet does the psychology field say anything? Hardly. Such a move on the part of a therapist, in this day and age of confused ethics, is considered flatly unethical – and bordering on eugenic.

And do these supposedly genetically defective parents stop procreating? Some do, but many do not. And many, with the genetically oriented scientists’ full backing, bury their heads in the sand to even their own arguments and defend their right to procreate – and their right to pass on their supposedly genetic disorders to the innocent.

An autistic mother with an autistic daughter recently criticized me for saying that autism might have a psychological origin. Heaven forbid I’m right – that is, heaven forbid a mother who has massive interpersonal deficits (the hallmark of autism) MIGHT be a lacking mother and JUST MIGHT emotionally contribute to, or even cause, her daughter’s autism.

This mother argued that blaming a parent for causing her child’s autism is like blaming a parent for causing her child’s Down syndrome. Although her analogy is a stretch, because Down syndrome is incontrovertibly genetic (though not inherited), I still cannot so quickly let the parent of a Down syndrome child off the hook. After all, it is known that as a woman grows older she is significantly more likely to give birth to children with Down syndrome. Yet nowadays it is more popular than ever for middle-aged women, with all the world’s genetic information at their fingertips, to play the genetic lottery and gleefully give birth to children – that or abort (i.e. murder) those fetuses with genetic disorders. Talk about eugenics right in the family! Aren’t such parents at least partially responsible for stacking the odds against their children?

And sometimes the odds are flat-out terrible. Take the famous musician Woody Guthrie, who, ironically, wrote some of the best children’s music I’ve ever heard. He had one of life’s uglier genetic disorders, Huntington’s disease, which he inherited from his mother, and which his children had a fifty-fifty chance of inheriting from him. Although he started having kids in the 1930s, before the discovery of DNA, he was still having children into the 1950s, by which time he was well aware of the hereditary link. Of his eight children, two of his first three (whom he completely abandoned before he ever even found out if they had his disorder) got it and died of it, just as Woody Guthrie and his mother did. And does anyone criticize him? Hardly. For the longest time Woody Guthrie himself even denied that HE was losing his mind (and body) to Huntington’s.

We live in a society where it is considered the right of the parent, no matter what his problems, to have children. Few, except perhaps fanatical religious fundamentalists, care about or defend the rights of the unborn. And even fewer even think about the rights of the not-yet-created.

It is not the right of a parent to have children. It is a privilege. This highlights a big difference between humans and animals. Animals procreate unconsciously. Humans have other options – and a greater potential. Yet when people procreate unconsciously, that is, with motives of which they are largely unaware – which most do – they behave like animals. That is the reason our species is so out of control. Six billion humans? It is ludicrous.

Animals at the top of the food chain should not be so abundant. Imagine if every time you went swimming in the ocean you were approached by forty thousand great white sharks? Ultra-predators – which both human and great white sharks are – are rare. If ultra-predators become too populous they throw the ecosystem all out of balance…like our species has done, and is continuing to do.

Humans should be rare too. Ten thousand years ago, when there were hardly ANY humans around, there were already too many of us – and we were wiping out innumerable other species. I like the idea of a planet with only a hundred thousand humans. Or maybe fifty thousand.

For all its flaws, China was onto something with its one-child policy. Imagine if such a policy were implemented the whole world over? In one generation there would be three billion people, in two generations one-and-a-half billion, and in ten generations (in about 300 years, if the pollution from our modern industry hasn’t sterilized us all by them) a mere six MILLION people.

Clearly we have a ways yet to go.

One thought on “Genetics Behind Psychopathology: A Convenient Excuse for Parents

  1. I think this is where we are heading; a big reset by Mother-Nature, inspired by real human beings who do love her. Protecting them by mutual love.

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