The Correlation between Genetics and Adolescent Behavior- DARIAN WHITE

Review article

Dick, D., Adkins, A., Kuo, S. (2016) Genetic influences on adolescent behavior. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. [Online PDF] Retrieved from https://blackboard.vcu.edu/webapps/blackboard/execute/content/file?cmd=view&content_id=_6195469_1&course_id=_141450_1

In this article, Dick and her colleagues discuss the correlation between genetics and adolescent behavior. More specifically, Dick and her colleagues highlight the important ways genetics can factor into adolescent risk taking behavior such as alcohol use. To do so, they used literature on twin studies. Before even reading the article, from the just the abstract alone I can assume that genetics do in fact play just as large of a role as the environment does (if not more) in how much an adolescent consumes alcohol. I would make this assumption mostly because of how much of an influence heredity genes can have on an individual. For instance, a child of a mother with a genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse is more likely to pass the same genes on to her child. The same goes for personality disorders and so on with biological parents and their offspring. As I predicted, the article states that “there is a steady increase in the relevance of genetic factors on alcohol use across adolescence, and a corresponding and sharp decrease in the relevance of common environmental influences.” (Dick, 2016) This makes sense because it is much easier to avoid the influences you face in your environment as opposed to what genetic factors reside inside your body. However, this does not mean that the environment has no effect on adolescent drinking. As mentioned in the article, “genetic influences on adolescent substance use are enhanced in the presence of substance-using friends, and in environments with lower parental monitoring.” (Dick, 2007) The main takeaway from this article is that genetics do play a major role in adolescent drinking, especially in the later stages when the act of drinking is less experimental and more of a regular habit (a time when the environment and parenting styles mean less).

Since a lot of this was not entirely new knowledge to me, the only question I still have is probably the same as Dick and her colleagues.

What specific genes influence drinking in adolescence? The article points out that it can be supported that genes have a huge effect on adolescent drinking, but because they were studying twin literature it would be nearly impossible to identify the specific genetic factors that cause these effects without conducting several in-depth experiments  of their own.

Mental Health (8/27/16) Darian White

Promoting and Protecting Mental Health as Flourishing: A Complementary Strategy for Improving National Mental Health
Keyes, Corey L. M.
In this article, Keyes discusses the flaws deeply rooted in the processes that the National Institute of Mental Health takes in their attempt to tackle mental illness in the United States. One major issue that Keyes mentions right way is how the lack of mental illness is believed to be equivalent to good mental health. I have never quite thought of mental health as meaning the lack of mental illness, and it was quite shocking to read how an institution that plays a huge role in helping those with mental illness actually thinks this way. To me this just comes off as ignorant, and unscientific. Just as I would think, Keyes mentions that “only a small proportion of those otherwise free of a common mental disorder are mentally healthy.” (Keyes, 2007)
It doesn’t surprise me that Keyes criticizes the fact that society is still stuck in the past with how they define mental health, and especially how they view mental illness. I have encountered so many intelligent individuals that are just severely undereducated when it comes to mental illness and how it affects those who have them. Many people just assume that it is “overdramatized”, and if you throw pills at the problem, then it can be fixed. I love how the article mentioned that “the remission of mental illness using current pharmacotherapies or psychotherapies is partial or short lived…” (Keyes, 2007) I couldn’t agree with Keyes more with the fact that one real successful way of reducing the prevalence of mental illness in the United States would be by trying to prevent it before it manifests! This same technique is used in preventing obesity in at risk children, so why don’t we focus the same energy on preventing mental illness, especially in the youth?  Keyes even mentions a study that  mentioned, “by the age of 18, as many as 20% of youths will have had a case of clinical depression.” (Lewinsohn, Hops, Roberts, & Seeley, 1993) I have met so many students my age who have or are experiencing serious mental illness, but have never been  counseled and more shockingly, never really heard anything about any mental illness prior to experiencing mental illness for themselves.
I think the first important step is educating all age groups, but more importantly addressing the elephant in the room and incorporating more discussion about mental illnesses in health education classes in high schools. Even more importantly, at risk youth should be more closely monitored and offered reliable counseling before things get worse. Like Keye’s mentioned, not only will this more than likely prevent more individuals from developing mental illness, it will also be cost effective. By using these opportunities and strategies, we can not only prevent mental illness, but we can also improve the mental health of those without mental illness.  If we can improve the overall well-being of everyone’s mental health, we can great a world with happier people and truly thrive as a nation. Even with the presence of mental illness, if we as a society are focusing more on improving people’s happiness, we will live much longer, less stressful lives.
I guess the few questions this discussion arises are:
Are parents ready to have these discussions with their children? Are parents too confident that their children aren’t stressed, or sad, or possibly even mental ill? And what about the adults? Are they too prideful to admit that they may need help? Would people of all ages really take interest in classes that provide ways to destress, laugh more, and live mentally healthy? Are those flourishing in mental health and lacking mental illness willing to pay the taxes it would require to make these programs etc. possible?
I really do wonder,  with all the mass shootings that have happened in the past couples years, and how all of those have been strongly associated with mental illness, if that didn’t wake people up to the severity of this dilemma…what will? What more can we as a society do to encourage people to care more about mental illness and mental health?