Alcoholism: Nature vs. Nurture

Essay by cchiecoCollege, UndergraduateA, March 2008

download word file, 4 pages 1.0

Alcoholism is one of the most common and most controversial drug addictions throughout the world. The majority of those who consume alcohol do so at least once a week. But does alcoholism run in families because a child inherits genes that expose alcoholism or does a child learn to become an alcoholic from the surrounding environment? Or is it a combination of the two? The nature versus nurture debate has been an on-going issue for many years because both sides have many valid yet contradicting arguments.

Research has shown that alcoholism tends to run in families, and there are genetic factors that explain this pattern. Different models for the way in which alcoholism runs in families have been suggested by a number of family studies. It has also been shown that certain personality characteristics, which are partly inherited, influence the risk of getting addicted.

Members of the same family share both genes and a common environment.

To differentiate between the effects of nature versus nurture, scientists have conducted twin and adoption studies. Both identical and fraternal twins share environmental influences to a similar extent, but they differ in the amount of genetic information they share. Identical twins have the same set of genes, where as fraternal twins share about half of their genes. If there is a genetic component in the risk for alcoholism, then identical twins would be expected to exhibit similar tendencies of developing an alcohol addiction and fraternal twins would be more likely to differ in their tendencies to develop an alcohol addiction. The results of twin studies are extremely valuable and have proven that there is a possibility of a genetic component in inheritance.

A person's environment, such as the influence of friends, stress levels, and social setting may also contribute to alcoholism. Lack of parental...