When it comes to infidelity, it would be nice to foist blame on something other than your own bad choices, which is why new research showing cheating could be genetic is so intriguing. For the cheater, this could be the perfect scapegoat. For the betrayed party, the news comes as a blow. Of course, as with most things related to genes, it’s not a simple matter. One gene does not a cheater make, but if genetics influence monogamy, what does this mean for relationships?
The Cheating-Gene Study
The new information about genes and infidelity comes from researchers at Australia’s University of Queensland. Published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, the study investigated over 7,000 sets of twins, both fraternal and identical. Identical twins share identical genes, while fraternal twins do not. The researchers looked at rates of infidelity in this group of siblings and found that over the course of a year, 10 percent of the men and 6 percent of the women cheated.
What’s interesting about the study is not the typical percentages for infidelity — it’s the comparison between identical and fraternal twins. Identical twins, with identical sets of genes, were more likely to both be cheaters. Among fraternal twins the correlation was not found. By numbers, in the cheating men, 63 percent of the behavior was related to inherited genetics. For women, it was closer to 40 percent based on genes.
The researchers were not able to pinpoint a specific gene that causes someone to stray from a relationship, but the strong correlation in cheating behaviors between identical twins makes a good case for a genetic factor being involved. The researchers did find a gene in the women in the study that they believe may influence infidelity. The women with a specific variation of the gene, called AVPRIA, were more likely to be cheaters. The gene is related to a hormone that is involved in social behaviors, which makes sense in the context of extramarital affairs.
Can We Blame Our Genes?
Although the new research out of Australia is interesting and important, it leaves no room for an excuse for having an affair. It is a fascinating idea, however, to think that family history could be a risk factor for infidelity. According to this study, if either of your parents, a grandparent or even an aunt or uncle has been cheating, you are more likely to have an affair.
Any kind of behavior, illness or health condition that is related to genetics is usually much more complicated than putting the blame on one gene. There are a handful of disorders that can be blamed on one gene, but human behavior isn’t that simple. Our motivations for cheating can’t be distilled down to a single gene, or even a group of genes. Sure, we can put some of the blame on our genetics, but there are so many other factors.
If you have strayed from your partner, you can consider using the genetic explanation, but it probably isn’t going to fly. Imagine yourself in the opposite situation. If your spouse blamed cheating on family history, would you buy it? Not likely. We are guided by our genes. We are even defined by them to some extent. We are not robots, though. When it comes to behavior, we are capable of making informed, conscious decisions. You may be predisposed to cheat or at risk for cheating, but ultimately it comes down to your own choice.