For citation purposes: Perry B. Where is the gender in behaviour genetics? The need for social epidemiology in research on gene?environment interactions. OA Genetics 2013 Jul 01;1(1):8.

Review

 
Genetic Epidemiology

Where is the gender in behaviour genetics? The need for social epidemiology in research on gene–environment interactions

B Perry
 

Authors affiliations

Department of Sociology, University of Kentucky, 1515 Patterson Office Tower, Lexington, Kentucky 40506, United States

* Corresponding author Email: breaperry@uky.edu

Abstract

Introduction

Despite evidence of pervasive gender differences in morbidity and mortality, as well as gender-specific genetic association in some diseases, research on candidate gene-environment interaction is rarely informed by social science perspectives on gender and health. Omitting basic theories of gender stratification from the study of social–environmental moderation of genetics may contribute to problems with replication and false-positive results in G×E research. This paper discusses the need for theories of gender and social inequality in research on gene-environment interactions in behaviour genetics.

Discussion

A framework for studying gender-moderated G×E effects (i.e. G×E×Gender) is advocated. As G×E may be conditioned on gender or other social statuses associated with systematic inequalities in risks and resources, modelling interactions between genotype and oneproximal indicator of the social environment is overly simplistic. Gender can moderate G×E through at least three pathways: (1) By stratifying men and women into different environments; (2) by differentially shaping the experiences of men and women in similar environments; and (3) by influencing distinct biological, psychological or behavioural responses to similar experiences. The importance of endophenotypes in identifying the timing and sequencing of gender moderation is discussed, and methodological considerations are offered to guide future research.

Conclusion

In cases where social environments are reflective of gender difference or inequality, hypotheses on G×E must be gender-specific, presenting both unique challenges and enormous potential for the significance of social epidemiology in transdisciplinary agendas on health and behaviour.

Licensee OA Publishing London 2013. Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY)
Keywords