Genetics: What Are Little Boys & Girls Made Of? (cont.)

One can speculate as to the evolutionary basis for this disparity. Even without active genes for social skills, would males in a hunter-gatherer culture have been at a disadvantage? Did a man need social skills to chase down and kill a wild animal? On the other hand, genes determining social skills might be useful to women working together around the campsite in a cooperative fashion, performing tasks such as cooking, making clothes, and raising children.

The report in Nature is first-authored by Dr. David H. Skuse from the Institute of Child Health in London. Dr. Skuse is one of ten authors of this study. The last -listed author is Dr. Patricia A. Jacobs. (Together with the first author, the last author is traditionally considered most important to the research). Dr. Jacobs is a senior chromosome scientist of considerable renown.

The Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Natalie Angier noted in The New York Times on June 12 that not all researchers are buying into this association between a sex chromosome and behavior. For instance, Dr. Evan S. Balaban of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego pointed out to Ms. Angier that, "one of the scientists on the current report had been an author on a study in 1965" which associated "violent criminal behavior" with XYY, an extra Y sex chromosome in males, an association that "proved to be statistically spurious." The scientist to whom Dr. Balaban alluded is clearly Dr. Jacobs. However, because a 1965 study failed to hold up to follow-up research is no reason at all why a 1997 study might not be right on the mark.

Time will tell whether modern genetics has found the basis for an old nursery rhyme.

For more information, please visit the TURNER'S SYNDROME site of MedicineNet.

Last Editorial Review: 11/22/2004