The marriage gene

The Baltimore Sun

Add one more attribute to the "right stuff" men should possess. It turns out the really righteous guys are also genetically programmed to be loving, faithful mates.

Scientists at Sweden's Karolinska Institute reported recently that for the first time, they have found a direct link between a man's genetic makeup and his aptitude for marriage. Their research showed that men who lack a particular variant of a gene that influences brain activity are more likely to be devoted, loving husbands and more likely to be involved with women who praise them as emotionally close and available.

By contrast, men who possess the gene variant, called an allele, are more prone to marital discord and divorce, and the women who put up with them are more likely to describe them as distant and disagreeable. If marital fidelity and contentment are hard-wired into some men's brains, there's certainly a temptation for women to try to increase their chances of a happy union by screening potential spouses' genetic codes. The Swedish scientists say that although genes are only one factor in shaping a complex behavior such as marriage - culture, religion and family background also play a role - simply knowing a man has a biological predisposition for or against keeping his vows could help some newlywed couples manage married life better.

But why stop there? If there's a genetic component to men's propensity for emotionally available monogamy, might not there also be other desirable qualities traceable to male DNA?

Brides-to-be with a human-engineering turn of mind surely also will want to check out the possible presence of a gene for taking out the trash, folding the laundry and picking up stuff off the floor - not to mention the all-important money-making gene. None of these crucial but elusive fragments of DNA has been detected yet in the lab. Scientists should keep digging.

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