Genetic Explanations for Male Infidelity

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Infidelity may all be blamed on genes, specifically allele 334. Swedish scientists at Karolinska Institutet have found a link
between a specific gene and the way men relate to their partners and in social settings. Genetic variations appear to have some influence on relationships, although the scientists warn that this should not be interpreted as playing a determining role on male behaviour.

The Study

Conducted by Hasse Walum at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the study analysed data from the 'Twin and Offspring' study in Sweden which looked at 50 twins and their partners or spouses. The gene allele 34 is a receptor for vasopressin, a hormone found in the brains of most mammals. It had previously been linked with monogamy in male voles.


The study found that men with one or two variants of the gene allele 34 were more likely to have relationship difficulties than men without allele 34. The incidence of allele 34 was statistically linked to how strong a bond a man felt he had with his partner:

  • Men who had two copies of allele 34 were also twice as likely to have had a marital or relational crisis in the past year than those who lacked the gene variant. There was also a correlation between the men's gene variant and what their respective partners thought about their relationship.
  • Women married to men with one or two copies of allele 334 expressed less satisfaction with their relationship than women in relationships with men who didn't carry the allele. 

Lead author Walum concludes that:

"The fact that the corresponding gene has proved important for similar behaviour in voles makes our findings even more interesting, and suggests that the thoroughly studied brain mechanisms that we know give rise to strong bonds between individual voles can also be relevant to humans."


Further study of the effect of vasopression may give a better understanding of its impct on human relations, social interaction and diseases associated with social interaction such as autism.

See Also


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