“Why did I get that part of you?” Understanding addiction genetics through family history

Molly J Dingel, Jenny Ostergren, Barbara A. Koenig, Jennifer McCormick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scientists have sought to uncover the genetic bases of many diseases and disorders. In response, scholars defined “geneticization” to describe genetic infiltration of understandings of health and illness. In our research, we interviewed 63 individuals in addiction treatment programs to identify what form of geneticization best fits individuals’ description of their own addiction. Individuals’ narratives of their lives, which include family history and are influenced by cultural and structural factors, affect respondents’ reactions to a potential genetic basis of addiction. Most who had a family history of addiction subscribed to a notion that addiction “runs in families,” while most who lacked a family history of addiction used this fact to reject the notion of genetic inheritance of addiction. We conclude that though we see elements of several different versions of geneticization, Nikolas Rose’s version, that genetics affects peoples’ perceptions of addiction in small but important ways, best describes our respondents’ views.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-67
Number of pages15
JournalPublic Understanding of Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research: The project described was supported by Grant Number R01 DA014577 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Mayo Clinic S.C.

Funding Information:
Johnson Genomics of Addiction Program, and Grant Number UL1 TR000135 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • addiction
  • behavioral genetics
  • substance use


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