Ethics in behavioral genetics research
Accountability in Research 2004 January-March; 11(1): 27-47
As research in behavioral genetics uncovers the genetic contribution to human behavior, it will undoubtedly further our understanding of normal human variation in many behavioral traits, such as personality, intelligence, and sexuality. This research also shows great potential for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses. Recent findings underscore this potential and document the increasing validity of research methods- -methods that in the past have led to mistaken inferences about genes "for" violent behavior and homosexuality. Although all research with human subjects requires adequate attention to its ethical aspects, certain ethical issues involved with behavioral genetics are particularly acute and deserve careful attention. This article reviews these selected major ethical issues arising in (1) the conduct of behavioral genetics research; and (2) the application of its research findings. While some of the ethical concerns in the latter category are likely to be of substantial importance and animate considerable popular concern, they currently fall outside the realm of traditional research review. Determining how to deal with these concerns should be a focus of future scholarly work.
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