Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health

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Genetic research, behavioural science, and child and adolescent mental health in South Africa: an important new agenda

Mark Tomlinson, Leslie Swartz, Louise Warnich


Background: Since the announcement of the results of the international research project to unravel the human genome in the early 1990s there has been a burgeoning of research into the genetic basis of psychopathology and development. South African behavioural researchers, however, have reasons to be cautious about the benefits of genetic research in the light of the historical link between eugenic interests and practices which were attractive to ideologies such as Nazism and apartheid.
Methods: In this article we discuss the burgeoning interface internationally between behavioural and genetic research. We describe a number of areas of recent research that are particularly relevant to child and adolescent mental health in South Africa (antisocial behaviour, disorganised attachment and depression) that are beginning to illuminate the interactions between the behavioural and genetic domains.
Discussion: We argue that we need to engage more actively with what the sciences of the brain and behaviour have to offer, and in so doing make a case for the urgent inclusion of genetic research in mental health research in South Africa.

Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health 2008, 20(2): 73–81
AJOL African Journals Online