Got the popularity gene?

By Ann Griswold • Published: April 17th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Teens love to hold their parents accountable for everything that goes wrong in their lives… but when it comes to popularity, a new study finds that mom and dad are partly to blame. Harvard researchers say our genes not only influence the number of friends we have, but also whether we’re at the heart of our social circles or always hanging out near the edge.

The researchers studied the social habits of five–hundred-fifty pairs of twins enrolled in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. They compared the social networks of identical twins with those of fraternal same-sex twins to determine the role genes play in popularity. The researchers found that identical twins tended to have a similar number of friends, while fraternal twins’ social networks were more variable. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The bottom line? Popularity is about more than just the clothes you wear. Some people may be destined to have more friends than others. Previous studies have linked popularity to a gene involved in the uptake of the mood-altering hormone serotonin, although the current study sheds no light on the specific genetics of popularity.

So go ahead… blame mom and dad for your poor popularity in middle school… but not because they let you go to school dressed in neon-orange pants and a red striped shirt. They gave you the genes… the rest is in your hands!