Tuesday, September 1, 2009

DNA to predict your kid's talents?

Here's an interesting yet disturbing article about using DNA tests to determine a child's genetically predisposed talents. The Chongqing Children's Palace in China is conducting such a study on 30 children aged 3-12 years, in collaboration with the Shanghai Biochip Corp. which is performing the DNA tests. Apparently, a simple saliva swab can collect enough cells to isolate 11 different genes, which can provide information about IQ, emotional control, focus, memory, athletic ability, listening ability, physical characteristics, and more. The scientists claim that this information could potentially help predict their future careers as well. The DNA test costs about $880, plus the kids are sent to a 5-day "summer camp" where they are evaluated by experts in different areas to determine what they should pursue.

The parents -- who just want the best for their (only) children -- believe that this will help them understand their children better and give them a head start, but will it? Just because a child is good at something doesn't mean that they will want to pursue it as a career. What if they have many talents? Are the parents going to choose one for them? It sounds like the parents want to control how their children turn out. What if the test shows that a child has a natural gift for athletics, so the parents push the child into sports in the hopes that they will one day become a successful athlete. Maybe the kid is happy about the choice at first, but one day they discover that they're just not good enough in the highly competitive field of sports. "But, my DNA says I should be a star!" What kind of long-term psychological damage will the parents have inflicted on their child?

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