The development of the behavior of a human being is shaped by the interplay among parental practices, dietary habits, cultural practices as well as congenital characteristics. A novel contributor to behavioral development has been identified by scientists in the form of epigenetic inheritance, which is a process of transmitting parental phenotypic responses caused by the challenges of their environment to subsequent generations, according to Lawrence V. Harper in his article, Epigenetic Inheritance and the Intergenerational Transfer of Experience. This transfer can happen even when the offspring themselves may not be directly exposed to the same environmental challenges their parents faced because although the genetic inheritance may not have been altered the expression of the genes has. For example, environmental challenges such as maternal exposure to stressful events during the late stage of a daughter’s gestation is likely to have an adverse effect on the physical development of the daughter as well as that of the daughter’s offspring. Genes and the environment tend to co-act in the behavioral development of an individual so that phenotypic adjustments to environmental events in one generation can result in alterations in the phenotype of the subsequent generation.
Alcohol abuse is an environmental factor which scientists claim is capable of altering epigenetic signatures and gene expression. According to research by Wong and associates even a short-term abuse of a substance such as alcohol has been found to produce long-term epigenetic alterations via DNA methylation as well as histone modification. Epigenetics alterations of gene expression, in such cases, further increase the craving for more alcohol abuse in future, which in turn, increases epigenetic changes. Sadly, exposures to substance abuse by one generation can influence and impact the following generation as well. A research report by Walden and associates in their article, Trajectories of Change in Adolescent Substance Use and Symptomatology: Impact of Paternal and Maternal Use Disorders, suggests that both “paternal and maternal drug use had an addictive effect on the offspring’s drug use trajectory…” What this means is that exposure to substance abuse fosters transmissible epigenetic changes which are passed on to the offspring’s behavioral and physiological development. Because of these findings many are calling for policy enactment and educational campaigns by public health professionals and allied health professionals to spread the awareness among the general public about the inter-generational impact of drug abuse during their adolescent and childbearing phases of life. In epigenetics we inherit more than genes from our parents.
Scripture teaches us that we have a responsibility to keep our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. The Bible also shows us that our personal choices do not only affect us, but that they have a ripple effect that can affect our offspring either positively or negatively. Our sinful indulgences have a tendency to visit our subsequent generations with adverse consequences unless until they are mitigated by the Blood of the Lamb (Romans 5:19).