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Daredevil DNA: The Genetics of Being a Thrill-Seeker

Daredevil DNAIn all my years I have never had the urge to scuba-dive, jump from an airplane, or bungee jump. Nor have I ever wanted to put on a pair of skis and race down a mountain at full speed, or flip in the air three or four times around. One of my kids, on the other hand, would like nothing more than to do all of those things. He has what they call the Daredevil gene.

Do not think for a moment this means I don’t know how to have a good time. The same goes for the rest of the family. It is just that our version of a good time does not generally involve putting life or limb on the line. I get it — that thrill you get when you are on a roller coaster going upside down and backwards — but I am not drawn to it in the same way as my son. Apparently the Daredevil gene found him and bypassed the rest of us.

(By the way, if you are a thrill-seeker who wants to come with us next time we go to Disney so my son has a companion for his 437 trips to Expedition Everest, you may just have yourself a deal. Once was enough for me.)

We have not escaped his thrill-seeking ways in the cold winter months either. This winter has brought a tremendous amount of snow to the Northeast, which in my house means endless repeated requests to drive him to the nearest substantial hill so he can practice snowboarding.

Pleeeeeeeeeeease, Mom. Pleeeeeeeeeeease.

Last week once again I sat in the car and read a book while he and a friend went up and down the hill in the frigid cold for two hours straight. Like I said, my son and I clearly have different versions of fun. The physical activity he gets plus the joy on his face makes it so worthwhile.

The so-called “Daredevil gene” is not just a theory either. People who enjoy taking risks such as snowboarding, ski jumping, bungee jumping, and the like, often have a genetic common denominator. A recent study that measured sensation-seeking snowboarders and skiers found they are significantly more likely to have the DRD4 -521CC gene than the rest of us non thrill-seekers.

As a parent it is really important to me to encourage my kids to pursue their interests, whether they be academic, music, team sport, or extreme sport. I am happy that both my children have found physical activities they enjoy, to work off some steam and keep up their fitness levels. It is not up to me to choose their passion, but I do believe that it is up to me to encourage my kids to give their interests a fair shot. Though I may wear out my library card as I take my son to pursue his new love of snowboarding.

Hey, even the Olympic medalists had to start somewhere, right? All it takes is a Daredevil gene, commitment, and a whole lot of practice. Having a parent with a library card or an e-reader does not hurt either.

Photo credit: Jessica Cohen

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