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Blinded by ScienceThe Social Implications of Epigenetics and Neuroscience$
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David Wastell and Susan White

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781447322337

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447322337.001.0001

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Epigenetics: rat mum to my Mum?

Epigenetics: rat mum to my Mum?

(p.157) Seven Epigenetics: rat mum to my Mum?
Blinded by Science

David Wastell

Sue White

Policy Press

This chapter explores the epigenetic thought-style in depth, by analysing some of the seminal work on animals. We highlight in particular the work of Michael Meaney and colleagues which has been particularly persuasive in the domain of welfare policy and practice. This work appears to show that rodent mothers who nurture intensively (copious “licking and grooming”) beget more resilient offspring, and that these effects of parenting are mediated by epigenetic mechanisms. Although the meme is potent, we draw attention to some of the flaws in the primary research, and more generally question the degree to which laboratory studies on animals can (ever) be generalized to human parenting. The idea that epigenetic mechanisms transmit permanent changes is inherently contradictory.

Keywords:   animal studies, Michael Meaney, transgenerational epigenetic transmission, Mothering, Laboratory studies generalization, laboratory studies, HPA axis

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