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The Jealous Gene

Updated on December 2, 2014

Jealousy and Abusive Nature Can Be Inherited

Would you do this to a baby? No! Well someone did and the question is why? Was it anger, a fit of rage, drugs or alcohol induced out of control abuse or was it jealousy?

Jealousy is an emotion that most would attribute to environment, circumstance and social pressures. But what if it is inherited?

Anthropologists have studied this question in apes and the results are rather amazing. A silverback who takes over a squad (harem) of females from a defeated rival performs a horrible act. He usually kills off all the babies in the group because they do not carry his genes. At least that is the perspective.

But the same behaviour is found in other primates as well. Monkeys and such do the same. But what of men? Hardly a day goes by that we don't hear of a stepfather or a parent's partner bashing, maiming or killing the partners child. But fathers too, even mothers, can victimise their children

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Scot Peterson

Destructive Emotion

"Jealousy is possibly the most destructive emotion housed in the human brain. It's the leading cause of spousal murder worldwide, according to analyses I did of data over the last century. And, statistics show, it's the leading drive behind the killing of "mate poachers" - interlopers who attempt to lure away our partners." (cited DAVID M. BUSS Read full article here

We have all heard of the monsters who murder their partners and try to hide their body or who make up some incredible lies so they will not be found out. In recent times there have been some fantastic cover ups of this nature.

Who can forget Scot Peterson who murdered his pregnant, almost full term wife, cut the baby out from her womb apparently and dumped their bodies in a lake. It would take a lot of examination of his mental state to determine why? This cold blooded killing was planned for some time and he spent a long time setting up his alibi and convincing others that Lasi had simply gone away. Many still believe in his innocence. So was it a jealous gene that sparked the murder?

Do You Think Jealousy Could be a Genetic Trait

Have you got a jealous streak? - come on now own up.

A Jealousy Fight
A Jealousy Fight

The Trigger for Jealousy

Jealousy is a response to an external stimulous and is provoked by the senses. Feelings of love and ownership run deep and may be related to inheritance of a protective nature.

It is present in all mammals and possibly even insects, birds and reptiles although I can't find any studies on those.

"Jealousy is defined as a protective reaction to a perceived threat to a valued relationship, arising from a situation in which the partner's involvement with an activity and/or another person is contrary to the jealous person's definition of their relationship." (Bevan, 2004, page 195 vited Wikipedia) But this does not go far enough as humans, especially, have great attachment to things. But is that something else. Is there another emotion that suits that scenario when one looses things, possessions, land, or other.

Maybe there is a difference between jealousy and envy, as some would suggest. But envy is mkore to do with coveting things you have never owned and perhaps are never likely to have, and to appearances and lifestyles of people you know. It rarely excalates into absolute hate but more like an idolatrous emotion, It can also be an attribute of theft and vandalism. Jealousy, on the other hand, deals more with the loss of things, such as a partner who has focused his/her attention to another, or to the stepchild whose father/mother is hated and often bullied and abused because of his/her former relationship to a spouse or partner.

How far does jealousy go when say a house you once owned is lived in by someone who robbed you of it? Say a former lover or partner who now lives there with another lover. What of the children of that relationship? Can one have a happy association with a former lover who has produced with another partner?

Some women like to think that men will fight over them and may set out to provoke a jealous rage and even a fight between them. This gives her a feeling of power and control but it is more to do with her vanity than her love.

Do You Think Jealousy and Envy are Related?

Have you experienced envy to any extent?

How can I be Like Him?
How can I be Like Him?

Envy or Jealousy

Envy is more the style of the have nots who look upon the haves and wish they could be like them. In other words they covet money, wealth, luxury, life-style and possibly even another's position in life. This shows it may stem from a lack of ability or from an uncontrollable set of circumstances and fear that the world is out to get them.

They ask themselves questions which we have all heard: Why can't I be like that? Why can't I have those things? Why can't I look like her? Why was I given this body instead of that? Why can't my parents be like them? These are the type of questions that come with envy. But one can be all these things if one sets heart and mind to the task.

For instance what holds people back these days from getting the qualifications they need for success? Is is envy, jealousy, laziness or perhaps circumstances? Wrong! Its purely a lack of will. With money flooding the world all one needs is to get ouot there and try to wait.

How many times do we see people who have no limbs climbing mountains. Recently a professor of law was highlighted in a television documentary who had been blind from a young age and yet rose to become a leader in his field. How many have come from extreme povery and yet are now billionaires with their own TV talk shows or are professional doctors, lawyers, bankers and others. So envy should be considered to be different to jealousy because the rich, the famous and the leaders can all be jealous of their peers but have little or no reason to be envious. Maybe they envy the poor who don't have the worry and responsibilities they do.

Wikipedia noted : "Bertrand Russell said envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness. It is a universal and most unfortunate aspect of human nature because not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by his envy, but also wishes to inflict misfortune on others. Although envy is generally seen as something negative, Russell also believed that envy was a driving force behind the movement towards democracy and must be endured in order to achieve a more just social system."

So envy also drives hate and a willingness to murder, maim, steal, bully, intimidate and overthrow the one who is envied. Is this what turns some into bullies? That question is answered here


The chromosome helix with genes
The chromosome helix with genes

The Gene

How they form

Genetically it takes about 16 generations for a trait to appear. That can mean something like 300-400 years. But once it is produced it then travels into all future generations.

Maybe it is only a recessive gene that one inherits and if that is the case then we might expect that person to avoid producing the condition. But if it has a matching recessive gene then triggers may bring it to the fore. If, on the other hand, it is a dominant gene it will be brought out as soon as a trigger or environmental condition allows.

Learn more about genes here

The thing that may have provoked jealousy in the first place is most likely linked to trade and possession of goods. During the late Neolithic (New Stone Age) certain things helped to change human nature. An improvement in stone tools was just one of them.

Around 8000 years ago other innovations came into play. One of these was metal which allowed goods to be manufactured in the form of jewellery and such things as spears and then swords. These acquired godlike status as they were able to reflect the sun making the bearer more divine. Swords and spears kill and are reused and handed down as hierlooms and symbols of power. At around the same time the first cities were built. This followed the introduction of single family dwellings, a sedentary lifestyle with domestication of animals and establishment of farming..

We know from archaeology that exchange of such goods, as mentioned above, increased wealth and the first kings made their appearance on the landscape sometime around 6-7000ya. This is known in the form of the monuments, burial practices, palaces and great temples they built as well as city decorations and grain warehouses, such as those located at Ninevah and other cities of the era.

Grain production followed farming and it had to then be distributed to those who could pay and eventually metal coins were manufactured with the god's symbol to guarantee payment to the bearer. This lens will explain more on the subject of money Producing food for exchange took off in a big way in the Fertile Crescent before moving into south easy European regions and up into what is now Germany. The wonderfully alluvial soils around the great rivers soon allowed diversity and the rise of city states and kings who ruled over them.

With these things then part of the human lifestyle other things such as the working life and sedantary existence came about. This tied people to land, home, and families and the nomadic existence of many tribes ceased. People now turned their attention to accumulation of goods and, therefore, of wealth and ultimately power. This led to some becoming slaves to others who, in turn, took on the roles of masters, teachers, nobility and so on.

Jealousy between kings is a well known fact and wars were staged for land acquisition and the overthrow of another's power. The conquered followers of a king were captured and turned into slaves to work the fields and support the ever richer lifestyle of the victors. Those who followed kings into battle and won were promised great rewards in the after-life when the king became the god in heaven, This is documented in the Mayan codices and also in such things as the Egyptian pyramids and texts.

As every acquisition was a feather in the cap and meant more wealth this made owners the envy of others. The jealous emotion is most likely to have emerged at that time. If that was the case then within a few hundred years of its beginning it would then have been a genetic trait passing down from that point on. As emotions in general are genetically inherited then why not individual emotions such as jealousy, envy and so on?

Is Jealousy Inherited? - Do you believe that parents pass on jealousy to their kids?

Do you have an experience of jealousy being part of a family's history

African Tribal Ritual
African Tribal Ritual

Another Side of the Debate

What was it like before wealth?

Tribal groups still exist in parts of the world where anthropology studies are conducted. Countries such as Africa and the Americas, North and South, Australia and New Guinea are typical resources of historical beliefs and behaviour. We have enough evidence to conclude that prior to white invasion of these areas the people shared everything.

This does not mean that jealousy was not present because there is evidence to the contrary. But Chiefs ruled with women the main sources of wealth inheritance. In other words they were and some still are matriarchal societies.

Deeds perpetrated against others were harshly dealt with, often by death. So it was greatly discouraged and probably never really became inherited traits. But that is going too far for this story.

The North American Plains Indians had fairly good relationships with neighbouring tribes unless provoked by stupid actions of some of their members. That is as far as we know from the studies done. There is little historical evidence of their lives before white invasion except through recorded notes made by Christian scribes, such as priests, who were fulfilling their own agendas.

We can interpret and take details now from transcriptions of messages left by the Maya, Inca, and Aztecs. They had wars and they had gods and they also had jealousy and envy. The other thing they had were kings and wealth. It was their gold that the Spanish came to steal as well as their countries.

In the case of the Australian aborigine we know that everything they had they shared and they just took whatever they wanted. There was no trade, no bargaining, no exchange. It was simply gifting that brought tribes together for meetings. This applied right down to their women who were gifted to others for the night or as a wife and so on. It was not a case of 'you owe me' because they people did not owe anyone anything. But they lost it all with white policies, laws and take-over.

There are many other cases that could be cited here but that will do for now.

You can decide whether or not you think jealousy is an inherited trait from your own observations and feelings.

Still images from Dreamstime - click here

© 2010 norma-holt

Please leave your mark here so it can be inherited by those who follow after you.

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Jealousy drives people to madness and various degrees of cruelty. It is present in everybody in one or different form in various amounts. But one need not react to jealousy with a bad feeling and hurt others, one can turn introvert and introspect oneself to get rid of this habit. Meditation helps to remove various impurities of mind, jealousy also can be removed through it, it takes time and all the time good, benevolence habits have to be practiced. Curbing jealousy is not the solution, it has to be eradicated from the root, otherwise it will re-surface again and again.

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      7 years ago from Sweden

      It is so sad that you can write this lens at all. Humans can be awful and lovely. I wish for a world were the later rule. Blessed of course. The subject is hard and must affect you too.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 

      7 years ago from Scotland

      As always a great page highlighting a very difficult controversial subject, done admirably! Blessed

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      great topic. i learned a new thing from you. ~blessed~

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image


      7 years ago

      Blessed :)

    • CHalloran LM profile image

      CHalloran LM 

      7 years ago

      very interesting topic... great lens!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      7 years ago from United States

      Whoa! This is very interesting! I never considered that jealousy or envy could be genetic. I know we tend to reflect what we have been taught in our childhood homes so if I had been ask, I might have said it was because we have been taught to react a certain way. But then I think jealousy seems to happen naturally, sometimes even an unexpected reaction to a friends good fortune. Interesting conversation to say the least!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a very complicated

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      very informative..

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 

      7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Great lens on something not so!

    • delia-delia profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello Norma, a Squid Greeter here! what a powerful lens! I never knew that Jealousy can be a Genetic sad.


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