This is ground-breaking work, and will eventually have a profound impact on how we treat addiction and sub-personality disorders:
Why? This study confirms that certain conditioned responses are passed down from parents to children, which is more than DNA. In essence, certain sub-personality reflexes (such as fears) somehow are transmitted in the reproductive process.
The implications of this are that even attractions and other types of predispositions of the will could also, at least theoretically, be passed down as well. So, what does this mean about addiction? Could it be that the addict passes down to his children some of his addictions... by passing down some of his anxieties and attractions?
Sure, many addicts get their starts by watching their parents use and abuse. The chaos of an addicted home is enough to cause many to turn to addiction as an escape from the pain of instability. But, is there more to this?
We like to comfort ourselves by thinking that the only thing we literally pass down to our children are their genes, and that our 'private lives' remain hermetically sealed within our crania. We don't like to think that our diseases of our souls are inflicted on our children.
This study opens the possibility that reproduction is more than physical, and that a parent shares some of his or her soul with offspring. It confronts us with the notion that we can become, through parenting, little 'addict factories' churning out children with anxieties and unnatural desires even though we distance ourselves with a divorce or abandonment.
It brings new meaning to the Old Testament as well:
"You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." (De 5:8-10)
God somehow permits our sins to be 'visited' onward to the third and fourth generations... could these be connected? Could God allow our addictive idolatry to somehow be the struggle of future generations?
The good news is that they have not even begun to delve into this topic, and the idea of 'deconditioning' has not been fully explored. We don't know how deep the rabbit hole goes, and so it may be surprisingly shallow.
However, it will complicate things, because out treatment models really do not take into account this process. We look at problems as either 'hard-wired' through biology, or 'acquired' through experience. But, what if there are conditioned responses that are not acquired through experience but are still subject to 'deconditioning'?
We may have to look again at how we work our Fourth Steps, and reexamine relapse for responses that were initially overlooked simply because the life experience of the addict does not account for them. These are issues that we will have to look hard at as science provides us more information.