Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Dr. Michael Stallings

Second Advisor

Dr. Heidi Day

Third Advisor

Dr. Alison Vigers


Genetic factors contribute to risky sexual behavior (RSB) and evidence suggests dopamine plays a role. However, the specific genetic variants underlying genetic risk are not well understood. This research examines the influence of dopamine polymorphisms on RSB in an enriched sample: a community sample enriched with clinical patients selected for extreme antisocial behavior and drug abuse. Genetic variation was assessed in 11 genes involved in dopamine synthesis, transmission, termination, and expression regulation. A polygenic risk score (PRS) approach was used to investigate the combined effects of genetic variation across all 11 genes, and within functional subsets. However, since it is often difficult to separate genetic and environmental effects on human behavior, a biopsychosocial model was used with six contextual variables to investigate the extent to which they explain additional variance, and/or modify genetic effects. Together genetic and contextual variables accounted for about 17% of the variance in RSB. From this study evidence points to the importance of dopamine transmission genes as well as effects from impulsivity, attitudes toward deviance, and church attendance.