12 Behavior Genetics

Research Methods in Psychology


  1. Christina N. Lessov-Schlaggar PhD1,
  2. Arpana Agrawal PhD1,
  3. Gary E. Swan PhD2

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop202012

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Lessov-Schlaggar, C. N., Agrawal, A. and Swan, G. E. 2012. Behavior Genetics. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 2:II:12.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Washington University, Department of Psychiatry, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

  2. 2

    SRI International, Center for Health Sciences, Menlo Park, California, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


The goal of this chapter is to provide the reader with general information on several key features of behavior genetic investigation. The chapter starts with a general introduction of what genetic material consists of and how it is transmitted from parents to offspring. An understanding of inheritance is vital for understanding basic and commonly used statistical methods of gene-behavior association. We discuss the concept of a normal distribution of measured behavioral traits and of unmeasured (latent) genetic and environmental liability. We introduce and provide examples of models of twin resemblance commonly used to estimate the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors on individual differences in behavior, and of models that examine the association of measured genetic variation and behavior. We discuss the importance of behavioral measurement and underscore its complexity throughout the chapter. We conclude with discussion on ethical issues in genetic research.


  • complex behavior;
  • twin models;
  • genomic models;
  • phenotype