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Abstract

Objectives: Human growth is a complex process that remains insufficiently understood. We aimed to analyze genetic and environmental influences on growth from late childhood to early adulthood.

Methods: Two cohorts of monozygotic and dizygotic (same sex and opposite sex) Finnish twin pairs were studied longitudinally using self-reported height at 11–12, 14, and 17 years and adult age (FinnTwin12) and at 16, 17, and 18years and adult age (FinnTwin16). Univariate and multivariate variance component models for twin data were used.

Results: From childhood to adulthood, genetic differences explained 72–81% of the variation of height in boys and 65–86% in girls. Environmental factors common to co-twins explained 5–23% of the variation of height, with the residual variation explained by environmental factors unique to each twin individual. Common environmental factors affecting height were highly correlated between the analyzed ages (0.72–0.99 and 0.91–1.00 for boys and girls, respectively). Genetic (0.58–0.99 and 0.70–0.99, respectively) and unique environmental factors (0.32–0.78 and 0.54–0.82, respectively) affecting height at different ages were more weakly, but still substantially, correlated.

Conclusions: The genetic contribution to height is strong during adolescence. The high genetic correlations detected across the ages encourage further efforts to identify genes affecting growth. Common and unique environmental factors affecting height during adolescence are also important, and further studies are necessary to identify their nature and test whether they interact with genetic factors. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2011. © 2011Wiley-Liss, Inc.