Get access

Genetic etiology of stability of attention problems in young adulthood



Variation in attention problems in children and adolescents from non-clinical samples is highly heritable. It is unknown how attention problems develop later in life and whether the heritability in the general adult population is the same as in children and adolescents. We assessed the heritability and stability of individual differences in attention problems in the general young adult population and explored to what extent the stability can be attributed to genetic or environmental factors. On one or more occasions, young adult twins (age range, 18–30 years, N = 4,245) from the Netherlands Twin Registry filled out the attention problems (AP) subscale of the Young Adult Self-Report [Achenbach, 1997]: in 1991, N = 1,755 (of which 842 complete pairs), in 1995, N = 2,428 (1156 complete pairs) and in 1997, N = 2,344 (958 pairs). There was only a slight decrease in the average level of attention problems during young adulthood. The heritability at each occasion was around 40%. The correlation of attention problems across a period of 6 years was 0.42, and 77% of this correlation could be ascribed to genetic influences. Thus, individual differences in attention problems in young adulthood are heritable, and stability in individual differences over time can largely be ascribed to genetic influences. Genetic correlations across time were high, suggesting that the genes that influence variability in attention problems in late adolescence are largely the same as those that influence variability in early adulthood. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.