Genetic and Environmental Influences in Adolescent Peer Socialization: Evidence from Two Genetically Sensitive Designs


  • Alessandra C. Iervolino,

  • Alison Pike,

  • Beth Manke,

  • David Reiss,

  • E. Mavis Hetherington,

  • Robert Plomin


Harris argues that peer relationships are the chief determinants of personality development. Harris’s thesis makes the behavioral genetic investigation of peer groups particularly timely. The present study examined genetic and environmental contribution to self-reported peer-group characteristics in two samples of adolescent siblings: 180 adoptive and nonadoptive sibling pairs from the Colorado Adoption Project, and 386 sibling pairs from the Nonshared Environment and Adolescent Development Study. Substantial genetic influence emerged for college orientation, with the remaining variance accounted for by nonshared environment. For delinquency, however, the majority of the variance was explained by nonshared environment. Although genetic influence was implicated for peer popularity in twin analyses, genetic factors were not important in explaining individual differences in nontwin siblings. These results suggest that although some dimensions of peers are somewhat mediated by genetic factors, nonshared environmental influence is substantial.