Genetic and Environmental Influences on Negative Life Events From Late Childhood to Adolescence


  • Daniel P. Johnson and Soo Hyun Rhee, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and Institute for Behavior Genetics, University of Colorado; Mark A. Whisman, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado; Robin P. Corley and John K. Hewitt, Institute for Behavior Genetics, University of Colorado.

  • This research was supported in part by grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development Grants HD010333, HD050346, HD007289.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Daniel P. Johnson, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309. Electronic mail may be sent to


This multiwave longitudinal study tested two quantitative genetic developmental models to examine genetic and environmental influences on exposure to negative dependent and independent life events. Participants (= 457 twin pairs) completed measures of life events annually from ages 9 to 16. The same genetic factors influenced exposure to dependent events across time and increased in magnitude during the transition to adolescence. Independent events were less genetically influenced than dependent events in boys, but not girls. Shared environmental influences decreased in magnitude as youth transitioned into adolescence. Nonshared environmental influences were mostly age specific and contributed significantly to both types of events at all ages. Results provide theoretical implications for developmental risk pathways to stress exposure and stress-related psychopathology.