Genetic influences on ‘environmental’ factors

Authors

  • A. A. E. Vinkhuyzen,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Psychology, VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam
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  • S. Van Der Sluis,

    1. Section Functional Genomics, Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR), VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam
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  • E. J. C. De Geus,

    1. Department of Biological Psychology, VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam
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  • D. I. Boomsma,

    1. Department of Biological Psychology, VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam
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  • D. Posthuma

    1. Department of Biological Psychology, VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam
    2. Section Functional Genomics, Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR), VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam
    3. Section Medical Genomics, VU Medical Centre, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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A. A. E. Vinkhuyzen, Department of Biological Psychology, VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail:aae.vinkhuyzen@psy.vu.nl

Abstract

Childhood environment, social environment and behavior, leisure time activities and life events have been hypothesized to contribute to individual differences in cognitive abilities and physical and emotional well-being. These factors are often labeled ‘environmental’, suggesting they shape but not reflect individual differences in behavior. The aim of this study is to test the hypothesis that these factors are not randomly distributed across the population but reflect heritable individual differences. Self-report data on Childhood Environment, Social Environment and Behavior, Leisure Time Activities and Life Events were obtained from 560 adult twins and siblings (mean age 47.11 years). Results clearly show considerable genetic influences on these factors with mean broad heritability of 0.49 (0.00–0.87). This suggests that what we think of as measures of ‘environment’ are better described as external factors that might be partly under genetic control. Understanding causes of individual differences in external factors may aid in clarifying the intricate nature between genetic and environmental influences on complex traits.

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