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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2020

12 - Behavioral and Molecular Genetics

from Part III - Experimental and Biological Approaches


Behavioral genetic research unequivocally supports the influence of both genetic and environmental factors on psychopathology risk. Decomposition of the sources of these influences has largely been carried out using twin and adoption studies. Building off the results of these studies, molecular genetic methodologies have come to dominate the field with the goal of identifying genetic variants that causally influence psychopathology risk. The chapter summarizes the logic of both quantitative and molecular genetic methods as well as their major findings as related to clinical psychology. Traditional and modern methods for estimating heritability based on familial relationships are described. From there the challenge of finding causal genetic variants in the context of polygenic phenotypes, including psychopathology, emerges. The chapter concludes by discussing the interaction between genes and the environment as well as future directions in the field, including rare variant analysis and epigenetics. An emphasis is placed on interpretation of results and limitations of past and current methodologies. Behavioral genetic research has produced strong results regarding the importance of genetic factors on psychopathology while also highlighting the influence of the environment. Uncovering the causal sources of these effects remains a young but active area of research.

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