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The primary aim of the Michigan State University Twin Registry (MSUTR) is to examine developmental differences in genetic, environmental, neural, epigenetic, and neurobiological influences on psychopathology and resilience, particularly during childhood and adolescence. The MSUTR has two broad components: a large-scale, population-based registry of child, adolescent, and adult twins and their families (current N ~30,000) and a series of more focused and in-depth studies drawn from the registry (projected N ~7200). Participants in the population-based registry complete a family health and demographic questionnaire via mail. Families can then be recruited for one or more of the intensive, in-person studies from the population-based registry, using any one of several recruitment strategies (e.g., population-based, based on their answers to the registry questionnaire). These latter studies target a variety of biological, genetic, and environmental phenotypes, including multi-informant measures of psychiatric and behavioral phenotypes, functional and structural neuroimaging, comprehensive measures of the twin family environment (e.g., census and neighborhood informant reports of twin neighborhood characteristics, videotaped interactions of child twin families), buccal swab and salivary DNA samples, and/or assays of adolescent and adult steroid hormone levels. This article provides an overview of the MSUTR and describes current and future research directions.
The COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins) project is a large international collaborative effort to analyze individual-level phenotype data from twins in multiple cohorts from different environments. The main objective is to study factors that modify genetic and environmental variation of height, body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) and size at birth, and additionally to address other research questions such as long-term consequences of birth size. The project started in 2013 and is open to all twin projects in the world having height and weight measures on twins with information on zygosity. Thus far, 54 twin projects from 24 countries have provided individual-level data. The CODATwins database includes 489,981 twin individuals (228,635 complete twin pairs). Since many twin cohorts have collected longitudinal data, there is a total of 1,049,785 height and weight observations. For many cohorts, we also have information on birth weight and length, own smoking behavior and own or parental education. We found that the heritability estimates of height and BMI systematically changed from infancy to old age. Remarkably, only minor differences in the heritability estimates were found across cultural–geographic regions, measurement time and birth cohort for height and BMI. In addition to genetic epidemiological studies, we looked at associations of height and BMI with education, birth weight and smoking status. Within-family analyses examined differences within same-sex and opposite-sex dizygotic twins in birth size and later development. The CODATwins project demonstrates the feasibility and value of international collaboration to address gene-by-exposure interactions that require large sample sizes and address the effects of different exposures across time, geographical regions and socioeconomic status.
Prior work has robustly suggested that social processes in the neighborhood (i.e. informal social control, social cohesion, norms) influence child conduct problems (CP) and related outcomes, but has yet to consider how these community-level influences interact with individual-level genetic risk for CP. The current study sought to do just this, evaluating neighborhood-level social processes as etiologic moderators of child CP for the first time.
We made use of two nested samples of child and adolescent twins within the Michigan State University Twin Registry (MSUTR): 5649 families who participated in in the Michigan Twins Project (MTP) and 1013 families who participated in the Twin Study of Behavioral and Emotional Development (TBED-C). The neighborhood social processes of informal social control, social cohesion, and norms were assessed using neighborhood sampling techniques, in which residents of each twin family's neighborhood reported on the social processes in their neighborhood. Standard biometric GxE analyses evaluated the extent to which they moderated the etiology of CP.
The ‘no moderation’ model provided the best fit to the data in nearly all cases, arguing against neighborhood social processes as etiologic moderators of youth CP.
The neighborhood social processes evaluated here do not appear to exert their effects on child CP via etiologic moderation. The documented links between neighborhood social processes and child CP are thus likely to reflect a different etiologic process. Possibilities include environmental main effects of neighborhood social processes on child CP, or genotype-environment correlations.
Available twin-family data on sex differences in antisocial behavior (ASB) simultaneously suggest that ASB is far more prevalent in males than in females, and that its etiology (i.e. the effects of genes, environments, hormones, culture) does not differ across sex. This duality presents a conundrum: How do we make sense of mean sex differences in ASB if not via differences in genes, environments, hormones, and/or cultures? The current selective review and critique explores possible contributions to these seemingly incompatible sets of findings. We asked whether the presence of sex differences in behavior could be smaller than is typically assumed, or confined to a specific set of behaviors. We also asked whether there might be undetected differences in etiology across sex in twin-family studies. We found little evidence that bias or measurement invariance across sex account for phenotypic sex differences in ASB, but we did identify some key limitations to current twin-family approaches. These included the questionable ability of qualitative sex difference analyses to detect gender norms and prenatal exposure to testosterone, and concerns regarding specific analytic components of quantitative sex difference analyses. We conclude that the male preponderance in ASB is likely to reflect a true sex difference in observed behavior. It was less clear, however, that the genetic and environmental contributions to ASB are indeed identical across sex, as argued by prior twin-family studies. It is our hope that this review will inspire the development of new, genetically-informed methods for studying sex differences in etiology.
Callous-unemotional (CU) traits are critical to developmental, diagnostic, and clinical models of antisocial behaviors (AB). However, assessments of CU traits within large-scale longitudinal and neurobiologically focused investigations remain remarkably sparse. We sought to develop a brief measure of CU traits using items from widely administered instruments that could be linked to neuroimaging, genetic, and environmental data within already existing datasets and future studies.
Data came from a large and diverse sample (n = 4525) of youth (ages~9–11) taking part in the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study. Moderated nonlinear factor analysis was used to assess measurement invariance across sex, race, and age. We explored whether CU traits were distinct from other indicators of AB, investigated unique links with theoretically-relevant outcomes, and replicated findings in an independent sample.
The brief CU traits measure demonstrated strong psychometric properties and evidence of measurement invariance across sex, race, and age. On average, boys endorsed higher levels of CU traits than girls and CU traits were related to, yet distinguishable from other indicators of AB. The CU traits construct also exhibited expected associations with theoretically important outcomes. Study findings were also replicated across an independent sample of youth.
In a large, multi-site study, a brief measure of CU traits can be measured distinctly from other dimensions of AB. This measure provides the scientific community with a method to assess CU traits in the ABCD sample, as well as in other studies that may benefit from a brief assessment of CU.
Using recent substantive results on China and the West, we highlight some virtues to Mill's method of residues for comparative network research. The result is research that combines the emic-etic approaches discussed by Leung (2009) with the spirit of Whetten's (2009: 49) efforts to make ‘theory borrowing more context sensitive’. We draw on recent comparative research about the competitive advantage enjoyed by network brokers, trust facilitated by embedding a relationship in a closed network, the subset of Chinese relations that constitute guanxi, the idea of American and European guanxi, different business environments maintained by the same network mechanism, cocoon networks, small-world networks, the longer history apparent in Chinese networks, and job search via colleagues, friends, and family. We also illustrate the value of data graphs for the expository value of the method of residuals in comparative network analyses.
Prior work has indicated both theoretical and empirical overlap between social and physical aggression. The extent to which their covariance can be explained by the same underlying genetic or environmental factors, however, remains unclear. It is also uncertain whether or how the origins of their covariance might vary across sex. The current study sought to fill these gaps in the literature.
We examined maternal and teacher reports of youth physical and social aggression in over 1000 6–10 years old (mean age = 8.02 years) twin pairs from the Michigan State University Twin Registry. We made use of the bivariate correlated factors model to clarify the origins of their association. We further tested both sex difference and no-sex difference versions of that model to determine whether there are sex differences in the association between social and physical aggression, as often assumed.
The covariation between social and physical aggression was due to overlapping genetic factors and common environmental conditions. Specifically, 50–57% of the genetic factors, 74–100% of the shared environmental factors, and 28–40% of the unique environmental factors influencing physical aggression also influenced social aggression according to both mother and teacher reports. These shared etiological factors did not differ across sex.
These findings argue against the common assumption that social aggression is the ‘female version’ of male physical aggression, and instead suggest that social aggression may be best conceptualized as a form of antisocial behavior that shares developmental pathways with other manifestations of externalizing pathology.
Although there is growing recognition that disadvantaged contexts attenuate genetic influences on youth misbehavior, it is not yet clear how this dampening occurs. The current study made use of a “geographic contagion” model to isolate specific contexts contributing to this effect, with a focus on nonaggressive rule-breaking behaviors (RB) in the families’ neighbors. Our sample included 847 families residing in or near modestly-to-severely disadvantaged neighborhoods who participated in the Michigan State University Twin Registry. Neighborhood sampling techniques were used to recruit neighbors residing within 5km of a given family (the mean number of neighbors assessed per family was 13.09; range, 1–47). Analyses revealed clear evidence of genotype–environment interactions by neighbor RB, such that sibling-level shared environmental influences on child RB increased with increasing neighbor self-reports of their own RB, whereas genetic influences decreased. Moreover, this moderation appeared to be driven by geographic proximity to neighbors. Sensitivity analyses further indicated that this effect was specifically accounted for by higher levels of neighbor joblessness, rather than elements of neighbor RB that would contribute to neighborhood blight or crime. Such findings provocatively suggest that future genotype–environment interactions studies should integrate the dynamic networks of social contagion theory.
We extend Burt, Burzynska, and Opper's cross-sectional network prediction of relative success among Chinese entrepreneurs by predicting which ventures are still active five years later. The cross-sectional analysis is corroborated in three ways (despite the vicissitudes of a national anti-corruption campaign): (1) Businesses run in 2012 by CEOs with a network rich in structural holes are more likely to be active five years later, in 2017. (2) Survival odds are improved if the large, open network around a CEO in 2012 was initially a supportive ‘cocoon’ closed network when the business was founded. (3) Both results are contingent on capturing the guanxi ties valuable early in the history of the business. The two network effects disappear when the network around a CEO is limited to his or her currently valued contacts. Beyond corroboration, we find that advantage is concentrated in ventures that began well and had become successful. Network advantage here does not compensate for weakness – it is a mechanism for cumulative advantage, amplifying the success of businesses already doing well.
Social aggression is a form of antisocial behavior in which social relationships and social status are used to damage reputations and inflict emotional harm on others. Despite extensive research examining the prevalence and consequences of social aggression, only a few studies have examined its genetic–environmental etiology, with markedly inconsistent results.
We estimated the etiology of social aggression using the nuclear twin family (NTF) model. Maternal-report, paternal-report, and teacher-report data were collected for twin social aggression (N = 1030 pairs). We also examined the data using the classical twin (CT) model to evaluate whether its strict assumptions may have biased previous heritability estimates.
The best-fitting NTF model for all informants was the ASFE model, indicating that additive genetic, sibling environmental, familial environmental, and non-shared environmental influences significantly contribute to the etiology of social aggression in middle childhood. However, the best-fitting CT model varied across informants, ranging from AE and ACE to CE. Specific heritability estimates for both NTF and CT models also varied across informants such that teacher reports indicated greater genetic influences and father reports indicated greater shared environmental influences.
Although the specific NTF parameter estimates varied across informants, social aggression generally emerged as largely additive genetic (A = 0.15–0.77) and sibling environmental (S = 0.42–0.72) in origin. Such findings not only highlight an important role for individual genetic risk in the etiology of social aggression, but also raise important questions regarding the role of the environment.
Whether monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins differ from each other in a variety of phenotypes is important for genetic twin modeling and for inferences made from twin studies in general. We analyzed whether there were differences in individual, maternal and paternal education between MZ and DZ twins in a large pooled dataset. Information was gathered on individual education for 218,362 adult twins from 27 twin cohorts (53% females; 39% MZ twins), and on maternal and paternal education for 147,315 and 143,056 twins respectively, from 28 twin cohorts (52% females; 38% MZ twins). Together, we had information on individual or parental education from 42 twin cohorts representing 19 countries. The original education classifications were transformed to education years and analyzed using linear regression models. Overall, MZ males had 0.26 (95% CI [0.21, 0.31]) years and MZ females 0.17 (95% CI [0.12, 0.21]) years longer education than DZ twins. The zygosity difference became smaller in more recent birth cohorts for both males and females. Parental education was somewhat longer for fathers of DZ twins in cohorts born in 1990–1999 (0.16 years, 95% CI [0.08, 0.25]) and 2000 or later (0.11 years, 95% CI [0.00, 0.22]), compared with fathers of MZ twins. The results show that the years of both individual and parental education are largely similar in MZ and DZ twins. We suggest that the socio-economic differences between MZ and DZ twins are so small that inferences based upon genetic modeling of twin data are not affected.
We have previously shown that the minor alleles of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) single-nucleotide polymorphism rs833069 and superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) single-nucleotide polymorphism rs2758331 are both associated with improved transplant-free survival after surgery for CHD in infants, but the underlying mechanisms are unknown. We hypothesised that one or both of these minor alleles are associated with better systemic ventricular function, resulting in improved survival.
This study is a follow-up analysis of 422 non-syndromic CHD patients who underwent neonatal cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass. Echocardiographic reports were reviewed. Systemic ventricular function was subjectively categorised as normal, or as mildly, moderately, or severely depressed. The change in function was calculated as the change from the preoperative study to the last available study. Stepwise linear regression, adjusting for covariates, was performed for the outcome of change in ventricular function. Model comparison was performed using Akaike’s information criterion. Only variables that improved the model prediction of change in systemic ventricular function were retained in the final model.
Genetic and echocardiographic data were available for 335/422 subjects (79%). Of them, 33 (9.9%) developed worse systemic ventricular function during a mean follow-up period of 13.5 years. After covariate adjustment, the presence of the VEGFA minor allele was associated with preserved ventricular function (p=0.011).
These data support the hypothesis that the mechanism by which the VEGFA single-nucleotide polymorphism rs833069 minor allele improves survival may be the preservation of ventricular function. Further studies are needed to validate this genotype–phenotype association and to determine whether this mechanism is related to increased vascular endothelial growth factor production.
We trace the social networks around Chinese entrepreneurs back to their firm's founding to learn about the role early events play in the later success of a business. We use name generator questions paired with career history questions to identify ‘event contacts’ missed by the usual focus on current business. We draw four conclusions from interviews with a large, stratified random sample of entrepreneurs: (1) Relations with event contacts stand out for guanxi qualities of high trust relatively independent of the surrounding network structure, and are critical to distinguishing more successful entrepreneurs from the less successful. (2) The substance of a significant event matters less than the fact that the entrepreneur deems it significant. (3) When family is turned to for support it is most likely at founding, but family is not the usual source of support at founding. Rather, entrepreneurs turn to people they have known for many years, typically people beyond the entrepreneur's family. (4) The transition from founding to first significant event stands out as distinctly consequential for later success. Entrepreneurs who turn for help on their first significant event to a person separate from, but especially close to, the founding contact are more successful in their business development. That early move is not visible in the later network around the entrepreneur.
For reasons of social influence and social logistics, people in closed networks are expected to experience time compression: The more closed a person's network, the steeper the person's discount function, and the more narrow the expected time horizon within which the person deliberates events and behavior. Consistent with the hypothesis, data on managers at the top of three organizations show network closure associated with a social life compressed into daily contact with colleagues. Further, language in closed networks is predominantly about current activities, ignoring the future. Further still, discount functions employed by executive MBA students show more severe discounting by students in more closed networks. Inattention to the future can be argued to impair achievement, however, I find no evidence across the managers of daily contact diminishing the achievement associated with network advantage. I close with comments on replication and extrapolation to language more generally, within-person variation, and select cognitive patterns (closure bias, end of history, and felt status loss).
Intending to clear space for rigorous integrative research bridging theory and research across East and West, we highlight four conclusions from exceptional data on the networks around Chinese entrepreneurs: (1) The broker networks associated with business success in the West are also associated with success in China; (2) The trust correlates of closed networks in the West are similarly correlated in China; (3) History and trust proven in events emerge as especially important to the Chinese entrepreneurs; (4) High-quality network data on Chinese business leaders are a practical reality. We use the results to define a network perspective on guanxi ties that can be common ground for integrating results across East and West, and guide future research on the role networks play in Chinese business.
Here is an exercise to try with your students or colleagues regarding wildlife conservation and management. Tell them they are managing an area containing a population of an endangered, charismatic, flagship wildlife species, say mountain nyala in Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia. Invite them to write down the one or two things they would most want to know in order to best manage the population. The answers will vary. Some may inquire into the population size or density; others may want to know what the nyala are eating; others may want to know about the nyalas’ levels of genetic heterozygosity. But what we really want to know is “what is the state of the population in terms of growth rate and relationship to resource density?” “what are the threats to the population?” and “what are the population's prospects for the future?” Are these questions we can answer? Will knowledge of population size or genetics or diet allow us to answer these? Or can answers best be obtained from other information? If so, how can such information be acquired? What are the best indicators?
Ideally, indicators of population well-being must be reliable. Further, they should be easy to measure, respond quickly to environmental change and forecast the future. Measurements of population sizes are frequently used in management decisions and may excel in identifying when small population issues are of concern, but are woefully inadequate as indicators of population processes. Such metrics do not necessarily respond quickly to environmental change. Most populations experience time-lagged dynamics. But time lags mean that density is a trailing indicator of current conditions. We must search elsewhere for leading indicators – indicators that predict the future rather than simply recapitulating the past. Perhaps we can find our indicators in the traits of organisms that have been shaped by evolution (Grafen 1982, Lucas & Grafen 1985, Mitchell & Valone 1990). One attractive class of characteristics comes from foraging theory and measures of behavior (Stephens & Krebs 1986). These can be classified into behavioral indicators based on diet, patch use or habitat selection.
Consider indicators of population well-being further. An example involving the Baltic tellin (Macoma balthica) illustrates this well. Baltic tellins, benthic bivalves from the Dutch Wadden Sea, suffer predation from red knots (Calidris canutus) (van Gils et al. 2009).
We analyzed birth order differences in means and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) in monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins from infancy to old age. The data were derived from the international CODATwins database. The total number of height and BMI measures from 0.5 to 79.5 years of age was 397,466. As expected, first-born twins had greater birth weight than second-born twins. With respect to height, first-born twins were slightly taller than second-born twins in childhood. After adjusting the results for birth weight, the birth order differences decreased and were no longer statistically significant. First-born twins had greater BMI than the second-born twins over childhood and adolescence. After adjusting the results for birth weight, birth order was still associated with BMI until 12 years of age. No interaction effect between birth order and zygosity was found. Only limited evidence was found that birth order influenced variances of height or BMI. The results were similar among boys and girls and also in MZ and DZ twins. Overall, the differences in height and BMI between first- and second-born twins were modest even in early childhood, while adjustment for birth weight reduced the birth order differences but did not remove them for BMI.
A trend toward greater body size in dizygotic (DZ) than in monozygotic (MZ) twins has been suggested by some but not all studies, and this difference may also vary by age. We analyzed zygosity differences in mean values and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) among male and female twins from infancy to old age. Data were derived from an international database of 54 twin cohorts participating in the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins), and included 842,951 height and BMI measurements from twins aged 1 to 102 years. The results showed that DZ twins were consistently taller than MZ twins, with differences of up to 2.0 cm in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.9 cm in adulthood. Similarly, a greater mean BMI of up to 0.3 kg/m2 in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.2 kg/m2 in adulthood was observed in DZ twins, although the pattern was less consistent. DZ twins presented up to 1.7% greater height and 1.9% greater BMI than MZ twins; these percentage differences were largest in middle and late childhood and decreased with age in both sexes. The variance of height was similar in MZ and DZ twins at most ages. In contrast, the variance of BMI was significantly higher in DZ than in MZ twins, particularly in childhood. In conclusion, DZ twins were generally taller and had greater BMI than MZ twins, but the differences decreased with age in both sexes.
Previous studies have shown significant within-person changes in binge eating and emotional eating across the menstrual cycle, with substantial increases in both phenotypes during post-ovulation. Increases in both estradiol and progesterone levels appear to account for these changes in phenotypic risk, possibly via increases in genetic effects. However, to date, no study has examined changes in genetic risk for binge phenotypes (or any other phenotype) across the menstrual cycle. The goal of the present study was to examine within-person changes in genetic risk for emotional eating scores across the menstrual cycle.
Participants were 230 female twin pairs (460 twins) from the Michigan State University Twin Registry who completed daily measures of emotional eating for 45 consecutive days. Menstrual cycle phase was coded based on dates of menstrual bleeding and daily ovarian hormone levels.
Findings revealed important shifts in genetic and environmental influences, where estimates of genetic influences were two times higher in post- as compared with pre-ovulation. Surprisingly, pre-ovulation was marked by a predominance of environmental influences, including shared environmental effects which have not been previously detected for binge eating phenotypes in adulthood.
Our study was the first to examine within-person shifts in genetic and environmental influences on a behavioral phenotype across the menstrual cycle. Results highlight a potentially critical role for these shifts in risk for emotional eating across the menstrual cycle and underscore the need for additional, large-scale studies to identify the genetic and environmental factors contributing to menstrual cycle effects.