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Evidence suggests that the 7-repeat variant of a 48 base pair variable number tandem repeat polymorphism in the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene may be associated with the development of attention problems. A parallel literature suggests that genes linked to dopaminergic functioning may be associated with differential sensitivity to context, such that the direction of the genetic effect is hypothesized to vary across environmental experience. Guided by these literatures, we used data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development to consider (a) whether individual differences in children's inattention problems across middle childhood are predicted by gene–environment interactions between the DRD4 gene 7-repeat polymorphism and children's experiences of maternal sensitivity across infancy and early childhood and (b) the degree to which such interactions are consistent with the differential-sensitivity model. Largely consistent with the hypothesized model, gene–environment interactions indicated that, in the context of insensitive early maternal care, the DRD4 7-repeat polymorphism was associated with higher levels of inattention. Although somewhat less consistently, there was also evidence that, in the context of highly sensitive care, the 7-repeat polymorphism was associated with lower levels of inattention. Overall, the magnitude of the absolute genetic effect increased over time, as children's inattention trajectories diverged.
The Russian School Twin Registry (RSTR) was established in 2012, supported by a grant from the Government of the Russian Federation. The main aim of the registry is to contribute to Progress in Education through Gene-Environment Studies (PROGRESS). The formation of the registry is ongoing and it is expected that most schools in the Russian Federation (approximately 50,000 schools) will contribute data to the registry. With a total of 13.7 million students in Grades 1–11 (ages 7–18), the potential number of twin pairs exceeds 100,000. Apart from the large sample size and its representative nature, the RSTR has one unique feature: in collaboration with the International Advisory Committee to the Registry, genetically sensitive cross-cultural investigations are planned, aided by the use of the common assessment instruments. Other strengths of the registry include the assessment of a large sample of non-twin school children, including those studying in the same classes as the twins in the registry. It is hoped that the RSTR will provide an important research platform for national and international educationally relevant research.
Previous research documented a robust link between difficulties in self-regulation and development of externalizing problems (i.e., aggression and delinquency). In this study, we examined the longitudinal additive and interactive genetic and environmental covariation underlying this well-established link using a twin design. The sample included 131 pairs of monozygotic twins and 173 pairs of same-sex dizygotic twins who participated in three waves of annual assessment. Mothers and fathers provided reports of externalizing problems. Teacher report and observer rating were used to assess twin's attention regulation. The etiology underlying the link between externalizing problems and attention regulation shifted from a common genetic mechanism to a common environmental mechanism in the transition across middle childhood. Household chaos moderated the genetic variance of and covariance between externalizing problems and attention regulation. The genetic influence on individual differences in both externalizing problems and attention regulation was stronger in more chaotic households. However, higher levels of household chaos attenuated the genetic link between externalizing problems and attention regulation.
A previous publication reported the etiology of mathematics performance in 7-year-old twins (Oliver et al., 2004). As part of the same longitudinal study we investigated low mathematics performance and normal variation in a representative United Kingdom sample of 1713 same-sex 9-year-old twins based on teacher-assessed National Curriculum standards. Univariate individual differences and DeFries-Fulker extremes analyses were performed. Similar to our results at 7 years, all mathematics scores at 9 years showed high heritability (.62–.75) and low shared environmental estimates (.00–.11) for both the low performance group and the full sample. Longitudinal analyses were performed from 7 to 9 years. These longitudinal analyses indicated strong genetic continuity from 7 to 9 years for both low performance and mathematics in the normal range. We conclude that, despite the considerable differences in mathematics curricula from 7 to 9 years, the same genetic effects largely operate at the two ages.
A parental report questionnaire posted to a population sample of 18-month-old twins correctly assigned zygosity in 95%of cases when validated against zygosity determined by identity of polymorphic DNA markers. The questionnaire was as accurate when readministered at 3 years of age, with 96% of children being assigned the same zygosity on both occasions. The results validate the use of parental report questionnaire data to determine zygosity in infancy. Twin Research (2000) 3, 129–133.
More than a century ago, Francis Galton, the father of behavioural genetics, coined the scientific use of the phrase nature–nurture. He believed that ability, especially individual differences in intelligence, is due primarily to nature rather than nurture, as implied by the title of his earliest and most famous work, Hereditary Genius (1869). In a paper on twins, he declared that ‘there is no escape from the conclusion that nature prevails enormously over nurture’ (1875. p. 404).
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