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The Study of Personality Architecture and Dynamics (SPeADy) is a German research project that aims to investigate the sources of interindividual differences in intraindividual personality development. The main focus lies in the dynamic interplay between more stable core characteristics and more environmentally malleable surface characteristics, as well as between personality and life experiences over time. SPeADy includes a twin family study encompassing data from 1962 individuals (age: 14–94) of 682 families, including 570 complete twin pairs (plus 1 triplet set), 327 parents, 236 spouses and 145 children of twins. Data collection started in 2016 and data from the first wave are currently obtainable as open source. Available data comprise a broad range of personality variables, such as personality trait constructs, motives, interests, values, moral foundations, religiosity and self-related concepts. For the currently ongoing second wave of data collection, we added retrospective reports on major life events. Special features of this genetically informative study are the extended twin family data and its longitudinal design. Three assessment waves in 2 years’ intervals are planned until 2022. In this article, we briefly describe the design and contents of the SPeADy twin family study as well as some recent findings, future plans and open science issues.
We investigate the link between genes, psychological traits, and political engagement using a new data set containing information on a large sample of young German twins. The TwinLife Study enables us to examine the predominant model of personality, the Big Five framework, as well as traits that fall outside the Big Five, such as cognitive ability, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the underpinnings of political engagement. Our results support previous work showing genetic overlap between some psychological traits and political engagement. More specifically, we find that cognitive ability and openness to experience are correlated with political engagement and that common genes can explain most of the relationship between these psychological traits and political engagement. Relationships between genes, psychological traits, and political engagement exist even at a fairly young age, which is an important finding given that previous work has relied heavily on older samples to study the link between genes, psychological traits, and political engagement.
A new paradigm has emerged in which both genetic and environmental factors are cited as possible influences on sociopolitical attitudes. Despite the increasing acceptance of this paradigm, several aspects of the approach remain underdeveloped. Specifically, limitations arise from a reliance on a twins-only design, and all previous studies have used self-reports only. There are also questions about the extent to which existing findings generalize cross-culturally. To address those issues, this study examined individual differences in liberalism/conservatism in a German sample that included twins, their parents, and their spouses and incorporated both self- and peer reports. The self-report findings from this extended twin family design were largely consistent with previous research that used that rater perspective, but they provided higher estimates of heritability, shared parental environmental influences, assortative mating, and genotype-environment correlation than the results from peer reports. The implications of these findings for the measurement and understanding of sociopolitical attitudes are explored.
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.
The German twin family study ‘TwinLife’ was designed to enhance our understanding of the development of social inequalities over the life course. The interdisciplinary project investigates mechanisms of social inequalities across the lifespan by taking into account psychological as well as social mechanisms, and their genetic origin as well as the interaction and covariation between these factors. Main characteristics of the study are: (1) a multidimensional perspective on social inequalities, (2) the assessment of developmental trajectories in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood in a longitudinal design by using (3) a combination of a multi-cohort cross-sequential and an extended twin family design, while (4) capturing a large variation of behavioral and environmental factors in a representative sample of about 4,000 German twin families. In the present article, we first introduce the theoretical and empirical background of the TwinLife study, and second, describe the design, content, and implementation of TwinLife. Since the data will be made available as scientific use file, we also illustrate research possibilities provided by this project to the scientific community.
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.
For over 100 years, the genetics of human anthropometric traits has attracted scientific interest. In particular, height and body mass index (BMI, calculated as kg/m2) have been under intensive genetic research. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how heritability estimates vary between human populations. Opportunities to address this question have increased recently because of the establishment of many new twin cohorts and the increasing accumulation of data in established twin cohorts. We started a new research project to analyze systematically (1) the variation of heritability estimates of height, BMI and their trajectories over the life course between birth cohorts, ethnicities and countries, and (2) to study the effects of birth-related factors, education and smoking on these anthropometric traits and whether these effects vary between twin cohorts. We identified 67 twin projects, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, using various sources. We asked for individual level data on height and weight including repeated measurements, birth related traits, background variables, education and smoking. By the end of 2014, 48 projects participated. Together, we have 893,458 height and weight measures (52% females) from 434,723 twin individuals, including 201,192 complete twin pairs (40% monozygotic, 40% same-sex dizygotic and 20% opposite-sex dizygotic) representing 22 countries. This project demonstrates that large-scale international twin studies are feasible and can promote the use of existing data for novel research purposes.
The Bielefeld Longitudinal Study of Adult Twins (BiLSAT) is a German longitudinal study of monozygotic and dizygotic twins reared together, including more than 1,100 twin pairs aged between 14 and 80 who participated in the first wave. Data were collected at five waves of assessment between 1993 and 2009. Initially, the study focused on genetic and environmental influences on the structure and the development in adult temperament and personality. Today, the study includes a broad range of individual variables, such as personality disorders, major life goals, interests, attitudes, values, life and work satisfaction, and major life events. A special feature of this genetically informative study lies in the multiple-rater approach (i.e., self-reports and peer reports). Longitudinal multiple-rater analyses allow researchers to go beyond the basic nature–nurture decomposition of variance in self-reports examining genetic and environmental influences on stability and change in more accurately measured individual attributes. In the current article, we briefly describe the design and contents of BiLSAT as well as some recent major findings and future plans.
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