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Background: Considerable evidence from twin and adoption studies indicates that genetic and shared environmental factors play a role in the initiation of smoking behavior. Although twin and adoption designs are powerful to detect genetic and environmental influences, they do not provide information on the processes of assortative mating and parent–offspring transmission and their contribution to the variability explained by genetic and/or environmental factors. Methods: We examined the role of genetic and environmental factors in individual differences for smoking initiation (SI) using an extended kinship design. This design allows the simultaneous testing of additive and non-additive genetic, shared and individual-specific environmental factors, as well as sex differences in the expression of genes and environment in the presence of assortative mating and combined genetic and cultural transmission, while also estimating the regression of the prevalence of SI on age. A dichotomous lifetime ‘ever’ smoking measure was obtained from twins and relatives in the ‘Virginia 30,000’ sample and the ‘Australian 25,000’. Results: Results demonstrate that both genetic and environmental factors play a significant role in the liability to SI. Major influences on individual differences appeared to be additive genetic and unique environmental effects, with smaller contributions from assortative mating, shared sibling environment, twin environment, cultural transmission, and resulting genotype-environment covariance. Age regression of the prevalence of SI was significant. The finding of negative cultural transmission without dominance led us to investigate more closely two possible mechanisms for the lower parent–offspring correlations compared to the sibling and DZ twin correlations in subsets of the data: (1) age × gene interaction, and (2) social homogamy. Neither of the mechanism provided a significantly better explanation of the data. Conclusions: This study showed significant heritability, partly due to assortment, and significant effects of primarily non-parental shared environment on liability to SI.
Drinking alcohol is a normal behavior in many societies, and prior studies have demonstrated it has both genetic and environmental sources of variation. Using two very large samples of twins and their first-degree relatives (Australia ≈ 20,000 individuals from 8,019 families; Virginia ≈ 23,000 from 6,042 families), we examine whether there are differences: (1) in the genetic and environmental factors that influence four interrelated drinking behaviors (quantity, frequency, age of initiation, and number of drinks in the last week), (2) between the twin-only design and the extended twin design, and (3) the Australian and Virginia samples. We find that while drinking behaviors are interrelated, there are substantial differences in the genetic and environmental architectures across phenotypes. Specifically, drinking quantity, frequency, and number of drinks in the past week have large broad genetic variance components, and smaller but significant environmental variance components, while age of onset is driven exclusively by environmental factors. Further, the twin-only design and the extended twin design come to similar conclusions regarding broad-sense heritability and environmental transmission, but the extended twin models provide a more nuanced perspective. Finally, we find a high level of similarity between the Australian and Virginian samples, especially for the genetic factors. The observed differences, when present, tend to be at the environmental level. Implications for the extended twin model and future directions are discussed.
The genetic and social causes of individual differences in attitudes to gun control are estimated in a sample of senior male and female twin pairs in the United States. Genetic and environmental parameters were estimated by weighted least squares applied to polychoric correlations for monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins of both sexes. The analysis suggests twin similarity for attitudes to gun control in men is entirely genetic while that in women is purely social. Although the volunteer sample is small, the analysis illustrates how the well-tested concepts and methods of genetic epidemiology may be a fertile resource for deepening our scientific understanding of biological and social pathways that affect individual risk to gun violence.
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.
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.
The public health burden of alcohol is unevenly distributed across the life course, with levels of use, abuse, and dependence increasing across adolescence and peaking in early adulthood. Here, we leverage this temporal patterning to search for common genetic variants predicting developmental trajectories of alcohol consumption. Comparable psychiatric evaluations measuring alcohol consumption were collected in three longitudinal community samples (N = 2,126, obs = 12,166). Consumption-repeated measurements spanning adolescence and early adulthood were analyzed using linear mixed models, estimating individual consumption trajectories, which were then tested for association with Illumina 660W-Quad genotype data (866,099 SNPs after imputation and QC). Association results were combined across samples using standard meta-analysis methods. Four meta-analysis associations satisfied our pre-determined genome-wide significance criterion (FDR < 0.1) and six others met our ‘suggestive’ criterion (FDR <0.2). Genome-wide significant associations were highly biological plausible, including associations within GABA transporter 1, SLC6A1 (solute carrier family 6, member 1), and exonic hits in LOC100129340 (mitofusin-1-like). Pathway analyses elaborated single marker results, indicating significant enriched associations to intuitive biological mechanisms, including neurotransmission, xenobiotic pharmacodynamics, and nuclear hormone receptors (NHR). These findings underscore the value of combining longitudinal behavioral data and genome-wide genotype information in order to study developmental patterns and improve statistical power in genomic studies.
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.
Objective: Despite an increasing recognition that psychiatric disorders can be diagnosed as early as preschool, little is known how early genetic and environmental risk factors contribute to the development of psychiatric disorders during this very early period of development. Method: We assessed infant temperament at age 1, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and separation anxiety disorder (SAD) at ages 3 through 5 years in a sample of Hispanic twins. Genetic, shared, and non-shared environmental effects were estimated for each temperamental construct and psychiatric disorder using the statistical program MX. Multivariate genetic models were fitted to determine whether the same or different sets of genes and environments account for the co-occurrence between early temperament and preschool psychiatric disorders. Results: Additive genetic factors accounted for 61% of the variance in ADHD, 21% in ODD, and 28% in SAD. Shared environmental factors accounted for 34% of the variance in ODD and 15% of SAD. The genetic influence on difficult temperament was significantly associated with preschool ADHD, SAD, and ODD. The association between ODD and SAD was due to both genetic and family environmental factors. The temperamental trait of resistance to control was entirely accounted for by the shared family environment. Conclusions: There are different genetic and family environmental pathways between infant temperament and psychiatric diagnoses in this sample of Puerto Rican preschool age children.
Little is known regarding the underlying relationship between smoking initiation and current quantity smoked during adolescence into young adulthood. It is possible that the influences of genetic and environmental factors on this relationship vary across sex and age. To investigate this further, the current study applied a common causal contingency model to data from a Virginia-based twin study to determine: (1) if the same genetic and environmental factors are contributing to smoking initiation and current quantity smoked; (2) whether the magnitude of genetic and environmental factor contributions are the same across adolescence and young adulthood; and (3) if qualitative and quantitative differences in the sources of variance between males and females exist. Study results found no qualitative or quantitative sex differences in the relationship between smoking initiation and current quantity smoked, though relative contributions of genetic and environmental factors changed across adolescence and young adulthood. More specifically, smoking initiation and current quantity smoked remain separate constructs until young adulthood, when liabilities are correlated. Smoking initiation is explained by genetic, shared, and unique environmental factors in early adolescence and by genetic and unique environmental factors in young adulthood; while current quantity smoked is explained by shared environmental and unique environmental factors until young adulthood, when genetic and unique environmental factors play a larger role.
The analysis of genetic and environmental contributions to preterm birth is not straightforward in family studies, as etiology could involve both maternal and fetal genes. Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods are presented as a flexible approach for defining user-specified covariance structures to handle multiple random effects and hierarchical dependencies inherent in children of twin (COT) studies of pregnancy outcomes. The proposed method is easily modified to allow for the study of gestational age as a continuous trait and as a binary outcome reflecting the presence or absence of preterm birth. Estimation of fetal and maternal genetic factors and the effect of the environment are demonstrated using MCMC methods implemented in WinBUGS and maximum likelihood methods in a Virginia COT sample comprising 7,061 births. In summary, although the contribution of maternal and fetal genetic factors was supported using both outcomes, additional births and/or extended relationships are required to precisely estimate both genetic effects simultaneously. We anticipate the flexibility of MCMC methods to handle increasingly complex models to be of particular relevance for the study of birth outcomes.
Considerable evidence from twin and adoption studies indicates that both genetic and shared environmental factors play a substantial role in the liability to antisocial behavior. Although twin and adoption designs can resolve genetic and environmental influences, they do not provide information about assortative mating, parent–offspring transmission, or the contribution of these factors to trait variation. We examined the role of genetic and environmental factors for conduct disorder (CD) using a twin–parent design. This design allows the simultaneous estimation of additive genetic, shared and individual-specific environmental effects, as well as sex differences in the expression of genes and environment in the presence of assortative mating and combined genetic and cultural transmission. A retrospective measure of CD was obtained from twins and their parents or guardians in the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavior Development and its Young Adult Follow up sample. Both genetic and environmental factors play a significant role in the liability to CD. Major influences on individual differences appeared to be additive genetic (38%–40%) and unique environmental (39%–42%) effects, with smaller contributions from the shared environment (18%–23%), assortative mating (~2%), cultural transmission (~2%) and resulting genotype-environment covariance. This study showed significant heritability, which is slightly increased by assortative mating, and significant effects of primarily nonparental shared environment on CD.
The classical twin design uses data on the variation of and covariation between monozygotic and dizygotic twins to infer underlying genetic and environmental causes of phenotypic variation in the population. By using data from additional relative classes, such as parents, extended twin family designs more comprehensively describe the causes of phenotypic variation. This article introduces an extension of previous extended twin family models, the Cascade model, which uses information on twins as well as their siblings, spouses, parents, and children to differentiate two genetic and six environmental sources of phenotypic variation. The Cascade also relaxes assumptions regarding mating and cultural transmission that existed in previous extended twin family designs. The estimation of additional parameters and relaxation of assumptions is potentially important, not only because it allows more fine-grained descriptions of the causes of phenotypic variation, but more importantly, because it can reduce the biases in parameter estimates that exist in earlier designs.
Research has consistently shown that religiousness is associated with lower levels of alcohol and drug use, but little is known about the nature of adolescent religiousness or the mechanisms through which it influences problem behavior in this age group. This paper presents preliminary results from the Mid-Atlantic School Age Twin Study, a prospective, population-based study of 6–18-year-old twins and their mothers. Factor analysis of a scale developed to characterize adolescent religiousness, the Religious Attitudes and Practices Inventory (RAPI), revealed three factors: theism, religious/spiritual practices, and peer religiousness. Twin correlations and univariate behavior-genetic models for these factors and a measure of belief that drug use is sinful reveal in 357 twin pairs that common environmental factors significantly influence these traits, but a minor influence of genetic factors could not be discounted. Correlations between the multiple factors of adolescent religiousness and substance use, comorbid problem behavior, mood disorders, and selected risk factors for substance involvement are also presented. Structural equation modeling illustrates that specific religious beliefs about the sinfulness of drugs and level of peer religiousness mediate the relationship between theistic beliefs and religious/spiritual practices on substance use. Limitations and future analyses are discussed.
Religious attendance has been shown to correlate negatively with alcohol use. We investigated whether this relationship is driven by genetic or environmental factors. Data on frequency of church attendance and frequency of alcohol use were obtained from twins and their families in the Virginia 30 000 study. A comprehensive bivariate model of family resemblance was fitted to the data using Mx. This model is described in detail. Results indicate that genetic factors primarily account for the relationship between alcohol and church attendance in males, whilst shared environmental factors, including cultural transmission and genotype-environment covariance, are stronger determinants of this association in females.
Several studies report apparent sibling contrast effects in analyses of twin resemblance. In the presence of genetic differences, contrast effects reduce the dizygotic (DZ) twin correlation relative to that in monozygotic (MZ) twins and produce higher DZ than MZ variance. Explanations of contrast effects are typically cast in terms of direct social interaction between twins or an artifact of the process of rating children by their parents. We outline a model for sibling imitation and contrast effects that depends on social interaction between parents and children. In addition to predicting the observed pattern of twin variances and covariances, the parental mediation of child imitation and contrast effects leads to differences in the variance of parents of MZ and DZ twins and differences between the correlations of parents with their MZ and DZ children.
Three dimensions of temperament — difficult temperament, unadaptablility and unsociability — were assessed in the first year of life by maternal interview in twins born in Puerto Rico during 2001 and 2002. Eight hundred and sixty-five eligible mothers (80%) were traced and interviewed. Model- fitting results showed that additive genetic factors and the individual specific environment contributed to variation in all three dimensions. In addition, the pattern of variances and correlations suggested that sibling contrast effects influence ratings of difficult temperament. Moderate effects of the shared environment contributed to ratings of adaptability and sociability. There was a significant genetic correlation between difficult temperament and unadaptability. Genetic and environmental effects do not differ significantly between boys and girls. The study is the first population-based study of Puerto Rican twins and one of few to attempt the assessment of behavior in the first year. Preliminary results for difficult temperament and sociability were consistent with those in other populations and ages. In contrast, a significant effect of the shared environment on the temperamental trait of unadaptability has not been reported previously.
The objective was to investigate the genetic epidemiology of figural stimuli. Standard figural stimuli were available from 5,325 complete twin pairs: 1,751 (32.9%) were monozygotic females, 1,068 (20.1%) were dizygotic females, 752 (14.1%) were monozygotic males, 495 (9.3%) were dizygotic males, and 1,259 (23.6%) were dizygotic male-female pairs. Univariate twin analyses were used to examine the influences on the individual variation in current body size and ideal body size. These data were analysed separately for men and women in each of five age groups. A factorial analysis of variance, with polychoric correlations between twin pairs as the dependent variable, and age, sex, zygosity, and the three interaction terms (age x sex, age x zygosity, sex x zygosity) as independent variables, was used to examine trends across the whole data set. Results showed genetic influences had the largest impact on the individual variation in current body size measures, whereas non-shared environmental influences were associated with the majority of individual variation in ideal body size. There was a significant main effect of zygosity (heritability) in predicting polychoric correlations for current body size and body dissatisfaction. There was a significant main effect of gender and zygosity in predicting ideal body size, with a gender x zygosity interaction. In common with BMI, heritability is important in influencing the estimation of current body size. Selection of desired body size for both men and women is more strongly influenced by environmental factors.
The children of twins (COT) design has been proposed as an alternative to the adoption study to resolve the direct effects of parental treatment from secondary parent–child association due to genetic factors. The basic analytical approach compares the parent–offspring correlation with the correlation between children and the monozygotic (MZ) twins of their parents. We show that a significant difference between these correlations does not imply direct environmental causality when the measured parental treatment in question is dyadic, that is, influenced by both parents even when mating is random. Nongenetic causal effects yield very similar patterns of correlation to secondary genetic effects on dyadic treatment variables. The fact that many candidate environments, such as parental divorce, are dyadic gives reason to question the interpretation of their correlations with behavior in the children of twins.
New large-sample data show that non-additive genetic effects, probably epistatic interactions between loci, and sex-limited gene expression are significant features of the genetic architecture of human personality as measured by questionnaire scales of extraversion and neuroticism. Three large data sets – new data on large samples (n = 20 554) of US twins, their spouses, parents, siblings and children, correlations for Australian twins (n = 7 532), and previously published twin data from Finland (n = 14 288) – are subjected to an integrated analysis to test alternative hypotheses about the genetic causes of family resemblance in personality. When allowance is made for differences in reliability of the scales, the combined data are consistent with the same model for variation. There are significant amounts of genetic non-additivity for both dimensions of personality. The evidence favours additive × additive epistatic interactions rather than dominance. In the case of neuroticism, there is especially strong evidence of sex differences in genetic architecture favouring a greater relative contribution of non-additive genetic effects in males. The data confirm previous claims to find no major contribution of the shared environment of twins and siblings to these dimensions of personality. Correlations between spouses are zero, and the correlations for very large samples of siblings and non-identical twins do not differ significantly.
Measures of self-transcendence, physical health and psychological well-being were included in a self-report Health and Lifestyle questionnaire administered to Australian twins aged over 50 between 1993 and 1995. Self-transcendence appears to be higher among older Australian women than men, and was significantly associated with religious affiliation, marital status (in women) and age (in men). No strong correlations were observed between self-transcendence and any measure of psychological or physical health. Additive genetic effects were found to be important in influencing self-transcendence, with heritability estimates of 0.37 and 0.41 for men and women respectively, whilst shared environment effects were not found to be significant. Multivariate modelling of self-transcendence scores and self-reported church attendance behavior indicated substantially different etiologies for these variables, with implications for methods of investigation of religiosity and spirituality.