Heritability of social cognitive skills in children and adolescents

Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff.
The British Journal of Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 7.34). 12/1999; 175:559-64. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.175.6.559
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Social cognitive skills are those which enable understanding of social situations; they are relevant to a variety of psychiatric disorders including autism, schizophrenia and externalizing behaviour problems in children.
To examine the heritability of social cognitive skills.
Using a population-based sample of twins aged 5-17, the genetic and environmental influences on social cognitive skills were examined.
Male scores were higher than female scores (P < 0.001), indicating poorer social cognition among males. A heritability of 0.68 (95% CI 0.43-0.78) was found, with shared environmental influences accounting for only 0.05 of the variance (95% CI 0.00-0.28). This could be removed from the model without worsening the fit. There were no significant differences in genetic effects between the genders, but age-related changes were found, with younger twins showing greater genetic influence on social cognition.
Social cognition appears to be under considerable genetic influence in the population and shows significant male-female differences. No gender differences in genetic influences on the variance of scores were found, but the effects of age were significant.

1 Follower
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin are evolutionarily conserved regulators of social perception and behavior. Evidence is building that they are critically involved in the development of social recognition skills within rodent species, primates, and humans. We investigated whether common polymorphisms in the genes encoding the oxytocin and vasopressin 1a receptors influence social memory for faces. Our sample comprised 198 families, from the United Kingdom and Finland, in whom a single child had been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Previous research has shown that impaired social perception, characteristic of autism, extends to the first-degree relatives of autistic individuals, implying heritable risk. Assessments of face recognition memory, discrimination of facial emotions, and direction of gaze detection were standardized for age (7-60 y) and sex. A common SNP in the oxytocin receptor (rs237887) was strongly associated with recognition memory in combined probands, parents, and siblings after correction for multiple comparisons. Homozygotes for the ancestral A allele had impairments in the range -0.6 to -1.15 SD scores, irrespective of their diagnostic status. Our findings imply that a critical role for the oxytocin system in social recognition has been conserved across perceptual boundaries through evolution, from olfaction in rodents to visual memory in humans.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 12/2013; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1302985111 · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Despite their genetic similarity to humans, our understanding of the role of genes on cognitive traits in chimpanzees remains virtually unexplored. Here, we examined the relationship between genetic variation in the arginine vasopressin V1a receptor gene (AVPR1A) and social cognition in chimpanzees. Studies have shown that chimpanzees are polymorphic for a deletion in a sequence in the 5' flanking region of the AVPR1A, DupB, which contains the variable RS3 repetitive element, which has been associated with variation in social behavior in humans. Results revealed that performance on the social cognition task was significantly heritable. Furthermore, males with one DupB(+) allele performed significantly better and were more responsive to socio-communicative cues than males homozygous for the DupB- deletion. Performance on a non-social cognition task was not associated with the AVPR1A genotype. The collective findings show that AVPR1A polymorphisms are associated with individual differences in performance on a receptive joint attention task in chimpanzees.
    Scientific Reports 01/2014; 4:3774. DOI:10.1038/srep03774 · 5.08 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: To assess heterogeneity in the influence of genetic variation on educational attainment across environmental contexts, we present a meta-analysis of heritability estimates in fifteen samples and thirty-four subgroups differing by nationality, sex, and birth cohort. We find that heritability, shared environment, and unshared environment each explain a substantial percentage of the variance in attainment across all countries, with between-sample heterogeneity in all three variance components. Although we observe only meager differences in the total family effect by cohort or sex, we observe large cohort and sex differences in the composition of the family effect, consistent with a history of higher heritability of educational attainment for males and for individuals born in the latter half of the twentieth century. Heritability also varies significantly by nation, with the direction of variation specific by sample. [End Page 109] We find a markedly larger impact of shared environment on attainment than has been found for other social outcomes, with the percent of variation in attainment attributable to shared environment exceeding the percent attributable to heritability in one-third of the studies in our sample. Our findings demonstrate the heritability of educational attainment to be environmentally contingent, affirm the widespread and enduring role of shared environment in determining ultimate socioeconomic attainment, and emphasize the importance of considering behavioral genetics techniques in models of social mobility.
    Social Forces 08/2013; 92(1):109-140. DOI:10.1093/sf/sot076 · 1.29 Impact Factor


Available from