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: 7.99). 12/1999; 175(6):559-64. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.175.6.559
Source: PubMed


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.

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