The complexity of personality: advantages of a genetically sensitive multi-group design

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

March 15, 2012


Findings from many behavioral genetic studies utilizing the classical twin design suggest that genetic and non-shared environmental effects play a significant role in human personality traits. This study focuses on the methodological advantages of extending the sampling frame to include multiple dyads of relatives. We investigated the sensitivity of heritability estimates to the inclusion of sibling pairs, mother–child pairs and grandparent–grandchild pairs from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study in addition to a classical German twin sample consisting of monozygotic- and dizygotic twins. The resulting dataset contained 1.308 pairs, including 202 monozygotic and 147 dizygotic twin pairs, along with 419 sibling pairs, 438 mother–child dyads, and 102 grandparent–child dyads. This genetically sensitive multi-group design allowed the simultaneous testing of additive and non-additive genetic, common and specific environmental effects, including cultural transmission and twin-specific environmental influences. Using manifest and latent modeling of phenotypes (i.e., controlling for measurement error), we compare results from the extended sample with those from the twin sample alone and discuss implications for future research.

Published in

Behavior Genetics

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 42 , p.221 -233






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