The winding roads to adulthood: a twin study
Amy E Packer,
Andrea G. Allegrini,
Philip S Dale,
Thalia C. Eley,
Posted 17 Feb 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.02.16.431456
Posted 17 Feb 2021
In the 21st century, emerging adulthood has stretched from the late teens through the twenties. Although this extended transition to adulthood can create stress, it can also offer opportunities to explore vocations and relationships that provide a better fit to individuals proclivities, including their genetic propensities. Here we report the results of the first systematic investigation of genetic and environmental influences on 57 psychological traits covering major issues in emerging adulthood such as aspirations, thoughts and attitudes, relationships and personality. We also investigate how these traits relate to physical and mental health, educational attainment and wellbeing using a sample of nearly 5000 pairs of UK twins aged 21-25 from the Twins Early Development Study. All 57 traits showed significant genetic influence, with an average heritability of 34% (SNP heritability ~10%). Most of the variance (59% on average) was explained by non-shared environmental influences. These diverse traits were associated with mental health (average correlation .20), wellbeing (.16), physical health (.12) and educational attainment (.06). Shared genetic factors explained the majority of these correlations (~50%). Together, these emerging adulthood traits explained on average 30% of the variance in the outcomes (range = 8 to 69%), suggesting that these traits relate to the outcomes additively. We conclude that the environmental uncertainties of emerging adulthood in the 21st century do not diminish the importance of genetics. As adolescents travel down long and winding roads to adulthood, their trip is substantially influenced by genetic proclivities that nudge them down different paths leading to different destinations.
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