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Investigating the longitudinal consistency and genetic architecture of non-cognitive skills, and their relation to educational attainment

By Tim T Morris, George Davey Smith, Gerard van Den Berg, Neil M Davies

Posted 14 Nov 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/470682

Non-cognitive skills predict a range of socioeconomic outcomes including educational attainment and employment. Many studies have used cross sectional data and therefore the longitudinal consistency of non-cognitive skills are poorly understood. Using data from a UK cohort, we assess (1) the consistency of non-cognitive skills over a 17-year period throughout childhood, (2) their associations with educational outcomes, and (3) their genomic architecture. Consistency over time is high for behavioural and communication skills but low for others, implicating a high noise to signal ratio for many non-cognitive skills. Associations between non-cognitive skills and educational outcomes are observed for skills measured in mid to late childhood and are at most a third of the size of IQ-education associations. Consistent non-zero heritability estimates and genetic correlations with education are observed only for behavioural difficulties. Our results suggest caution in the use of non-cognitive measures as consistent indicators of underlying skills during early childhood.

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