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Using DNA from mothers and children to study parental investment in children's educational attainment

By Jasmin Wertz, Terrie E. Moffitt, Jessica Agnew-Blais, Louise Arseneault, DW Belsky, David L Corcoran, Renate Houts, Timothy Matthews, Joseph A Prinz, Leah S. Richmond-Rakerd, Karen Sugden, Benjamin Williams, Avshalom Caspi

Posted 09 Dec 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/489781 (published DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13329)

This study tested implications of new genetic discoveries for understanding the association between parental investment and children's educational attainment. A novel design matched genetic data from 860 British mothers and their children with home-visit measures of parenting: the E-Risk Study. Three findings emerged. First, both mothers' and children's education-associated genetics, summarized in a genome-wide polygenic score, predicted parenting -- a gene-environment correlation. Second, accounting for genetic influences slightly reduced associations between parenting and children's attainment -- indicating some genetic confounding. Third, mothers' genetics influenced children's attainment over and above genetic mother-to-child transmission, via cognitively-stimulating parenting -- an environmentally-mediated effect. Findings imply that, when interpreting parents' effects on children, environmentalists must consider genetic transmission, but geneticists must also consider environmental transmission.

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