Comparing the biological and cultural inheritance of personality and social attitudes in the Virginia 30 000 study of twins and their relatives

Lindon Eaves, Andrew Heath, Nicholas Martin, Hermine Maes, Michael Neale, Kenneth Kendler, Katherine Kirk, Linda Corey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Measures of four dimensions of personality (Psychoticism, Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Lie scores) and six aspects of social attitudes (to sex, taxation, militarism, politics, religion and a general conservatism scale) were obtained by mailed questionnaire from 29691 US subjects including adult twins (n ; 14761) tbeir parents (n ; 2360), their spouses (n ; 4391), siblings (n ; 3184) and adult children (n ; 4800). After correction for the average effects of age, sex and source of sample, familial correlations were computed for 80 distinct biological and social relationships. Tbe data allow for the estimation of the additive and non-additive effects of genes. assortative mating, vertical cultural inheritance and other non~parental effects of the shared environment on differences in personality and social attitudes. The interaction of genetic and environmental effects with sex may also be analyzed. Model-filting analyses show that personality and social attitude measures differ markedly in major features of family resemblance. Additive and dominant genetic effects contribute to differences in both personality and attitudes, but the effects of the family environment, including vertical cultural transmission from parent to child, are much more marked for social attitudes than for personality. There is substantial assortative mating for social attitudes and almost none for personality. The causes of family resemblance depend significantly on sex for almost every variable studied. These findings clarify and extend the more tentative findings derived from previous twin, family and adoption studies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Science of Mental Health
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 7: Personality and Personality Disorder
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781136767562
ISBN (Print)0815337434, 9780815337508
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Assortative mating
  • Attitudes
  • Behavior genetics
  • Cultural transmission
  • Heritability
  • Personality
  • Sex differences
  • Twins


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