Identical Twin Studies

Identical Twin Studies

Twin studies are one of a family of designs in behaviour genetics which aid the study of individual differences by highlighting the role of environmental and genetic causes on behaviour. Twins are invaluable for studying these important questions because they disentangle the sharing of genes and environments. If we observe that children in a family are more similar than might be expected by chance, this may reflect shared environmental influences common to members of family —class, parenting styles, education etc.— but they will also reflect shared genes, inherited from parents.

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Twin Studies
Twin studies ramify into genetic, embryological, biochemical, immunological, behavioural, anthropological, psychological, and sociological aspects. For very obvious reasons, studies of twins are with almost no exceptions observational. This contrasts with, for instance, studies in plants or in animal breeding where the effects of experimentally randomized genotypes and environment combinations are measured. In human studies, we observe rather than control the exposure of individuals to different environments.
Assumptions in Twin Designs
Assumptions in Twin Designs
Instead of using twins, this group took advantage of the fact that while siblings on average share 50% of their genes, the actual gene-sharing for individual sibling pairs varies around this value, essentially creating a continuum of genetic similarity or "twinness" within families. Estimates of heritability based on direct estimates of gene sharing confirm those from the twin method, providing support for the assumptions of the method in the domains of cognition, personality, and psychopathology.
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