A religious upbringing reduces the influence of genetic factors on disinhibition: evidence for interaction between genotype and environment on personality

Twin Res. 1999 Jun;2(2):115-25. doi: 10.1375/136905299320565988.


Information on personality, on anxiety and depression and on several aspects of religion was collected in 1974 Dutch families consisting of adolescent and young adult twins and their parents. Analyses of these data showed that differences between individuals in religious upbringing, in religious affiliation and in participation in church activities are not influenced by genetic factors. The familial resemblance for different aspects of religion is high, but can be explained entirely by environmental influences common to family members. Shared genes do not contribute to familial resemblances in religion. The absence of genetic influences on variation in several dimensions of religion is in contrast to findings of genetic influences on a large number of other traits that were studied in these twin families. Differences in religious background are associated with differences in personality, especially in Sensation Seeking. Subjects with a religious upbringing, who are currently religious and who engage in church activities score lower on the scales of the Sensation Seeking Questionnaire. The most pronounced effect is on the Disinhibition scale. The resemblances between twins for the Disinhibition scale differ according to their religious upbringing. Receiving a religious upbringing seems to reduce the influence of genetic factors on Disinhibition, especially in males.

Publication types

  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / genetics
  • Attitude*
  • Behavior*
  • Depression / genetics
  • Environment*
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Netherlands
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Personality / genetics*
  • Religion*
  • Sex Factors
  • Twins / genetics*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics