Heritability of social cognitive skills in children and adolescents

Br J Psychiatry. 1999 Dec;175:559-64. doi: 10.1192/bjp.175.6.559.

Abstract

Background: Social cognitive skills are those which enable understanding of social situations; they are relevant to a variety of psychiatric disorders including autism, schizophrenia and externalizing behaviour problems in children.

Aims: To examine the heritability of social cognitive skills.

Method: Using a population-based sample of twins aged 5-17, the genetic and environmental influences on social cognitive skills were examined.

Results: Male scores were higher than female scores (P < 0.001), indicating poorer social cognition among males. A heritability of 0.68 (95% CI 0.43-0.78) was found, with shared environmental influences accounting for only 0.05 of the variance (95% CI 0.00-0.28). This could be removed from the model without worsening the fit. There were no significant differences in genetic effects between the genders, but age-related changes were found, with younger twins showing greater genetic influence on social cognition.

Conclusions: Social cognition appears to be under considerable genetic influence in the population and shows significant male-female differences. No gender differences in genetic influences on the variance of scores were found, but the effects of age were significant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / genetics
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment
  • Twins / psychology*