Emotional and behavioral problems among female twins: an evaluation of the equal environments assumption

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2002 Jul;41(7):829-37. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200207000-00016.


Objective: To evaluate the equal environments assumption (EEA) of the twin method for mother-reported symptoms of child and adolescent emotional and behavioral problems.

Method: Four emotional and behavioral problem scales (symptoms of separation anxiety disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder) and four environmental similarity measures (sharing friends, sharing classes, dressing alike, and perceived zygosity) were assessed by telephone interviews with the biological mothers of 1,948 female adolescent and young adult twin pairs. The effect of environmental similarity on the magnitude of the monozygotic and dizygotic twin correlations and on the parameter estimates from genetic model-fitting was examined for each symptom scale.

Results: The measures of environmental similarity were not strongly or consistently related to the similarity of twins for mother-reported emotional and behavioral problems. On average, controlling for environmental similarity did not substantially affect estimates of genetic and environmental influences.

Conclusions: These results lend support for the validity of the EEA and suggest that estimates of genetic and environmental influences obtained from twin studies of mother-reported child and adolescent emotional and behavioral problems are not unduly biased by the greater environmental similarity of monozygotic than dizygotic twins.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mood Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mood Disorders / psychology*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / psychology
  • Twins, Monozygotic / psychology*