Genetic and environmental influences on age at sexual initiation in the Colorado Adoption Project

Behav Genet. 2006 Nov;36(6):820-32. doi: 10.1007/s10519-006-9079-2. Epub 2006 May 19.


Whereas the majority of research on adolescent sexual initiation has focused solely on environmental factors, the present study used behavioral genetic analyses to investigate the relative contributions of genetic and environmental influences. Structural equation models were fitted to data from adoptive and non-adoptive sibling pairs (231 biologically related pairs and 169 unrelated pairs) from the Colorado Adoption Project. Information from censored individuals who had not yet experienced sexual initiation was maximized by adapting the twin survival analysis method of Pickles et al. (Behav Genet 24(5):457-468, 1994) to accommodate adoptive and non-adoptive siblings. Point estimates of variance components from an ACE model, including additive genetic (A), shared environmental (C), and non-shared environmental (E) influences were 28%, 24%, and 48%, respectively. Despite the lower point estimate for shared environmental effects than additive genetic effects, a CE model provided the best fit to the data. However, because adoptive siblings provide a direct estimate of shared environmental influences there is greater power to detect shared environmental effects in adoption designs. Evidence for genetic influences from our data were somewhat lower than those obtained in previous twin studies, possibly reflecting a return to more socially conservative sexual attitudes, changing sexual behaviors, or ambiguities in the wording of questions commonly used in research on adolescent sexuality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adoption*
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Colorado
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Siblings
  • Twins, Dizygotic
  • Twins, Monozygotic