Sex differences in the heritability of resilience

Twin Res Hum Genet. 2008 Feb;11(1):12-27. doi: 10.1375/twin.11.1.12.


We examine the heritability of psychological resilience among US adults aged 25 to 74 years. Using monozygotic and same sex dizygotic twin pairs from the National Survey of Mid-Life Development in the United States (MIDUS) we show that positive affect is equally heritable among men (h2 = .60) and women (h2 = .59). We then estimate the heritability of positive affect after controlling for an exhaustive list of social and inter-personal stressors, and we operationalize the residual for positive affect as resilience. According to this specification, the heritability of resilience is higher among men (h2 = .52) compared to women (h2 = .38). We show that self-acceptance is one of the most important aspects of psychological functioning that accounts for the heritability of resilience among both men and women. However, compared to women, men appear to derive additional benefits from environmental mastery that may enable otherwise sex-neutral resilient tendencies to manifest.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Twins, Dizygotic
  • Twins, Monozygotic