Emergence of a Gene x socioeconomic status interaction on infant mental ability between 10 months and 2 years

Psychol Sci. 2011 Jan;22(1):125-33. doi: 10.1177/0956797610392926. Epub 2010 Dec 17.


Recent research in behavioral genetics has found evidence for a Gene × Environment interaction on cognitive ability: Individual differences in cognitive ability among children raised in socioeconomically advantaged homes are primarily due to genes, whereas environmental factors are more influential for children from disadvantaged homes. We investigated the developmental origins of this interaction in a sample of 750 pairs of twins measured on the Bayley Short Form test of infant mental ability, once at age 10 months and again at age 2 years. A Gene × Environment interaction was evident on the longitudinal change in mental ability over the study period. At age 10 months, genes accounted for negligible variation in mental ability across all levels of socioeconomic status (SES). However, genetic influences emerged over the course of development, with larger genetic influences emerging for infants raised in higher-SES homes. At age 2 years, genes accounted for nearly 50% of the variation in mental ability of children raised in high-SES homes, but genes continued to account for negligible variation in mental ability of children raised in low-SES homes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aptitude Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Biometry / methods
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior / psychology
  • Intelligence / genetics*
  • Male
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Social Environment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Twins / genetics
  • Twins / psychology