The challenge of causal inference in gene-environment interaction research: leveraging research designs from the social sciences

Am J Public Health. 2013 Oct;103 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S42-5. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301290. Epub 2013 Aug 8.


The integration of genetics and the social sciences will lead to a more complex understanding of the articulation between social and biological processes, although the empirical difficulties inherent in this integration are large. One key challenge is the implications of moving "outside the lab" and away from the experimental tools available for research with model organisms. Social science research methods used to examine human behavior in nonexperimental, real-world settings to date have not been fully taken advantage of during this disciplinary integration, especially in the form of gene-environment interaction research. This article outlines and provides examples of several prominent research designs that should be used in gene-environment research and highlights a key benefit to geneticists of working with social scientists.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Causality*
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Genetic Research*
  • Humans
  • Research Design
  • Social Sciences*