Religious Attendance Moderates the Environmental Effect on Prosocial Behavior in Nigerian Adolescents

Twin Res Hum Genet. 2019 Feb;22(1):42-47. doi: 10.1017/thg.2018.71. Epub 2019 Jan 21.


There is a growing body of literature linking religious attendance to prosocial behavior (PB). The main purposes of the present study were to estimate genetic and environmental influences on the frequency of religious attendance (FRA) and to explore whether and how FRA moderates genetic and/or environmental influences on PB. As part of the Nigerian Twin and Sibling Study, 2860 (280 monozygotic male, 417 monozygotic female, 544 dizygotic male, 699 dizygotic female, and 920 opposite-sex dizygotic) twins (mean age = 14.2 years; SD = 1.7 years; age range = 12-18 years) completed a questionnaire regarding FRA and a PB scale. Similar to the findings from western twin samples, FRA showed substantial shared environmental influences of 74% (95% CI = 69%, 78%), with absence of genetic effects. The phenotypic correlation between FRA and PB was modest but positive and significant (r = .12; p < .01), suggesting that PB is higher among more frequent attenders than among less frequent attenders. The results of gene-environment (G × E) interaction model-fitting analysis revealed that FRA changed individual environmental experiences rather than genetic effects on PB such that while genetic variance was stable, non-shared environmental variance declined, leading the total phenotypic variance of PB to decrease with increasing levels of religious attendance.

Keywords: Africans; G × E interaction model; adolescence; prosocial behavior; religious attendance; twin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Nigeria
  • Religion*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics*
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics*