Bone mineral density (BMD) was measured in 1992-93 in 129 nuclear families, including 258 parents and 183 children, and was analyzed for familial resemblance factors. BMD measurements were adjusted on weight and age. Segregation analysis rejected the monogenic hypothesis and exhibited a strong polygenic component. Variance components analysis was then used to estimate the parameters of a multivariate normal model including an additive polygenic component, a common environment factor, and a residual specific to each individual. The genetic component was independent of sex and age. The common environmental factor was not significant. The variance of the residual specific factor appeared to be a quadratic function of age, reaching its minimum value at 26.4 years. Consequently, the maximum value for heritability (ratio of genetic variance to total variance) is observed at this age (h2 = 0.84). According to this model, the correlation between two relatives is a function of the ages of each individual in the pair.