Genetic and environmental contributions to IQ in adoptive and biological families with 30-year-old offspring

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While adoption studies have provided key insights into the influence of the familial environment on IQ scores of adolescents and children, few have followed adopted offspring long past the time spent living in the family home. To improve confidence about the extent to which shared environment exerts enduring effects on IQ, we estimated genetic and environmental effects on adulthood IQ in a unique sample of 486 biological and adoptive families. These families, tested previously on measures of IQ when offspring averaged age 15, were assessed a second time nearly two decades later ( M offspring age = 32 years). We estimated the proportions of the variance in IQ attributable to environmentally mediated effects of parental IQs, sibling-specific shared environment, and gene-environment covariance to be .01 [95% CI .00, .02], .04 [95% CI .00, .15], and .03 [95% CI .00, .07] respectively; these components jointly accounted for 8 percent of the IQ variance in adulthood. The heritability was estimated to be .42 [95% CI .21, .64]. Together, these findings provide further evidence for the predominance of genetic influences on adult intelligence over any other systematic source of variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101579
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was made possible by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation as part of their Genetics and Human Agency initiative (Grant Number 60780 ), and original assessment data collection was funded by the National Institutes of Health (Grant Numbers MH066140 and AA011886 ). We also thank our collaborators and staff at the Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research for their dedication in data collection and entry.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.


  • Adoption
  • Heritability
  • Intelligence
  • Polygenic scores
  • Vocabulary


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