Genetic and environmental contributions to psychological resilience and coping

Lauren B Navrady, Yanni Zeng, Toni-Kim Clarke, Mark J Adams, David M Howard, Ian J Deary, Andrew M McIntosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Twin studies indicate that genetic and environmental factors contribute to both psychological resilience and coping style, but estimates of their relative molecular and shared environmental contributions are limited. The degree of overlap in the genetic architectures of these traits is also unclear.

Methods: Using data from a large population- and family-based cohort Generation Scotland (N = 8,734), we estimated the genetic and shared environmental variance components for resilience, task-, emotion-, and avoidance-oriented coping style in a linear mixed model (LMM). Bivariate LMM analyses were used to estimate the genetic correlations between these traits. Resilience and coping style were measured using the Brief Resilience Scale and Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations, respectively.

Results: The greatest proportion of the phenotypic variance in resilience remained unexplained, although significant contributions from common genetic variants and family-shared environment were found. Both task- and avoidance-oriented coping had significant contributions from common genetic variants, sibling- and couple-shared environments, variance in emotion-oriented coping was attributable to common genetic variants, family- and couple-shared environments. The estimated correlation between resilience and emotion-oriented coping was high for both common-variant-associated genetic effects (r G = -0.79, se = 0.19), and for the additional genetic effects from the pedigree (r K = -0.94, se = 0.30). Genetic correlations between resilience and task- and avoidance-oriented coping did not meet statistical significance.

Conclusions: Both genetics and shared environmental effects were major contributing factors to coping style, whilst the variance in resilience remains largely unexplained. Strong genetic overlap between resilience and emotion-oriented coping suggests a relationship whereby genetic factors that increase negative emotionality also lead to decreased resilience. We suggest that genome-wide family-based studies of resilience and coping may help to elucidate tractable methodologies to identify genetic architectures and modifiable environmental risk factors to protect against psychiatric illness, although further work with larger sample sizes is needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12
JournalWellcome Open Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • psychological resilience
  • coping style
  • heritability
  • environment
  • genetics
  • Generation Scotland


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