Genetic associations with parental investment from conception to wealth inheritance in six cohorts

Jasmin Wertz, Terrie E. Moffitt, Louise Arseneault, J.C. Barnes, Michel Boivin, David Corcoran, Andrea Danese, Robert J Hancox, Honalee Harrington, Renate Houts, Stephanie Langevin, Hexuan Liu, Richie Poulton, Karen Sugden, Peter T. Tanksley, Benjamin Williams, Avshalom Caspi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Genetic inheritance is not the only way parents’ genes may affect children. It is also possible that parents’ genes are associated with investments into children’s development. We examined evidence for links between parental genetics and parental investments, from the prenatal period through to adulthood, using data from six population-based cohorts in the UK, US and New Zealand, together totalling 36,566 parents. Our findings revealed associations between parental genetics—summarized in a genome-wide polygenic score—and parental behaviour across development, from smoking in pregnancy, breastfeeding in infancy, parenting in childhood and adolescence, to leaving a wealth inheritance to adult children. Effect sizes tended to be small at any given time point, ranging from RR = 1.12 (95% confidence interval (95%CI) 1.09, 1.15) to RR = 0.76 (95%CI 0.72, 0.80) during the prenatal period and infancy; β = 0.07 (95%CI 0.04, 0.11) to β = 0.29 (95%CI 0.27, 0.32) in childhood and adolescence, and RR = 1.04 (95%CI 1.01, 1.06) to RR = 1.11 (95%CI 1.07, 1.15) in adulthood. There was evidence for accumulating effects across development, ranging from β = 0.15 (95%CI 0.11, 0.18) to β = 0.23 (95%CI 0.16, 0.29) depending on cohort. Our findings are consistent with the interpretation that parents pass on advantages to offspring not only via direct genetic transmission or purely environmental paths, but also via genetic associations with parental investment from conception to wealth inheritance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Early online date29 Jun 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jun 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • behavioural genetics
  • development studies
  • human behaviour


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