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Genetic and environmental influences on extreme personality dispositions in adolescent female twins

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Background: 

The objective was to determine whether the pattern of environmental and genetic influences on deviant personality scores differs from that observed for the normative range of personality, comparing results in adolescent and adult female twins. Methods: 

A sample of 2,796 female adolescent twins ascertained from birth records provided Junior Eysenck Personality Questionnaire data. The average age of the sample was 17.0 years (S.D. 2.3). Genetic analyses of continuous and extreme personality scores were conducted. Results were compared for 3,178 adult female twins. Results: 

Genetic analysis of continuous traits in adolescent female twins were similar to findings in adult female twins, with genetic influences accounting for between 37% and 44% of the variance in Extraversion (Ex), Neuroticism (N), and Social Non-Conformity (SNC), with significant evidence of shared environmental influences (19%) found only for SNC in the adult female twins. Analyses of extreme personality characteristics, defined categorically, in the adolescent data and replicated in the adult female data, yielded estimates for high N and high SNC that deviated substantially (p < .05) from those obtained in the continuous trait analyses, and provided suggestive evidence that shared family environment may play a more important role in determining personality deviance than has been previously found when personality is viewed continuously. However, multiple-threshold models that assumed the same genetic and environmental determinants of both normative range variation and extreme scores gave acceptable fits for each personality dimension. Conclusions: 

The hypothesis of differences in genetic or environmental factors responsible for N and SNC among female twins with scores in the extreme versus normative ranges was partially supported, but not for Ex.
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Keywords: Personality; externalizing; genetic analyses; internalizing; twin studies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA 2: SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, USA 3: Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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