Using twins to better understand sibling relationships

Mark, Katharine M; Pike, Alison; Latham, Rachel M and Oliver, Bonamy R. 2017. Using twins to better understand sibling relationships. Behavior Genetics, 47(2), pp. 202-214. ISSN 0001-8244 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

We compared the nature of the sibling relationship in dyads of varying genetic relatedness, employing a behavioural genetic design to estimate the contribution that genes and the environment have on this familial bond. Two samples were used—the Sisters and Brothers Study consisted of 173 families with two target non-twin children (mean ages = 7.42 and 5.22 years respectively); and the Twins, Family and Behaviour study included 234 families with two target twin children (mean age = 4.70 years). Mothers and fathers reported on their children’s relationship with each other, via a postal questionnaire (the Sisters and Brothers Study) or a telephone interview (the Twins, Family and Behaviour study). Contrary to expectations, no mean level differences emerged when monozygotic twin pairs, dizygotic twin pairs, and non-twin pairs were compared on their sibling relationship quality. Behavioural genetic analyses also revealed that the sibling bond was modestly to moderately influenced by the genetic propensities of the children within the dyad, and moderately to substantially influenced by the shared environment common to both siblings. In addition, for sibling negativity, we found evidence of twin-specific environmental influence—dizygotic twins showed more reciprocity than did non-twins. Our findings have repercussions for the broader application of results from future twin-based investigations.

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13 October 2016Accepted
26 October 2016Published Online
March 2017Published

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Date Deposited:

22 Sep 2017 11:38

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29 Apr 2020 16:35

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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