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Psychiatr Q. 2002 Spring;73(1):71-82.

Twin studies in psychiatry and psychology: science or pseudoscience?

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  • 1La Familia Counseling Service, Hayward, California, USA.


Twin studies are frequently cited in support of the influence of genetic factors for a wide range of psychiatric conditions and psychological trait differences. The most common method, known as the classical twin method, compares the concordance rates or correlations of reared-together identical (MZ) vs. reared-together same-sex fraternal (DZ) twins. However, drawing genetic inferences from MZ-DZ comparisons is problematic due to methodological problems and questionable assumptions. It is argued that the main theoretical assumption of the twin method--known as the "equal environment assumption"--is not tenable. The twin method is therefore of doubtful value as an indicator of genetic influences. Studies of reared-apart twins are discussed, and it is noted that these studies are also vulnerable to methodological problems and environmental confounds. It is concluded that there is little reason to believe that twin studies provide evidence in favor of genetic influences on psychiatric disorders and human behavioral differences.

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