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Behav Genet. 2003 Jul;33(4):367-81.

A twin study of differentiation of cognitive abilities in childhood.

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  • 1Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The differentiation hypothesis in cognitive development states that cognitive abilities become progressively more independent as children grow older. Studies of phenotypic development in children have generally failed to produce convincing support for this hypothesis. The aim of the present study is to investigate the issue of differentiation at the genetic and environmental level. Six psychometric measures assessing verbal and nonverbal cognitive abilities were administered to 209 Dutch twin pairs at ages 5, 7, and 10 years. Longitudinal results provided little evidence for the differentiation hypothesis. Stability in subtest performance is due mainly to genetic influences. The shared environment contribution to phenotypic stability is small. The unique environment contributes to age-specific variance only.

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