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Twin Res. 1998 Sep;1(3):131-7.

Sex differences and non-additivity in the effects of genes on personality.

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  • 1Virginia Institute of Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Richmond, USA.


New large-sample data show that non-additive genetic effects, probably epistatic interactions between loci, and sex-limited gene expression are significant features of the genetic architecture of human personality as measured by questionnaire scales of extraversion and neuroticism. Three large data sets--new data on large samples (n = 20,554) of US twins, their spouses, parents, siblings and children, correlations for Australian twins (n = 7,532), and previously published twin data from Finland (n = 14,288)--are subjected to an integrated analysis to test alternative hypotheses about the genetic causes of family resemblance in personality. When allowance is made for differences in reliability of the scales, the combined data are consistent with the same model for variation. There are significant amounts of genetic non-additivity for both dimensions of personality. The evidence favours additive x additive epistatic interactions rather than dominance. In the case of neuroticism, there is especially strong evidence of sex differences in genetic architecture favouring a greater relative contribution of non-additive genetic effects in males. The data confirm previous claims to find no major contribution of the shared environment of twins and siblings to these dimensions of personality. Correlations between spouses are zero, and the correlations for very large samples of siblings and non-identical twins do not differ significantly.

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