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J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2010 Sep;31(7):525-32. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e3181ee4b70.

Behavioral genetic approach to the study of dyslexia.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA.



Dyslexia is a prominent focus of practitioners, educators, and researchers because of the myriad consequences of failing to read proficiently. The aim of this study was to provide a brief overview of how twin studies can offer insight on the cause of many human behaviors and disorders including dyslexia, discuss common misconceptions regarding findings from behavioral genetic studies, briefly review the evidence on the relationship between genes, environment, and dyslexia, and finally present some findings from a large-scale twin study on reading and dyslexia.


Participants were twins from a large ethnically and socioeconomically diverse twin sample in an ongoing longitudinal study of reading and dyslexia. Heritabilities of reading ability and dyslexia were calculated for 1,024 first grade twins on a standardized reading measure. Children were identified as dyslexic if they scored at the 15th percentile or below on a reading measure.


Relatively high heritabilities were observed for both reading ability and dyslexia indicating substantial genetic influences. Further, results indicated some overlap of genetic factors influencing reading ability and dyslexia.


Behavioral genetic studies offer a means of understanding the cause of dyslexia. This study extended research to a more diverse sample than extant studies and found lower heritability estimates of reading ability and dyslexia, but a similar pattern of results indicating possible genetic overlap. Twin studies provide perspective for discoveries of specific genes involved in dyslexia by quantifying the amount of variance waiting to be accounted for by genes while simultaneously providing an impetus to continue working on efforts for environmental intervention.

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