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Twin Res Hum Genet. 2012 Dec;15(6):746-52. doi: 10.1017/thg.2012.53.

How does the inclusion of twins conceived via fertility treatments influence the results of twin studies?

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Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA.


Rates of twinning have risen dramatically over the last 30 years, from 1 in 53 births in 1980 to 1 in 30 births in 2009 (Martin et al. (January 2012). Three decades of twin births in the United States, 1980-2009. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics). This increase is largely attributable to increases in the use of fertility treatments (i.e., ovulation induction and in vitro fertilization) combined with delays in parenthood. Although this increase means that more twins are available for recruitment into twin studies, it also has potential consequences for the heritability estimates obtained in these studies. This study sought to evaluate this possibility, making use of the ongoing Michigan Twins Project (N = 7,261 families with twins aged 3-17 years), an arm of the Michigan State University Twin Registry. Results revealed that, on average, twins conceived via fertility treatments had lower rates of behavior problems than those conceived naturally, although these behavioral differences could be explained largely by demographic and socio-economic differences across the two types of twin families. Twin similarity did not meaningfully differ across fertility treatment status. We thus conclude that estimates of genetic and environmental influences obtained from twin studies over the last 10-15 years are more or less unaffected by the inclusion of twins conceived via fertility treatments in their samples.

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