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Am J Public Health. 2013 Oct;103 Suppl 1:S111-21. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301408. Epub 2013 Aug 8.

How genes and the social environment moderate each other.

Author information

David Reiss is with the Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Leslie D. Leve is with the University of Oregon, Department of Counseling Psychology and Human Services, and the Oregon Social Learning Center, Eugene. Jenae M. Neiderhiser is with the Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.


Recent research has suggested that the social environment can moderate the expression of genetic influences on health and that genetic influences can shape an individual's sensitivity to the social environment. Evidence supports 4 major mechanisms: genes can influence an individual's response to environmental stress, genes may enhance an individual's sensitivity to both favorable and adverse environments, inherited characteristics may better fit with some environments than with others, and inherited capabilities may only become manifest in challenging or responsive environments. Further progress depends on better recognition of patterns of gene-environment interaction, improved methods of assessing the environment and its impact on genetic mechanisms, the use of appropriately designed laboratory studies, identification of heritable differences in an individual before environmental moderation occurs, and clarification of the timing of the impact of social and genetic moderation.

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