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Comparison of adopted and non-adopted individuals reveals gene-environment interplay for education in the UK Biobank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Science
Publication statusSubmitted - 2019


  • Cheesman_adopt_RESUB

    Cheesman_adopt_RESUB.pdf, 356 KB, application/pdf


    Accepted author manuscript

King's Authors


Polygenic scores now explain ~10% of the variation in educational attainment. However, they capture not only genetic propensity but information about the family environment. This is due to passive gene-environment correlation, whereby the correlation between offspring and parent genotypes results in an association between offspring genotypes and the rearing environment. We measure passive gene-environment correlation using information on 6311 adoptees in the UK Biobank. Adoptees’ genotypes are less correlated with their rearing environments, because they do not share genes with their adoptive parents. We find that polygenic scores are twice as predictive of years of education in non-adopted individuals compared to adoptees (R2= 0.074 vs 0.037, p= 8.23 x 10-24). Individuals in the lowest decile of education polygenic score attain significantly more education if they are adopted, possibly due to educationally supportive adoptive environments. Overall, these results suggest that genetic influences on education are mediated via the home environment.

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