Familial influences on neuroticism and education in the UK Biobank

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Genome-wide studies often exclude family members, even though they are a valuable source of information. We identified parent-offspring pairs, siblings and couples in the UK Biobank and implemented a family-based DNA-derived heritability method to capture additional genetic effects and multiple sources of environmental influence on neuroticism and years of education. Compared to estimates from unrelated individuals, total heritability increased from 10% to 27% and from 17% to 56% for neuroticism and education respectively by including family-based genetic effects. We detected no family environmental influences on neuroticism. The couple similarity variance component explained 35% of the variation in years of education, probably reflecting assortative mating. Overall, our genetic and environmental estimates closely replicate previous findings from an independent sample. However, more research is required to dissect contributions to the additional heritability by rare and structural genetic effects, assortative mating, and residual environmental confounding. The latter is especially relevant for years of education, a highly socially-contingent variable, for which our heritability estimate is at the upper end of twin estimates in the literature. Family-based genetic effects could be harnessed to improve polygenic prediction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavior Genetics
Early online date4 Dec 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Dec 2019


  • Education
  • Family data
  • Genomics
  • Heritability
  • Neuroticism


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