The genetic and environmental aetiology of spatial, mathematics and general anxiety

Margherita Malanchini*, Kaili Rimfeld, Nicholas G. Shakeshaft, Maja Rodic, Kerry Schofield, Saskia Selzam, Philip S. Dale, Stephen A. Petrill, Yulia Kovas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)
201 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Individuals differ in their level of general anxiety as well as in their level of anxiety towards specific activities, such as mathematics and spatial tasks. Both specific anxieties correlate moderately with general anxiety, but the aetiology of their association remains unexplored. Moreover, the factor structure of spatial anxiety is to date unknown. The present study investigated the factor structure of spatial anxiety, its aetiology, and the origins of its association with general and mathematics anxiety in a sample of 1,464 19-21-year-old twin pairs from the UK representative Twins Early Development Study. Participants reported their general, mathematics and spatial anxiety as part of an online battery of tests. We found that spatial anxiety is a multifactorial construct, including two components: navigation anxiety and rotation/visualization anxiety. All anxiety measures were moderately heritable (30% to 41%), and non-shared environmental factors explained the remaining variance. Multivariate genetic analysis showed that, although some genetic and environmental factors contributed to all anxiety measures, a substantial portion of genetic and non-shared environmental influences were specific to each anxiety construct. This suggests that anxiety is a multifactorial construct phenotypically and aetiologically, highlighting the importance of studying anxiety within specific contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number42218
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
Early online date21 Feb 2017
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Feb 2017

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