Genetic and Environmental Stability of Neuroticism From Adolescence to Adulthood

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Longitudinal studies of neuroticism have shown that, on average, neuroticism scores decrease from adolescence to adulthood. The heritability of neuroticism is estimated between 0.30 and 0.60 and does not seem to vary greatly as a function of age. Shared environmental effects are rarely reported. Less is known about the role of genetic and environmental influences on the rank order stability of neuroticism in the period from adolescence to adulthood. We studied the stability of neuroticism in a cohort sequential (classical) twin design, from adolescence (age 14 years) to young adulthood (age 32 years). A genetic simplex model that was fitted to the longitudinal neuroticism data showed that the genetic stability of neuroticism was relatively high (genetic correlations between adjacent age bins >0.9), and increased from adolescence to adulthood. Environmental stability was appreciably lower (environmental correlations between adjacent age bins were between 0.3 and 0.6). This low stability was largely due to age-specific environmental variance, which was dominated by measurement error. This attenuated the age-to-age environmental correlations. We constructed an environmental covariance matrix corrected for this error, under the strong assumption that all age-specific environmental variance is error variance. The environmental (co)variance matrix corrected for attenuation revealed highly stable environmental influences on neuroticism (correlations between adjacent age bins were between 0.7 and 0.9). Our results indicate that both genetic and environmental influences have enduring effects on individual differences in neuroticism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)746-754
Number of pages9
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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