Multilevel Modeling in Classical Twin and Modern Molecular Behavior Genetics

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For more than a decade, it has been known that many common behavior genetics models for a single phenotype can be estimated as multilevel models (e.g., van den Oord 2001; Guo and Wang 2002; McArdle and Prescott 2005; Rabe-Hesketh et al. 2007). This paper extends the current knowledge to (1) multiple phenotypes such that the method is completely general to the variance structure hypothesized, and (2) both higher and lower levels of nesting. The multi-phenotype method also allows extended relationships to be considered (see also, Bard et al. 2012; Hadfield and Nakagawa 2010). The extended relationship model can then be continuously expanded to merge with the case typically seen in the molecular genetics analyses of unrelated individuals (e.g., Yang et al. 2011). We use the multilevel form of behavior genetics models to fit a multivariate three level model that allows for (1) child level variation from unique environments and additive genetics, (2) family level variation from additive genetics and common environments, and (3) neighborhood level variation from broader geographic contexts. Finally, we provide R (R Development Core Team 2020) functions and code for multilevel specification of several common behavior genetics models using OpenMx (Neale et al. 2016).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-318
Number of pages18
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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