Nurture net of nature: Re-evaluating the role of shared environments in academic achievement and verbal intelligence

Jonathan Daw, Guang Guo, Kathie Mullan Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Prominent authors in the behavioral genetics tradition have long argued that shared environments do not meaningfully shape intelligence and academic achievement. However, we argue that these conclusions are erroneous due to large violations of the additivity assumption underlying behavioral genetics methods - that sources of genetic and shared and nonshared environmental variance are independent and non-interactive. This is compounded in some cases by the theoretical equation of the effective and objective environments, where the former is defined by whether siblings are made more or less similar, and the latter by whether siblings are equally subject to the environmental characteristic in question. Using monozygotic twin fixed effects models, which compare outcomes among genetically identical pairs, we show that many characteristics of objectively shared environments significantly moderate the effects of nonshared environments on adolescent academic achievement and verbal intelligence, violating the additivity assumption of behavioral genetic methods. Importantly, these effects would be categorized as nonshared environmental influences in standard twin models despite their roots in shared environments. These findings should encourage caution among those who claim that the frequently trivial variance attributed to shared environments in behavioral genetic models means that families, schools, and neighborhoods do not meaningfully influence these outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)422-439
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Science Research
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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