Environmental susceptibility for all: A data-driven approach suggests individual differences in domain-general and domain-specific patterns of environmental susceptibility

Noam Markovitch*, Yuval Hart, Ariel Knafo-Noam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

How we are influenced by our environment is a fundamental question in developmental science. Theories and empirical research have claimed that some individuals are susceptible to environmental influences and others are much less susceptible. The present study addressed four questions: (1) Is environmental susceptibility a continuous or categorical construct? (2) Is environmental susceptibility unidimensional (i.e., domain general) or multidimensional (i.e., domain specific)? (3) Are there genetic contributions to individual differences in environmental susceptibility? (4) What are the temperamental characteristics of different environmental susceptibility patterns? We used child- and mother-report data from a sample of 11-year-old twins (N = 1,507) and applied a novel data-driven approach to assess an environmental susceptibility space, based on simultaneous associations between multiple environmental exposures (18 measures relating to parenting, parent, peer, and twin relationships) and developmental outcomes (10 measures relating to empathy, prosocial behavior, aggression, and self-esteem). The results suggest that the environmental susceptibility space we assessed is better conceptualized as continuous and multidimensional. Different children showed susceptibility to different contexts and variation in domain-general versus domain-specific patterns. A comparison of distances between monozygotic and dizygotic twins within the space demonstrated genetic contributions. Finally, susceptibility patterns could not be differentiated based on a specific temperament trait, but rather related to temperament profiles.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press.

Keywords

  • Differential susceptibility
  • Keywords:
  • data-driven methods
  • domain-general versus domain-specific
  • environmental susceptibility distribution
  • temperament

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