Genetic and environmental contributions to children's prosocial behavior: brief review and new evidence from a reanalysis of experimental twin data

Ariel Knafo-Noam, Dana Vertsberger, Salomon Israel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

Children's prosocial behaviors show considerable variability. Here we discuss the genetic and environmental contributions to individual differences in children's prosocial behavior. Twin research systematically shows, at least from the age of 3 years, a genetic contribution to individual differences in prosocial behavior, both questionnaire-based and observed. This finding is demonstrated across a wide variety of cultures. We discuss the possibility that different prosocial behaviors have different genetic etiologies. A re-analysis of past twin data shows that sharing and comforting are affected by overlapping genetic factors at age 3.5 years. In contrast, the association between helping and comforting is attributed to environmental factors. The few molecular genetic studies of children's prosocial behavior are reviewed, and we point out genome-wide and polygenic methods as a key future direction. Finally, we discuss the interplay of genetic and environmental factors, focusing on both gene × environment interactions and gene–environment correlations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)60-65
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychology
Volume20
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd

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