Sensitivity, but to which environment? Individual differences in sensitivity to parents and peers show domain-specific patterns and a negative genetic correlation

Noam Markovitch*, Ariel Knafo-Noam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

The idea that individuals differ in their sensitivity to the environment's effects is a cornerstone of developmental science. It has been demonstrated repeatedly, for different kinds of stressors, outcomes, and sensitivity markers. However, almost no empirical work was done to examine whether environmental sensitivity is domain-general (i.e., the same individuals are sensitive to different environmental contexts) or domain-specific (i.e., different individuals are sensitive to different environmental contexts), despite its importance to understanding human development, learning, and behavior. To address this question, phenotypic sensitivity to parents and to peers were compared in 1313 11-year-old Israeli adolescent twins. We found that, (1) our phenotypic markers indeed moderate environmental influences, with a discriminant predictive utility, (2) adolescents who are sensitive to their parents are not necessarily sensitive to their peers, and (3) sensitivity to parents and sensitivity to peers have different etiologies and show a negative genetic correlation, indicating that adolescents carrying genetic markers for sensitivity to parents are less likely to carry genetic markers for sensitivity to peers. These findings suggest that environmental sensitivity shows domain-specific patterns, as different individuals can be sensitive to different environments. We discuss the theoretical, empirical, and practical implications of domain-specificity of environmental sensitivity.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere13136
JournalDevelopmental Science
Volume24
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Keywords

  • adolescence
  • differential susceptibility
  • domain-specificity
  • genetic
  • parents
  • peers

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