The Earliest Origins of Genetic Nurture: The Prenatal Environment Mediates the Association Between Maternal Genetics and Child Development

Emma Armstrong-Carter, Sam Trejo, Liam J.B. Hill, Kirsty L. Crossley, Dan Mason, Benjamin W. Domingue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Observed genetic associations with educational attainment may be due to direct or indirect genetic influences. Recent work highlights genetic nurture, the potential effect of parents’ genetics on their child’s educational outcomes via rearing environments. To date, few mediating childhood environments have been tested. We used a large sample of genotyped mother–child dyads (N = 2,077) to investigate whether genetic nurture occurs via the prenatal environment. We found that mothers with more education-related genes are generally healthier and more financially stable during pregnancy. Further, measured prenatal conditions explain up to one third of the associations between maternal genetics and children’s academic and developmental outcomes at the ages of 4 to 7 years. By providing the first evidence of prenatal genetic nurture and showing that genetic nurture is detectable in early childhood, this study broadens our understanding of how parental genetics may influence children and illustrates the challenges of within-person interpretation of existing genetic associations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-791
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Science
Volume31
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)

Keywords

  • childhood development
  • genetics
  • prenatal

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