Robust genetic nurture effects on education: A systematic review and meta-analysis based on 38,654 families across 8 cohorts

Biyao Wang, Jessie R Baldwin, Tabea Schoeler, Rosa Cheesman, Wikus Barkhuizen, Frank Dudbridge, David Bann, Tim T Morris, Jean-Baptiste Pingault*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Similarities between parents and offspring arise from nature and nurture. Beyond this simple dichotomy, recent genomic studies have uncovered "genetic nurture" effects, whereby parental genotypes influence offspring outcomes via environmental pathways rather than genetic transmission. Such genetic nurture effects also need to be accounted for to accurately estimate "direct" genetic effects (i.e., genetic effects on a trait originating in the offspring). Empirical studies have indicated that genetic nurture effects are particularly relevant to the intergenerational transmission of risk for child educational outcomes, which are, in turn, associated with major psychological and health milestones throughout the life course. These findings have yet to be systematically appraised across contexts. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to quantify genetic nurture effects on educational outcomes. A total of 12 studies comprising 38,654 distinct parent(s)-offspring pairs or trios from 8 cohorts reported 22 estimates of genetic nurture effects. Genetic nurture effects on offspring's educational outcomes (βgenetic nurture = 0.08, 95% CI [0.07, 0.09]) were smaller than direct genetic effects (βdirect genetic = 0.17, 95% CI [0.13, 0.20]). Findings were largely consistent across studies. Genetic nurture effects originating from mothers and fathers were of similar magnitude, highlighting the need for a greater inclusion of fathers in educational research. Genetic nurture effects were largely explained by observed parental education and socioeconomic status, pointing to their role in environmental pathways shaping child educational outcomes. Findings provide consistent evidence that environmentally mediated parental genetic influences contribute to the intergenerational transmission of educational outcomes, in addition to effects due to genetic transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1780-1791
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Genetics
Volume108
Issue number9
Early online date19 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
B.W. and J.-B.P. are funded by a Nuffield Foundation project ( EDO/43939 ); J.R.B. is funded by a Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Wellcome fellowship ( 215917/Z/19/Z ); T.S. is funded by a Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Wellcome fellowship ( 218641/Z/19/Z ). D.B. is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council ( ES/M001660/1 ) and Medical Research Council ( MR/V002147/1 ). F.D. is a consultant for University College London funded by the Nuffield Foundation project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Society of Human Genetics

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