The Genetic and Environmental Origins of Learning Abilities and Disabilities in the Early School Years. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development

  • ID: 2245896
  • Book
  • 172 Pages
  • John Wiley and Sons Ltd
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Despite the importance of learning abilities and disabilities

in education and child development, little is known

about their genetic and environmental origins in the

early school years. We report results for English (which

includes reading, writing, and speaking), mathematics,

and science as well as general cognitive ability in a large

and representative sample of U.K. twins studied at 7, 9,

and 10 years of age. Although preliminary reports of

some of these data have been published, the purpose of

this monograph is to present new univariate, multivariate,

and longitudinal analyses that systematically examine

genetic and environmental influences for the entire sample

at all ages for all measures for both the low extremes

(disabilities) and the entire sample (abilities).

English, mathematics, and science yielded similarly

high heritabilities and modest shared environmental

influences at 7, 9, and 10 years despite major changes

in content across these years. We draw three conclusions

that go beyond estimating heritability. First, the abnormal

is normal: low performance is the quantitative extreme

of the same genetic and environmental influences

operate throughout the normal distribution. Second, continuity

is genetic and change is environmental: longitudinal

analyses suggest that age–to–age stability is primarily

mediated genetically whereas the environment contributes

to change from age to age. Third, genes are generalists

and environments are specialists: multivariate analyses

indicate that genes largely contribute to similarity

in performance within and between the three domains

and with general cognitive ability whereas the environment

contributes to differences in performance.

These conclusions have far–reaching implications for

education and child development as well as for molecular

genetics and neuroscience.

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CONTENTS.

ABSTRACT vii.

I. INTRODUCTION 1.

II. METHODS 14.

III. NATURE AND NURTURE 49.

IV. THE ABNORMAL IS NORMAL 60.

V. GENETIC STABILITY, ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE 67.

VI. GENERALIST GENES, SPECIALIST ENVIRONMENTS 82.

VII. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS 105.

APPENDICES 124.

REFERENCES 137.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 144.

COMMENTARY.

BEYOND NATURE NURTURE.

Richard A. Weinberg 145.

DYNAMIC DEVELOPMENT AND DYNAMIC EDUCATION.

Jennifer M. Thomson and Kurt W. Fischer 150.

CONTRIBUTORS 157.

STATEMENT OF EDITORIAL POLICY 159

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Yulia Kovas received her Ph.D. in 2007 from the SGDP Centre, Institute of Psychiatry. She obtained teaching qualifications from the University of St. Petersburg, Russia in 1996 and taught children of all ages for 6 years. She received a B.Sc. in Psychology from Birkbeck College, University of London in 2003 and an M.Sc. in Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry from the Institute of Psychiatry, London in 2004. Her current interests include genetic and environmental etiology of individual differences in mathematical ability and disability and the etiology of covariation and comorbidity between different learning abilities and disabilities.

Claire M. A. Haworth is a Ph.D. Student at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry. In 2004 she graduated from Oxford University with a B.A. in Experimental Psychology, and in 2006 was awarded an M.Sc. in Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry. Her research interests include the use of quantitative and molecular genetic techniques to unravel the genetic and environmental influences on quantitative traits. Her traits of interest include academic and cognitive abilities and disabilities. Claire is particularly interested in science performance in schools, and how science is related to other cognitive and academic abilities.

Philip S. Dale is Professor and Chair of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of New Mexico. He received his Ph.D. in communication sciences from the University of Michigan in 1968. His current research interests center on issues of assessment, sources, and consequences of individual differences in early language development and the emergence of literacy, cross–linguistic and cross–cultural comparisons, and outcomes of parent– and classroom–based intervention for developmental disabilities.

Robert Plomin is MRC Research Professor and Deputy Director of the SGDP Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. He received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1974. He was then at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics in Boulder, Colorado (1974 1986) and at Pennsylvania State University (1986 1994) until he moved to London and launched the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). His current research combines quantitative genetic and molecular genetic analyses of learning abilities and disabilities in childhood. Richard A. Weinberg (Ph.D., 1968, University of Minnesota) is Distinguished University Teaching Professor of Child Psychology at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, where he is also Director of the Center for Early Education and Development and Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Educational Psychology. He has collaborated with Sandra W. Scarr for over 35 years pursuing research in developmental behavior genetics.

Jennifer Thomson is an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, having moved from the Centre for Neuroscience in Education, University of Cambridge, U.K. Her current research focuses upon the links between language and literacy development, specifically, the role of linguistic rhythm sensitivity in dyslexia. She is also particularly interested in how neuroscience can be usefully applied to the fields of learning and remediation.

Kurt Fischer analyzes cognition, emotion, and learning and their relation to biological development and educational assessment. In his research, he has discovered a scale that seems to assess learning and development in all domains, even when the skills created in each domain are independent. As head of the Mind, Brain, and Education program and Charles Bigelow Professor of Education and Human Development at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, he leads an international movement to connect biology and cognitive science to education. His most recent book is Mind, Brain, and Education in Reading Disorders (Cambridge University Press, 2006). He is founding president of the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society and founding editor of the journal Mind, Brain, and Education (Blackwell).

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