Behavioral Genetics, Genetics, and Epigenetics

David S. Moore

in The Oxford Handbook of Developmental Psychology, Vol. 1

Published in print March 2013 | ISBN: 9780199958450
Published online December 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199971527 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Behavioral Genetics, Genetics, and Epigenetics

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When considering how “nature” and “nurture” contribute to development, psychologists often take the former to mean “influenced by genes.” Traditionally, behavioral geneticists have used twin and adoption studies to assess the extent of genetic influence on various behaviors. Recently, the heritability statistics these studies generate have been criticized as meaningless, partly because biologists have established that genes cannot influence development independently of environmental factors; genetic and nongenetic factors always cooperate to build traits. This chapter considers genetic contributions to some psychological characteristics, thereby demonstrating what genes can and cannot do. New discoveries regarding the control of genes via epigenetic mechanisms are of interest to developmental psychologists because they have the potential to reveal how environments and genes interact, help us understand certain behavioral disorders, and illuminate normal psychological processes like learning and memory; in addition, they cast doubt on the neo-Darwinian dogma that ancestors’ experiences cannot influence descendants’ development. Advances in genetics have clarified how molecular factors contribute to psychological characteristics and indicated that all of our characteristics are influenced by developmental circumstances.

Keywords: development; nature–nurture; developmental systems; heredity; heritability; genes and behavior; epigenetics and behavior; epigenetic inheritance; gene-by-environment interactions

Article.  30422 words. 

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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