The genetics of success: How SNPs associated with educational attainment relate to life course development

Daniel W. Belsky, Terrie E. Moffitt, David L. Corcoran, Ben Domingue, HonaLee Harrington, Sean Hogan, Renate Houts, Sandhya Ramrakha, Karen Sugden, Benjamin S. Williams, Richie Poulton, Avshalom Caspi
Year of Publication: 
Psychological Science

A previous genome-wide association study (GWAS) of more than 100,000 individuals identified molecular-genetic predictors of educational attainment. We undertook in-depth life-course investigation of the polygenic score derived from this GWAS using the four-decade Dunedin Study (N = 918). There were five main findings. First, polygenic scores predicted adult economic outcomes even after accounting for educational attainments. Second, genes and environments were correlated: Children with higher polygenic scores were born into better-off homes. Third, children’s polygenic scores predicted their adult outcomes even when analyses accounted for their social-class origins; social-mobility analysis showed that children with higher polygenic scores were more upwardly mobile than children with lower scores. Fourth, polygenic scores predicted behavior across the life course, from early acquisition of speech and reading skills through geographic mobility and mate choice and on to financial planning for retirement. Fifth, polygenic-score associations were mediated by psychological characteristics, including intelligence, self-control, and interpersonal skill. Effect sizes were small. Factors connecting DNA sequence with life outcomes may provide targets for interventions to promote population-wide positive development.

APA Citation

Belsky, D.W., Moffitt, T.E., Corcoran, D.L., Domingue, B., Harrington, H.L., Hogan, S., Houts, R., Ramrakha, S., Sugden, K., Williams, B., Poulton, R., & Caspi, A. (2016). The genetics of success: How SNPs associated with educational attainment relate to life course development. Psychological Science.