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Intergenerational transmission of education and ADHD: Effects of parental genotypes

By Eveline L. de Zeeuw, Jouke-Jan Hottenga, Klaasjan G. Ouwens, Conor V. Dolan, Erik A. Ehli, Gareth E. Davies, Dorret I Boomsma, Elsje van Bergen

Posted 19 Jun 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/664128 (published DOI: 10.1007/s10519-020-09992-w)

It is challenging to study whether children resemble their parents due to nature, nurture, or a mixture of both. Here we used a novel design that employs the fact that parents transmit 50% of their alleles to their offspring. The combined effect of these transmitted and non-transmitted alleles on a trait are summarized in a polygenic score (PGS). The non-transmitted PGS can only affect offspring through the environment, via genetically influenced behaviours in the parents, called genetic nurturing. For genotyped mother-father-offspring trios (1,120-2,518 per analysis) we calculated transmitted and non-transmitted PGSs for adult educational attainment (EA) and childhood ADHD and tested if these predicted outcomes in offspring. In adults, both transmitted (R2 = 7.6%) and non-transmitted (R2 = 1.7%) EA PGSs predicted offspring EA, evidencing genetic nurturing. In children around age 12, academic achievement was predicted only by transmitted EA PGSs (R2 = 5.7%), but we did not find genetic nurturing (R2 ~ 0.1%). The ADHD PGSs did not significantly predict academic achievement (R2 ~ 0.6%). ADHD symptoms in children were predicted by transmitted EA PGSs and ADHD PGSs (R2 = 1-2%). Based on these results, we conclude that previously reported associations between parent characteristics and offspring outcomes seem to be mainly a marker of genetic effects shared by parents and children.

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