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The Social Genome of Friends and Schoolmates in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health

By Benjamin W. Domingue, DW Belsky, Jason M. Fletcher, Dalton Conley, Jason D. Boardman, Kathleen Mullan Harris

Posted 09 Feb 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/107045 (published DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1711803115)

Humans tend to form social relationships with others who resemble them. Whether this sorting of like with like arises from historical patterns of migration, meso-level social structures in modern society, or individual-level selection of similar peers remains unsettled. Recent research has evaluated the possibility that unobserved genotypes may play an important role in the creation of homophilous relationships. We extend this work by using data from 9,500 adolescents from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to examine genetic similarities among pairs of friends. While there is some evidence that friends have correlated genotypes, both at the whole-genome level as well as at trait-associated loci (via polygenic scores), further analysis suggests that meso-level forces, such as school assignment, are a principal source of genetic similarity between friends. We also observe apparent social-genetic effects in which polygenic scores of an individual's friends and schoolmates predict the individual's own educational attainment. In contrast, an individual's height is unassociated with the height genetics of peers.

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