Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Target Article

The nature of nurture: Genetic influence on “environmental” measures

Robert Plomina1 and C. S. Bergemana2

a1 Center for Developmental and Health Genetics, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, Electronic mail: plominpvq@psuvm.bitnet

a2 Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556


Evidence for genetic influence on environmental measures will emerge in quantitative genetic analyses if genetically influenced characteristics of individuals are assessed by these environmental measures. Recent twin and adoption studies indicate substantial genetic influence when measures of the environment are treated as phenotypes in genetic analyses. Genetic influence has been documented for measures as diverse as videotaped observations of parental behavior toward their children, ratings by parents and children of their family environment, and ratings of peer groups, social support, and life events. Evidence for genetic influence on environmental measures includes some of the most widely used measures of environment – the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment, the Family Environment Scales, and the Social Readjustment Rating Scale of life events, for example. The goal of this article is to document and discuss these findings and to elicit commentary that might help to shape the course of research on this topic, which has far-reaching implications for the behavioral and brain sciences.