Twin Research


Structured latent growth curves for twin data

Michael C Nealea1 c1 and John J McArdlea2

a1 Department of Psychiatry, Medical College of Virginia,

a2 Department of Psychology, Gilmer Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA


We describe methods to fit structured latent growth curves to data from MZ and DZ twins. The well-known Gompertz, logistic and exponential curves may be written as a function of three components – asymptote, initial value, and rate of change. These components are allowed to vary and covary within individuals in a structured latent growth model. Such models are highly economical, requiring a small number of parameters to describe covariation across many occasions of measurement. We extend these methods to analyse longitudinal data from MZ and DZ twins and focus on the estimation of genetic and environmental variation and covariation in each of the asymptote, initial and rate of growth factors. For illustration, the models are fitted to longitudinal Bayley Infant Mental Development Scale data published by McArdle (1986). In these data, all three components of growth appear strongly familial with the majority of variance associated with the shared environment; differences between the models were not great. Occasion-specific residual factors not associated with the curve components account for approximately 40% of variance of which a significant proportion is additive genetic. Though the growth curve model fit less well than some others, they make restrictive, falsifiable predictions about the mean, variance and twin covariance of other (not yet measured) occasions of measurement. Twin Research (2000) 3, 165–177.

(Revised January 13 2000)

(Accepted February 18 2000)


  • growth curves;
  • genes;
  • dynamical models;
  • twins;
  • cognition;
  • development;
  • Bayley Infant Mental Development;
  • methodology


c1 Correspondence: Michael C Neale, Department of Psychiatry, Medical College of Virginia, Box 080710, Richmond, VA 23298, USA