Genetic influence over social skills shifts as children grow

The combinations of genetic variants that influence social communication vary throughout childhood and adolescence, a new study suggests.

Researchers used an algorithm to track the evolution of this genetic association with social communication in the same group of children over 10 years. They found that the influence of one set of genetic factors waxes and wanes from ages 11 to 17.

The approach provides a way to tease apart the genetic factors that govern social communication and other complex traits during different stages of development, the researchers say.

The study “clearly shows that we have to take development into account when we look at behavior,” says lead investigator Beate St Pourcain, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. “It’s natural that our social behavior changes during the course of development — and of course the genetic causes will change with it.”

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14th December 2017