Does Parental Separation Lower Genetic Influences on Children’s School-Related Skills?

Tina Baier
Zachary Van Winkle, University of Oxford

The Scarr-Rowe hypothesis, which states that the relative importance of genes on cognitive ability is higher for advantaged compared to disadvantaged children, has recently been expanded to school-related skills. However, advantage/disadvantage is conceptualized as parental socioeconomic status and neglects other important factors. This study expands upon the literature to include household composition as an indicator for (dis-)advantage. Specifically, we investigate whether genetic influences for cognitive ability, school grades, and academic self-concept differ in one- compared to two-parent families. We use novel data from TwinLife, a population-register based sample of twin-families in Germany. We find that the heritability of school-related skills is higher for children in single- compared to two-parent families. Adjusting these models for parental income and education retrieve substantively similar results. Our findings therefore show that the quality of the family environment that is important for the realization of children’s genetic potential is not just shaped by socioeconomic status, but also family structure.

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 Presented in Session 106. Consequences of Union Dissolution