Social Development

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Volume 3 Issue 1 (March 1994), Pages 1-87

Nature, nurture, and social development (pages 37-53)


It is time to bring nature (genetics) together with nurture (environment) in the study of social development. Following a brief overview of behavioral genetic theory and methods, three examples are described of new genetic research especially relevant to social developmentalists. First, initial research findings on three key domains of social development (attachment, empathy, and social competence) suggest that genetic factors contribute to individual differences in social development. Second, research on widely used measures of social environment implicates a genetic contribution, which opens up new directions for research at the interface of nature and nurture in social development. Third, by the turn of the century, it is predicted that behavioral genetic research will be conducted using DNA markers that assess genetic variation among individuals directly rather than resorting to indirect estimates based on twin and adoption methods. This will revolutionize behavioral genetic research and make it more accessible and applicable to developmentalists. As a first step in the direction of behavioral genetics, social developmentalists are encouraged to include siblings in their research.

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