Genetic and environmental transmission of political attitudes over a life time

Peter K. Hatemi, Carolyn L. Funk, Sarah E. Medland, Hermine M. Maes, Judy L. Silberg, Nicholas G. Martin, Lindon J. Eaves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

114 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recently political scientists have looked anew at the source of political preferences and find support for the heuristic that political attitudes and behaviors are influenced by endogenous factors. The present research attempts to characterize how the transmission of political orientations develops over the life course. Using longitudinal data collected on twins throughout childhood and adolescence combined with cross-sectional data from adult twins, the present study finds that genetic influences on political attitudes are absent prior to young adulthood. During childhood and adolescence, individual differences in political attitudes are accounted for by a variety of environmental influences with the role of shared family environment, including parental socialization, accumulating markedly between the ages of 9 and 17. However, at the point of early adulthood (in the early 20s), for those who left their parental home, there is evidence of a sizeable genetic influence on political attitudes which remains stable throughout adult life. The pattern of genetic transmission shows some similarity to an impressionable years model of attitude crystallization showing both the important influence of family and other shared environmental influences in adolescence and then an increased role of genetic factors as familial environmental influences diminish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1141-1156
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Politics
Volume71
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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    Hatemi, P. K., Funk, C. L., Medland, S. E., Maes, H. M., Silberg, J. L., Martin, N. G., & Eaves, L. J. (2009). Genetic and environmental transmission of political attitudes over a life time. Journal of Politics, 71(3), 1141-1156. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022381609090938