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Journal Article


Middeldorp CM, Cath DC, Vink JM, Boomsma DI. Twin Res. Hum. Genet. 2005; 8(3): 224-231.


Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


(Copyright © 2005, Australian Academic Press)






Twin studies that examine the effect of specific environmental risk factors on psychiatric disorders assume that there are no differences in prevalences of these risk factors between twins and singletons. Violation of this assumption signifies that the results from twin studies might not generalize to singletons. Another assumption, not only underlying twin studies but also epidemiological research, is that life-events are not influenced by familial factors. We tested differences in prevalences of experienced life events in a Dutch sample of 1086 monozygotic (MZ) twins, 2090 dizygotic (DZ) twins and 1307 of their siblings. Self reported data on life events (illness of self, illness of a significant other, spouse/romantic relationship, divorce/break-up of a relationship, death of a significant other, traffic accident, robbery, violent assault, sexual assault) were available from a survey-study. We further investigated whether familial resemblance was present for the exposure to these life events and, if so, whether this resemblance was due to genetic or common environmental factors. No differences were found in the prevalences of life events between MZ twins, DZ twins and their siblings. There was evidence for familial aggregation of all life events, except for traffic accidents in women. Results indicated genetic control on the presence of a spouse or involvement in a relationship. Familial resemblance of illness and death of a significant other was mainly due to common environment. For the other life events, it was not possible to distinguish between genetic and common environmental effects.


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