Gene-Environment Interaction in the Intergenerational Transmission of Health
26 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 14, 2015
Researchers have found strong linkages between parent and child health, but the mechanisms underlying intergenerational health transmission are not well understood. Motivated by biomedical research that has increasingly focused on interactions between genetic and environmental health determinants, I investigate how the importance of genetic health transmission mechanisms vary by environmental conditions in the case of pediatric asthma, the single most common chronic health condition among American children. Using a sample of approximately 2,000 adoptees and a matched sample of biological families, I find that the relative importance of genetic transmission differs strongly by SES. Specifically, in high SES families, parent-child asthma associations are approximately 75% weaker among adoptees than biological children, suggesting a dominant role for genetic transmission. In contrast, among lower SES families, parent-child asthma associations are virtually identical across biological and adoptive children, suggesting a negligible role for genetic transmission. Potential explanations for these differences are discussed.
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