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The genetic architecture of oral language, reading fluency, and reading comprehension: A twin study from 7 to 16 years

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JournalDevelopmental Psychology
DateAccepted/In press - 9 Dec 2016
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jun 2017
Issue number6
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)1115-1129
Original languageEnglish


This study examines the genetic and environmental etiology underlying the development of oral language and reading skills, and the relationship between them, over a long period of developmental time spanning middle childhood and adolescence. It focuses particularly on the differential relationship between language and two different aspects of reading: reading fluency and reading comprehension. Structural equation models were applied to language and reading data at 7, 12, and 16 years from the large-scale TEDS twin study. A series of multivariate twin models show a clear patterning of oral language with reading comprehension, as distinct from reading fluency: significant but moderate genetic overlap between oral language and reading fluency (genetic correlation r g = .46-.58 at 7, 12, and 16) contrasts with very substantial genetic overlap between oral language and reading comprehension (r g = .81-.87, at 12 and 16). This pattern is even clearer in a latent factors model, fit to the data aggregated across ages, in which a single factor representing oral language and reading comprehension is correlated with-but distinct from-a second factor representing reading fluency. A distinction between oral language and reading fluency is also apparent in different developmental trajectories: While the heritability of oral language increases over the period from 7 to 12 to 16 years (from h² = .27 to .47 to .55), the heritability of reading fluency is high and largely stable over the same period of time (h² = .73 to .71 to .64). (PsycINFO Database Record

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    Research areas

  • Genetic architecture, Language, Reading comprehension, Reading fluency, Twin study, Vocabulary, Age Factors, Humans, Male, Statistics as Topic, Comprehension/physiology, Gene-Environment Interaction, Reading, Language Tests, Speech/physiology, Child Language, Adolescent, Female, Child, Longitudinal Studies

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