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At the most recent interview in 2008, ∼12,000 Add Health participants provided DNA for genotyping and genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data were assayed.
We linked these genetic data with social network information from the original school-based surveys along with information about personal characteristics and social environments accumulated across Add Health follow-up waves.
This subtle genetic similarity was observed across the entire genome and at sets of genomic locations linked with specific traits—educational attainment and body mass index—a phenomenon we term “social–genetic correlation.” We also find evidence of a “social–genetic effect” such that the genetics of a person’s friends and schoolmates influenced their own education, even after accounting for the person’s own genetics.
Humans tend to form social relationships with others who resemble them.
Using the KING algorithm (25), we computed genetic kinships between all pairs of Add Health participants.
We then compared kinships among friends to kinships among random pairs of individuals to estimate the degree of genetic similarity among friends (3).
In a national sample of more than 5,000 American adolescents, we found evidence of social forces that act to make friends and schoolmates more genetically similar to one another compared with random pairs of unrelated individuals.
The degree to which genetics are implicated in the formation and consequences of social relationships is of growing interest to the new field of sociogenomics (1, 2).
Analysis of spousal genotypes suggests that spouses are more genetically similar to one another compared with random pairs of individuals in the population (3–9). In previous analyses, we estimated that genetic homogamy was about one-third the magnitude of educational homogamy (3), even when specifically examining education-associated genotypes (8).
We also observe apparent social–genetic effects in which polygenic scores of an individual’s friends and schoolmates predict the individual’s own educational attainment.
In contrast, an individual’s height is unassociated with the height genetics of peers.Adult friends are, on average, more genetically similar than random pairs from the population (13).Genetic similarity among friendship networks is important for at least two reasons.Adolescence is a critical developmental period in which patterns of health behaviors and overall mental health established during this phase continue through the life course (16) and may affect socioeconomic attainment (17, 18).