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Genetic and Environmental Influences on Stressful Life Events and Executive Functions


September 2020

Project type

Journal article

Although stress is frequently considered an environmental factor, dependent stressful life events (SLEs)––stressors that result from one’s actions or behaviors––may in fact be evoked by a genetic liability. It has been suggested that dependent SLEs may be partially caused by poor executive function (EFs), higher-level cognitive abilities that enable individuals to implement goal-directed behavior. We investigated the possibility of genetic and environmental overlap between SLEs and EFs in a longitudinal twin study. We found high genetic stability in the number of dependent SLEs from age 23 to age 29, suggesting that the number of dependent stressors show persistence across time due to their genetic etiology. In addition, there was a nominally significant negative genetic correlation between a Common EF latent factor and dependent SLEs at age 23. The genetic stability of dependent SLEs and association with Common EF provides insight into how some behaviors may lead to persistent stress.

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