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The Behavioural Genetics of Attachment in Adolescence: The TEDS Longitudinal Study

Adolescence is a period marked by enormous change in children’s social, emotional and cognitive capacities, and these are accompanied by dramatic shifts in the nature of parent-child relationships.

Extensive evidence indicates that the quality of the adolescent-parent attachment relationship, the seeds of which may have been sown earlier in life, is an important factor that discriminates between adolescents who experience behavioural or emotional difficulties and those that do not. However, this association is complex, as evidence from behavioural genetic studies clearly indicates that parent-adolescent relationships are strongly-bi-directional in nature. The current study represents the first behavioural genetic study of adolescent attachment and constitutes the most statistically powerful study to date on the behavioural-genetics of attachment. We found robust associations between MZ twins’ scores for Coherence and their overall security of attachment but substantially lower associations for DZ twins suggesting genetic influence on adolescent attachment (40% heritability of attachment and negligible influence of the shared environment).

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