A genetically sensitive investigation of the effects of the school environment and socio-economic status on academic achievement in seven-year-olds

Sheila O. Walker, Stephen A. Petrill, Robert Plomin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Although it is well established that school characteristics (SCH) and socio-economic status (SES) are associated with academic achievement (ACH), these correlations are not necessarily causal. Because academic achievement shows substantial genetic influence, it is useful to embed such investigations in genetically sensitive designs in order to examine environmental influences more precisely by controlling genetic influence on ACH. In the first study of this kind for academic achievement, data were collected for 1,063 same-sex pairs of seven-year-old MZ and DZ twins for teacher-assessed ACH, UK statistics on SCH, and parent-reported SES. Exclusive of genetic influence on school achievement, shared environment (environmental influences that make siblings similar) accounts for 12% of the variance in academic achievement. SCH accounts for 17% and SES accounts for 83% of this shared environmental variance. Exclusive of genetic and shared environmental influence including SCH and SES, nonshared environment (environmental influences that do not make siblings similar) accounts for 19% of the variance in academic achievement. The importance of nonshared environmental influences on academic achievement leads to the question of what these child-specific experiences might be that are not shared by children in the same family, school, and classroom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-73
Number of pages19
JournalEducational Psychology
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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