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Mental disorders and genes: The trouble with twin studies

17 January 2024 03:41 pm

When you read an article or a book about mental illnesses, then the strength of the relationship between genes and mental disorders like for example depression, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and ADHD seems staggering. It’s widely believed, also within the psychiatric community, that genetic factors play an important role in causing mental illnesses.

Words - Dr Marcel De Roos

In the social sciences there is a more than hundred years old discussion going on regarding the perceived influence of genes versus environment on psychiatric disorders and medical problems. This discussion is often termed as the nature – nurture debate. Central in this debate are the so called twin studies. They are often seen as the convincing natural experiments which clearly demonstrate the discerning influence of genes and nurture on people. And they are frequently cited as conclusive evidence of the considerable influence of genes on traits as intelligence, personality and mental illnesses.

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