Parent contributions to the development of political attitudes in adoptive and biological families

Emily Willoughby*, Alexandros Giannelis, Steven Ludeke, Robert Klemmensen, Asbjørn Sonne Nørgaard, William G. Iacono, James Lee, Matt McGue

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Where do our political attitudes originate? Although early research attributed the formation of such beliefs to parent and peer socialization, genetically sensitive designs later clarified the substantial role of genes in the development of sociopolitical attitudes. However, it has remained unclear whether parental influence on offspring attitudes persists beyond adolescence. In a unique sample of 394 adoptive and biological families with offspring more than 30 years old, biometric modeling revealed significant evidence for genetic and nongenetic transmission from both parents for the majority of seven political-attitude phenotypes. We found the largest genetic effects for religiousness and social liberalism, whereas the largest influence of parental environment was seen for political orientation and egalitarianism. Together, these findings indicate that genes, environment, and the gene–environment correlation all contribute significantly to sociopolitical attitudes held in adulthood, and the etiology and development of those attitudes may be more important than ever in today’s rapidly changing sociopolitical landscape.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)2023-2034
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • adoption
  • behavioral genetics
  • environment
  • open data
  • open materials
  • political attitudes
  • preregistered


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