Behavior Genetics

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 577–590

Family Matters: Happiness in Nuclear Families and Twins

Original Research

DOI: 10.1007/s10519-010-9365-x

Cite this article as:
Nes, R.B., Czajkowski, N. & Tambs, K. Behav Genet (2010) 40: 577. doi:10.1007/s10519-010-9365-x


Biometric studies have shown that happiness is strongly affected by genes. The findings are mainly based on twin data, however, and the full validity of the results has been debated. To overcome some limitations in classical twin research, we examined aetiological sources of subjective well-being (SWB), using two independent population-based samples, one including nuclear families (N = 54,540) and one including twins (N = 6,620). Biometric modelling using R was conducted to test for a data structure implying either non-additive genetic effects or higher environmental co-twin correlation in MZ than DZ pairs (violation of the EEA). We also estimated non-random mating, cultural transmission and shared environments specific for regular siblings and twins. Two sets of nested models were fitted and compared. The best explanatory model shows that family matters for happiness predominantly due to quantitative sex-specific genetic effects, a moderate spousal correlation and a shared twin environment. Upper limits for broad-sense heritability were estimated to be 0.33 (females) and 0.36 (males). Our study constitutes the most elaborate biometric study of SWB to date and illustrates the utility of including responses from multiple types of relatives in quantitative genetic analyses.


Subjective well-beingHappinessLife satisfactionBehaviour geneticsTwin research

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Mental HealthThe Norwegian Institute of Public HealthOsloNorway
  2. 2.Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral GeneticsVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA