, Volume 20, Issue 1-2, pp 13-25
Date: 23 May 2006

Etiology of reading difficulties as a function of gender and severity

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Abstract

To test the hypothesis that the etiology of reading difficulties may differ for males and females in more severely impaired samples, reading performance data from monozygotic (MZ), same-sex dizygotic (DZss), and opposite-sex dizygotic (DZos) twin pairs were analyzed using a model-fitting implementation of the DeFries-Fulker (DF) model (Purcell & Sham, 2003, Behavior genetics, 33, 271–278). Five non-independent samples were selected using cut-offs of −1 (N = 737 pairs), −1.5 (N = 654), −2 (N = 468), −2.5 (N = 335), and −3 (N = 198) standard deviations (s) below the mean composite reading score of control twins. Male/female gender ratios for children with reading difficulties were significantly higher than 1.0 for all five samples and increased as a function of severity (viz., 1.15, 1.17, 1.40, 1.61, and 1.88, respectively). When the DF model was fit to the data, estimates of heritability (h g 2 ) and shared environmental influences (c g 2 ) were not significantly different for males and females in any of the groups. Consequently, the most parsimonious model that provided a good fit to the data at all five levels of severity equated the heritabilities and shared environmental influences for males and females, and fixed the DZos coefficient of genetic relatedness at 0.5. Thus, these results provide no evidence for a differential etiology of reading difficulties as a function of gender in more severely impaired samples, and suggest that the same genetic and environmental influences contribute to reading difficulties in males and females, irrespective of severity.