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A supportive family environment in childhood enhances the level and heritability of sense of coherence in early adulthood

Abstract

Purpose

To analyze the effects of genetic and environmental factors on sense of coherence (SOC) in young adulthood and whether family environment measured in childhood modifies these effects.

Methods

SOC was measured at 20–27 years of age in 3,193 Finnish twins using the Antonovsky’s 13-item short scale. The twins and their parents had rated their emotional family environment independently when the twins were 12 years of age. The data were analyzed using applications of structural linear equation modeling to twin data.

Results

Females rated SOC 2.42 points lower than males. Additive genetic factors explained 39 % of the variation of SOC in males and 49 % in females, whereas the rest of the variation was explained by environmental factors unique to each twin individual. For the dimensions of SOC, the highest genetic correlation was found between comprehensibility and manageability (0.90 in males and 0.97 in females). SOC was strongest in the participants who had reported supportive family atmosphere and low relational tensions to parents in childhood. These participants also had higher genetic variance and lower unique environmental variance of SOC when compared to those who reported emotionally more stressful family environment. The results were similar when we used parental rating of family environment.

Conclusion

Genetic factors are important for SOC, but genetic influences are much greater in supportive family environments. This emphasizes the importance of childhood home for the development of strong SOC.

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Fig. 1

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Acknowledgments

Data collection and analysis have been supported by National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (Grants AA-12502, AA-00145, and AA-09203 to RJR), the Academy of Finland (Grants 100499, 205585, 118555, 141054 and 264146 to JK and 266592 for KS) and the Academy of Finland Center of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics (Grant Numbers: 213506, 129680).

Conflict of interest

None to declare.

Author information

Correspondence to Karri Silventoinen.

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Silventoinen, K., Volanen, S., Vuoksimaa, E. et al. A supportive family environment in childhood enhances the level and heritability of sense of coherence in early adulthood. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 49, 1951–1960 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-014-0851-y

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Keywords

  • Childhood environment
  • Gene–environment interactions
  • Genetic factors
  • Sense of coherence