Behavior Genetics

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 764–777 | Cite as

The Magnitude of Genetic and Environmental Influences on Parental and Observational Measures of Behavioral Inhibition and Shyness in Toddlerhood

  • Ashley K. SmithEmail author
  • Soo H. Rhee
  • Robin P. Corley
  • Naomi P. Friedman
  • John K. Hewitt
  • JoAnn L. Robinson
Original Research


Behavioral inhibition is a temperamental trait that refers to slow approach to novel items, shyness towards new people, and fearfulness in new situations, and individuals may develop inhibited response styles by as early as 2 years of age. There are important methodological considerations in the assessment of early temperament, with parental report and observational measures providing both corroborative and unique data. The present study examined behavioral inhibition measured by parental report and observational measures in a genetically informative sample to delineate the agreement between the methods and the uniqueness of each method, and to estimate the magnitude of genetic and environmental influences on the common and unique variance. The biometric, psychometric, and rater bias models were conducted to study the covariance between measurement modalities. Overall, the results suggested a common phenotype was assessed by both parents and observers. The latent phenotype underlying parental and observational measures of behavioral inhibition was moderately to substantially heritable.


Temperament Behavioral inhibition Rater bias Toddler Shyness Twin study methods Parent report Observational measures 



This research was supported by grants from the MacArthur Foundation, and grants NIH HD010333, HD050346, HD007289, and MH063207. The authors thank the participants and research assistants for their participation and assistance with this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashley K. Smith
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Soo H. Rhee
    • 1
    • 2
  • Robin P. Corley
    • 2
  • Naomi P. Friedman
    • 2
  • John K. Hewitt
    • 1
    • 2
  • JoAnn L. Robinson
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Behavioral GeneticsUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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