Behavior Genetics

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 649–664 | Cite as

Longitudinal Stability and Growth in Literacy and Numeracy in Australian School Students

  • Katrina L. GrasbyEmail author
  • William L. Coventry
Original Research


We explored the genetic and environmental influence on both stability and growth in literacy and numeracy in 1927 Australian twin pairs from Grade 3 to Grade 9. Participants were tested on reading, spelling, grammar and punctuation, writing, and numeracy. In each domain, performance across time was highly correlated and this stability in performance was primary due to genes. Key findings on growth showed that reading followed a compensatory growth pattern that was largely due to genetic effects, while variation in growth in the other literacy domains was predominantly due to environmental influences. Genes and the shared environment influenced growth in numeracy for girls, while for boys it was influenced by the shared and unique environment. These results suggest that individual differences in growth of reading are primarily due to a genetically influenced developmental delay in the acquisition of necessary skills, while environmental influences, perhaps including different schools or teachers, are more important for the other domains.


Reading Numeracy Academic achievement Twins Growth Genetic influences 



This research was supported by an Australian Research Council Grant (DP120102414). The Australian Twin Registry is supported by an enabling Grant (628911) from the National Health and Medical Research Council. We thank the Australian Twin Registry, and all of the twins, triplets and parents involved.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Katrina L. Grasby and William L. Coventry declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

All procedures were performed in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of New England (HE12-150).

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Discipline of Psychology, School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social SciencesUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Cognition and Its DisordersSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Queensland Institute of Medical ResearchBrisbaneAustralia

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