Etiological Distinction Across Dimensions of Math Anxiety

  • Sarah L. LukowskiEmail author
  • Jack DiTrapani
  • Nicholas J. Rockwood
  • Minjeong Jeon
  • Lee A. Thompson
  • Stephen A. Petrill
Original Research


Analyses have suggested math anxiety is a multidimensional construct. However, previous behavioral genetic work examining math anxiety was unidimensional. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to examine different approaches for specifying behavioral genetic models of math anxiety as a multidimensional construct. Three models were compared: a unidimensional model, a three dimension multidimensional model, and a bi-factor model, which partitioned variance into one common factor shared across three dimensions of math anxiety and examined residual variance in each dimension. The best fitting model was a bi-factor AE model, which suggested moderate heritability of general math anxiety and that each dimension of math anxiety had unique etiological influences not accounted for by shared variance with the general math anxiety factor. Thus, while there was evidence of shared etiology, there was also evidence of some etiological distinction across dimensions of math anxiety. The results demonstrate the importance of taking into account the dimensionality of the scale when interpreting similarity across twins.


Math anxiety Calculation anxiety Test anxiety Classroom anxiety Quantitative genetics Twin methods School-aged children Dimensionality 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Katherine Rhodes for her insightful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. This work was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grants HD038075, HD059215, and HD075460. S. Lukowski was supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation through the Graduate Research Fellowship Program, DGE-1343012.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Sarah L. Lukowski, Jack DiTrapani, Nicholas J. Rockwood, Minjeong Jeon, Lee A. Thompson, Stephen A. Petrill declare they have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from a parent/guardian of each of the child participants. All children provided informed assent to participate in the study.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed as a part of the study were in accordance with ethical standards and approved by the institutional review board.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Child DevelopmentUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  3. 3.Graduate School of Education & Information StudiesUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychological SciencesCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  5. 5.University of MinnesotaSaint PaulUSA

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