Behavior Genetics

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 21–27 | Cite as

A test of the equal-environment assumption in twin studies of psychiatric illness

  • Kenneth S. Kendler
  • Michael C. Neale
  • Ronald C. Kessler
  • Andrew C. Heath
  • Lindon J. Eaves


The traditional twin method is predicated on the equal-environment assumption (EEA)—that monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins are equally correlated in their exposure to environmental events of etiologic importance for the trait under study. In 1968, Scarr proposed a test of the EEA which examines the impact of phenotypic similarity in twins of perceived versus true zygosity. We apply this test for the EEA to five common psychiatric disorders (major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, phobia, bulimia, and alcoholism), as assessed by personal interview, in 1030 female-female twin pairs from the Virginia Twin Registry with known zygosity. We use a newly developed model-fitting approach which treats perceived zygosity as a form of specified familial environment. In 158 of the 1030 pairs (15.3%), one or both twins disagreed with the project-assigned zygosity. Model fitting provided no evidence for a significant influence of perceived zygosity on twin resemblance for any of the five disorders. Although limited in power, these results support the validity of the EEA in twin studies of psychiatric disorders.

Key Words

Twin studies equal-environment assumption psychiatric disorders depression alcoholism anxiety disorders 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth S. Kendler
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael C. Neale
    • 2
  • Ronald C. Kessler
    • 3
  • Andrew C. Heath
    • 4
  • Lindon J. Eaves
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth UniversityMCV StationRichmond
  2. 2.Department of Human GeneticsMedical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmond
  3. 3.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn Arbor
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryWashington University School of MedicineSt. Louis

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