, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 29–42 | Cite as

Behavior genetic modeling of human fertility: findings from a contemporary danish twin study

  • Joseph Lee Rodgers
  • Hans-Peter Kohler
  • Kirsten Ohm Kyvik
  • Kaare Christensen
Fertility models and processes


Behavior genetic designs and analyses can be used to address issues of central importance to demography. We use this methodology to document genetic influence on human fertility. Our data come from Danish twin pairs born from 1953 to 1959, measured on age at first attempt to get pregnant (FirstTry) and number of children (NumCh). Behavior genetic models were fitted using structural equation modeling and DF analysis. A consistent medium-level additive genetic influence was found for NumCh, equal across genders; a stronger genetic influence was identified for FirstTry, greater for females than for males. A bivariate analysis indicated significant shared genetic variance between NumCh and FirstTry.


Genetic Influence Fertility Behavior Human Fertility Structural Equation Modeling Danish Twin 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, J., D.A. Lam, A.I. Hermalin, and P. Smouse. 1990. Convergent Issues in Genetics and Demography. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bradburn, N.M., J. Rips, and S.K. Shevell. 1987. “Answering Autobiographical Questions: The Impact of Memory and Inference on Surveys.” Science 236:159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Burt, A. 1995. “The Evolution of Fitness.” Evolution 49:1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Christensen, K., O. Basso, K.O. Kyvik, S. Juul, J. Boldsen, J. Vaupel, and J. Olsen. 1998. “Fecundability of Female Twins.” Epidemiology 9:189–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Danmarks Statistics. 1997. Vital Statistics, 1995. Copenhagen: Danmarks Statisticks Trykkeri.Google Scholar
  6. DeFries, J. and D. Fulker. 1985. “Multiple Regression Analysis of Twin Data.” Behavior Genetics 15:467–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dunne, M.P., N.G. Martin, D.J. Statham, W.S. Slutske, S.H. Dinwiddie, K.K. Bucholz, P.A. Madden, and A.C. Heath. 1997. “Genetic and Environmental Contributions to Variance in Age at First Sexual Intercourse.” Psychological Science 8:1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Edwards, A.W. 1994. “The Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection.” Biological Review 69:443–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ewens, W.J. 1989. “An Interpretation and Proof of the Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection.” Theoretical Population Biology 36:167–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Falconer, D.S. 1981. Introduction to Quantitative Genetics. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  11. Fisher, R.A. 1918. “The Correlation Between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian Inheritance.” Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 52:399–433.Google Scholar
  12. — 1930. The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  13. Frank, S.B. and M. Slatkin. 1992. “Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection.” Trends in Ecology and Evolution 7:92–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Helweg-Larsen, K., L.B. Knudsen, and B. Petersson. 1998. “Women in Denmark—Why Do They Die So Young? Risk Factors for Premature Death.” Scandinavian Journal of Social Welfare 7:266–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Houle, D. 1992. “Comparing Evolvability and Variability of Quantitative Traits.” Genetics 130:195–204.Google Scholar
  16. Hughes, K.A. and M.H. Burleson. 2000. “Evolutionary Causes and Consequences of Variation in Fertility and Other Fitness Traits.” Pp. 7–33 in Genetic Influences on Human Fertility and Sexuality, edited by J.L. Rodgers, D.C. Rowe, and W.B. Miller. Boston: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  17. Imaizumi, Y., M. Nei, and T. Furusho. 1970. “Variability and Heritability of Human Fertility.” Annals of Human Genetics 33:251–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kohler, H.-P. and J.L. Rodgers. 1999. “DF Analyses of Binary, Ordered, and Censored Variables Using Probit and Tobit Approaches.” Behavior Genetics 29:221–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kohler, H.-P., J.L. Rodgers, and K. Christensen. 1999. “Is Fertility Behavior in Our Genes? Findings From a Danish Twin Study.” Population and Development Review 25:253–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kyvik, K.O., A. Green, and H. Beck-Nielsen. 1995. “The New Danish Twin Register: Establishment and Analysis of Twinning Rates.” International Journal of Epidemiology 24:589–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. LaBuda, M.C. and J.C. DeFries. 1990. “Genetic Etiology of Reading Disability: Evidence From a Twin Study.” Pp. 47–76 in Perspectives on Dyslexia, vol. 1, edited by G.T. Pavlidis. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  22. LaBuda, M.C., J.C. DeFries, and D.W. Fulker. 1986. “Multiple Regression Analysis of Twin Data Obtained From Selected Samples.” Genetic Epidemiology 3:425–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lessard, S. 1997. “Fisher’s Fundamental Theory of Natural Selection Revisited.” Theoretical Population Biology 52:119–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lopez, A.D. and R.L. Cliquet. 1984. Demographic Trends in the European Region: Health and Social Implications. Albany, NY: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  25. Lykken, D. and A. Tellegen. 1996. “Happiness Is a Stochastic Phenomenon.” Psychological Science 7:186–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Martin, N.G. and S.A. Treloar. 1991. “Age at Menarche and Fitness: Reply to Reed.” American Journal of Human Genetics 48:421–23.Google Scholar
  27. Maxwell, S.E. and H.D. Delaney. 1990. Designing Experiments and Analyzing Data: A Model Comparison Approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  28. Mayo, O.R, R. Burger, and C.R. Leach. 1990. “The Heritability of Fitness: Some Single Gene Models.” Theoretical and Applied Genetics 79:278–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McGue, M. and D.T. Lykken. 1992. “Genetic Influence on Risk of Divorce.” Psychological Science 3:368–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mealey, L. and N.L. Segal. 1993. “Heritable and Environmental Variables Affect Reproduction-Related Behaviors, But Not Ultimate Reproductive Success.” Personality and Individual Differences 14:783–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Miller, W.B. 1992. “Personality Traits and Developmental Experiences as Antecedents of Childbearing Motivation.” Demography 29:265–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Miller, W.B., D. Pasta, J. MacMurray, W. Chiu, and D. Comings. 1999. “Genetic Influences on Childbearing Motivation and Parental Satisfaction: A Theoretical Framework and Some Empirical Evidence.” Pp. 53–102 in Advances in Population: Psychosocial Perspectives, vol. 3, edited by L. Severy and W. Miller. London: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
  33. Neale, M.C., S.M. Boker, G. Xie, and H.H. Maes. 1999. Mx: Statistical Modeling. 5th ed. Richmond, VA: Medical College of Virginia, Department of Psychiatry.Google Scholar
  34. Neale, M.C. and L.R. Cardon. 1992. Methodology for Genetic Studies of Twins and Families. London: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  35. Newcomer, S. 1994. “Research on Adolescent Fertility.” Pp. 75–88 in Advances in Population Psychology: Psychosocial Perspectives, vol. 2, edited by L. Severy. London: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
  36. Perusse, D., M.C. Neale, A.C. Heath, and L.J. Eaves. 1994. “Human Parental Behavior: Evidence for Genetic Influence and Potential Implications for Gene-Culture Transmission.” Behavior Genetics 24:327–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Plomin, R. 1990. Nature and Nurture: An Introduction to Human Behavioral Genetics. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
  38. Plomin, R., R. Corley, J.C. DeFries, and D.W. Fulker. 1990. “Individual Differences in Television Viewing in Early Childhood: Nature as Well as Nurture.” Psychological Science 1:371–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Plomin, R., J. DeFries, and G.E. McClearn. 1990. Behavioral Genetics: A Primer. New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
  40. Plomin, R. and R. Rende. 1991. “Human Behavioral Genetics.” Pp. 161–90 in Annual Review of Psychology, edited by M.R. Rosenzweig and L.W. Porter. Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews Inc.Google Scholar
  41. Price, G.R. 1972. “Fisher’s ‘Fundamental Theorem’ Made Clear.” Annals of Human Genetics 36:129–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rodgers, J.L. and D. Doughty. 2000. “Genetic and Environmental Influences on Fertility Expectations and Outcomes Using NLSY Kinship Data.” Pp. 85–105 in Genetic Influences on Human Fertility and Sexuality, edited by J.L. Rodgers, D.C. Rowe, and W.B. Miller. Boston: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  43. Rodgers, J.L., D.F. Harris, and K.B. Vickers. 1992. “Seasonality of First Coitus in the United States.” Social Biology 39:1–14.Google Scholar
  44. Rodgers, J.L., K. Hughes, H.-P. Kohler, K. Christensen, D. Doughty, D.C. Rowe, and W.B. Miller. Forthcoming. “Genetic Influences Help Explain Variation in Human Fertility Outcomes: Evidence From Recent Behavioral and Molecular Genetic Studies.” Current Directions in Psychological Science.Google Scholar
  45. Rodgers, J.L. and M. McGue. 1994. “A Simple Algebraic Demonstration of the Validity of the DeFries-Fulker Analysis in Unselected Samples With Multiple Kinship Levels.” Behavior Genetics 24:259–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rodgers, J.L., D.C. Rowe, and M. Buster. 1999. “Nature, Nurture, and First Sexual Intercourse in the USA: Fitting Behavioral Genetic Models to NLSY Kinship Data.” Journal of Biosocial Sciences 31:29–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rodgers, J.L., D.C. Rowe, and C. Li. 1994. “Beyond Nature Versus Nurture: DF Analysis of Nonshared Influences on Problem Behaviors.” Developmental Psychology 30:374–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rossi, A.S. 1994. “Eros and Caritas: A Biopsychosocial Approach to Human Sexuality and Reproduction.” Pp. 3–38 In Sexuality Across the Life Course, edited by A.S. Rossi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  49. Rowe, D.C. and J.L. Rodgers. 1991. “An ‘Epidemic’ Model of Adolescent Sexual Intercourse: Applications to National Survey Data.” Journal of Biosocial Science 23:211–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Scarr, S. and S. Grajek. 1982. “Similarities and Differences Among Siblings.” Pp. 357–81 in Sibling Relationships: Their Nature and Significance Across the Lifespan, edited by M. Lamb and B. Sutton-Smith. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  51. Shryock, H.S. and J.S. Siegel. 1976. The Methods and Materials of Demography. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  52. Udry, J.R. 1995. “Sociology and Biology: What Biology Do Sociologists Need to Know?” Social Forces 73:999–1010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Udry, J.R. and B.C. Campbell. 1994. “Getting Started on Sexual Behavior.” Pp. 187–208 in Sexuality Across the Life Course, edited by A. Rossi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  54. van de Kaa, D.J. 1987. “Europe’s Second Demographic Transition.” Population Bulletin 42:1–57.Google Scholar
  55. Waller, N.B. 1994. “A DeFries and Fulker Regression Model for Genetic Nonadditivity.” Behavior Genetics 24:149–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Waller, N.G., B.A. Kojetin, T.J. Bouchard, D.T. Lykken, and A. Tellegen. 1990. “Genetic Environmental Values: A Study of Twins Reared Apart and Together.” Psychological Science 1:138–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Williams, L.A. and B.J. Williams. 1974. “A Re-examination of the Heritability of Fertility in the British Peerage.” Social Biology 21:225–31.Google Scholar
  58. Wood, J. 1994. Dynamics of Human Reproduction: Biology, Biometry, Demography. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Lee Rodgers
    • 1
  • Hans-Peter Kohler
    • 2
  • Kirsten Ohm Kyvik
    • 3
    • 4
  • Kaare Christensen
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OklahomaNorman
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for Demographic ResearchGermany
  3. 3.Section for EpidemiologyInstitute for Public HealthGermany
  4. 4.The Danish Twin RegistryUniversity of Southern DenmarkDenmark

Personalised recommendations