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Approved Research

Family, genetic, and environmental influence on human development and health

Principal Investigator: Professor Jonathan Beauchamp
Approved Research ID: 99086
Approval date: March 16th 2023

Lay summary

Recent technological advances now make it possible to study specific genetic variants, to study how environmental and other non-genetic factors interact with those genetic variants, and to use genetic data to construct polygenic indices (PGIs) that use genetic data to predict various traits with meaningful predictive power. Building on these advances, the proposed research aims to study how genetic and environmental factors operate, either directly or by interacting with one another, on social scientific and health-relevant outcomes. We seek to help quantify how several key variables (e.g., environmental, genetic, and policy-related) impact health, well-being, and human development.

We will use both single genetic variants and PGIs to investigate how specific lifestyle choices, environmental and family effects, and policy mediate the relationships between genetic predisposition and health and social scientific outcomes. We will employ a suite of methods: we will use PGIs to explore if PGIs and environmental variables vary jointly and interact; we will employ "Mendelian randomization" to obtain estimates of the causal effects of height, education, and other outcomes, on health and social-scientific outcomes; we will estimate heritability and genetic correlations; and we will use family-based research designs, in which we can examine how siblings' different outcomes relate to their genetic differences.

This research and the insights we hope to generate from it are important for understanding health outcomes, human development, as well as the design of improved public policy. This research will also lay the groundwork for developing novel methodological tools for social scientists that can be applied to the study of non-genetic questions.