Genes Unite Executive Functions in Childhood

Laura E. Engelhardt, Daniel A. Briley, Frank D. Mann, K. Paige Harden, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individual differences in children’s executive functions (EFs) are relevant for a wide range of normal and atypical psychological outcomes across the life span, but the origins of variation in children’s EFs are not well understood. We used data from a racially and socioeconomically diverse sample of 505 third- through eighth-grade twins and triplets from the Texas Twin Project to estimate genetic and environmental influences on a Common EF factor and on variance unique to four core EF domains: inhibition, switching, working memory, and updating. As has been previously demonstrated in young adults, the Common EF factor was 100% heritable, which indicates that correlations among the four EF domains are entirely attributable to shared genetic etiology. Nonshared environmental influences were evident for variance unique to individual domains. General EF may thus serve as an early life marker of genetic propensity for a range of functions and pathologies later in life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1151-1163
Number of pages13
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 7 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • behavior genetics
  • cognitive ability
  • cognitive development
  • individual differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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