Using genetic information to test causal relationships in cross-sectional data

Brad Verhulst*, Ryne Estabrook

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Cross-sectional data from twins contain information that can be used to derive a test of causality between traits. This test of directionality is based upon the fact that genetic relationships between family members conform to an established structural pattern. In this paper we examine several common methods for empirically testing causality as well as several genetic models that we build on for the Direction of Causation (DoC) model. We then discuss the mathematical components of the DoC model and highlight limitations of the model and potential solutions to these limitations. We conclude by presenting an example from the personality and politics literature that has begun to explore the question whether or not personality traits cause people to hold specific political attitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-344
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • behavioral genetics
  • political psychology
  • statistical modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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