Genetic and environmental influences on executive functions and intelligence in middle childhood


Executive functions (EFs) and intelligence (IQ) are phenotypically correlated. In twin studies, latent variables for EFs and IQ display moderate to high heritability estimates; however, they show variable genetic correlations in twin studies spanning childhood to middle age. We analyzed data from over 11,000 children (9- to 10-year-olds, including 749 twin pairs) in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study to examine the phenotypic and genetic relations between EFs and IQ in childhood. We identified two EF factors—Common EF and Updating-Specific—which were both related to IQ (rs = 0.64–0.81). Common EF and IQ were heritable (53%–67%), and their genetic correlation (rG = 0.86) was not significantly different than 1. These results suggest that EFs and IQ are phenotypically but not genetically separable in middle childhood, meaning that this phenotypic separability may be influenced by environmental factors.

Developmental Science