About Us

Welcome to the Developmental Behavior Genetics Lab.

We use behavioral genetic research methods to understand the developmental roots of social inequality, with a particular focus on the second decade of life. 

Our work considers multiple aspects of early development — how well young people do in school, when they experience pubertal maturation and parenthood, when and how heavily they drink or use drugs, and whether they engage in other behavioral risks that imperil themselves or other people. Together, these experiences shape people’s physical health, mental health, and economic opportunities for the rest of their lives. And, all of these behaviors and traits are heritable, in that genetic differences account for variation between people, but heritability estimates are black boxes regarding mechanism. What biological and social processes instantiate genetic differences between people to cause diverging life-course outcomes? How do social contexts, including families, schools, and neighborhoods, interact with genetic differences to shape individual trajectories of development?

To address these questions, we use a variety of methods. First, we study a cohort of child and adolescent twins who are recruited from schools in central Texas — The Twin Project at the University of Texas. The Twin Project is conducted in collaboration with the Tucker-Drob Lab at the University of Texas. Second, we conduct statistical genetic analyses of DNA variation in large population data sets, like the U.K. Biobank.

Finally, we are interested in ethical and interpretive issues surrounding behavioral genetic discoveries, in particular how genetic causes of individual differences can be understood and used in light of moral commitments to equality.