The prosocial personality and its facets: Genetic and environmental architecture of mother-reported behavior of 7-year-old twins.


Children vary markedly in their tendency to behave prosocially, and recent research has implicated both genetic and environmental factors in this variability. Yet, little is known about the extent to which different aspects of prosociality constitute a single dimension (the prosocial personality), and to the extent they are intercorrelated, whether these aspects share their genetic and environmental origins. As part of the Longitudinal Israeli Study of Twins (LIST), mothers of 183 monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) 7- year-old twin pairs (51.6% male) reported regarding their children’s prosociality using questionnaires. Five prosociality facets (sharing, social concern, kindness, helping, and empathic concern) were identified. All five facets intercorrelated positively (r > 0.39) suggesting a single-factor structure to the data, consistent with the theoretical idea of a single prosociality trait. Higher MZ than DZ twin correlations indicated genetic contributions to each prosociality facet. A common-factor-common-pathway multivariate model estimated high (69%) heritability for the common prosociality factor, with the non-shared environment and error accounting for the remaining variance. For each facet, unique genetic and environmental contributions were identified as well. The results point to the presence of a broad prosociality phenotype, largely affected by genetics; whereas additional genetic and environmental factors contribute to different aspects of prosociality, such as helping and sharing.