Twins at the heart of research about inequality over the life course

Twins at the heart of research about inequality over the life course

In longitudinal studies of twins, the effects of genes and social interactions are disentangled, and researchers can show how they interfere with one another. These questions are at the heart of research by the University of Bielefeld’s (Germany) Prof. Martin Diewald. Social studies about twins add value to science and society. Furthermore, they enable genetics to be considered as a social science, not simply as a methodological topic in sociology.

“We need to accept that we start our lives with different genetic endowments and genetic risks, which then are unfolded or blocked by social environments”, says Diewald. His results show that without environment stimulation, genetic skills do not develop. In fact, heritability, or the realisation of genetic potential, increases with age, which makes social interactions decisive for genetics. “What your DNA makes with you depends on your social interactions”, explains Diewald. For his interdisciplinary study TwinLife, which involved sociologists, psychologists and biologists, Prof. Diewald worked with 4000 nuclear twin families, representing over 17,000 individuals, for two years.

250 scholars discuss inequality over the life course during the ecsr 2019 conference in lausanne

From 12 to 14 September 2019, the University of Lausanne hosted the  European Consortium of Sociological Research (ECSR). Over 250 scholars from institutions in 22 countries met to discuss two key concerns of inequality over the life course: the unequal distribution of life chances and life course differences by gender, class and ethnic origin.