Gene-environment interactions related to body mass: School policies and social context as environmental moderators

Jason D. Boardman, Michael E. Roettger, Benjamin W. Domingue, Matthew B. McQueen, Brett C. Haberstick, Kathleen Mullan Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


This paper highlights the role of institutional resources and policies, whose origins lie in political processes, in shaping the genetic etiology of body mass among a national sample of adolescents. Using data from Waves I and II of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we decompose the variance of body mass into environmental and genetic components. We then examine the extent to which the genetic influences on body mass are different across the 134 schools in the study. Taking advantage of school differences in both health-related policies and social norms regarding body size, we examine how institutional resources and policies alter the relative impact of genetic influences on body mass. For the entire sample, we estimate a heritability of.82, with the remaining.18 due to unique environmental factors. However, we also show variation about this estimate and provide evidence suggesting that social norms and institutional policies often mask genetic vulnerabilities to increased weight. Empirically, we demonstrate that more restrictive school policies and policies designed to curb weight gain are also associated with decreases in the proportion of variance in body mass that is due to additive genetic influences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-388
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Gene-environment interactions related to body mass: School policies and social context as environmental moderators'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this