Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews

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The present meta-analysis synthesized 31 twin studies.

Genes significantly contribute to differences in self-control: the overall heritability is 60%.

The heritability is the same for boys and girls, and across age.

The heritability is different across informants.

Considering genetic influences is key when investigating self-control.


Self-control is the ability to control one’s impulses when faced with challenges or temptations, and is robustly associated with physiological and psychological well-being. Twin studies show that self-control is heritable, but estimates range between 0% and 90%, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions. The aim of this study was to perform a meta-analysis to provide a quantitative overview of the heritability of self-control. A systematic search resulted in 31 included studies, 17 reporting on individual samples, based on a sample size of>30, 000 twins, published between 1997 and 2018. Our results revealed an overall monozygotic twin correlation of 0. 58, and an overall dizygotic twin correlation of 0. 28, resulting in a heritability estimate of 60%. The heritability of self-control did not vary across gender or age. The heritability did differ across informants, with stronger heritability estimates based on parent report versus self-report or observations. This finding provides evidence that when aiming to understand individual differences in self-control, one should take genetic factors into account. Recommendations for future research are discussed.







(© © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.