Sensitivity to Peer Evaluation and Its Genetic and Environmental Determinants: Findings from a Population-Based Twin Study

Annelie Klippel, Ulrich Reininghaus, Wolfgang Viechtbauer, Jeroen Decoster, Philippe Delespaul, Cathérine Derom, Marc de Hert, Nele Jacobs, Claudia Menne-Lothmann, Bart Rutten, Evert Thiery, Jim van Os, Ruud van Winkel, Inez Myin-Germeys, Marieke Wichers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Adolescents and young adults are highly focused on peer evaluation, but little is known about sources of their differential sensitivity. We examined to what extent sensitivity to peer evaluation is influenced by interacting environmental and genetic factors. A sample of 354 healthy adolescent twin pairs (n = 708) took part in a structured, laboratory task in which they were exposed to peer evaluation. The proportion of the variance in sensitivity to peer evaluation due to genetic and environmental factors was estimated, as was the association with specific a priori environmental risk factors. Differences in sensitivity to peer evaluation between adolescents were explained mainly by non-shared environmental influences. The results on shared environmental influences were not conclusive. No impact of latent genetic factors or gene-environment interactions was found. Adolescents with lower self-rated positions on the social ladder or who reported to have been bullied more severely showed significantly stronger responses to peer evaluation. Not genes, but subjective social status and past experience of being bullied seem to impact sensitivity to peer evaluation. This suggests that altered response to peer evaluation is the outcome of cumulative sensitization to social interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)766-778
Number of pages13
JournalChild Psychiatry & Human Development
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018



  • Adolescent
  • Bullying/prevention & control
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Peer Group
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Social Class
  • Social Environment
  • Twins/genetics
  • Young Adult

Cite this

Klippel, A., Reininghaus, U., Viechtbauer, W., Decoster, J., Delespaul, P., Derom, C., de Hert, M., Jacobs, N., Menne-Lothmann, C., Rutten, B., Thiery, E., van Os, J., van Winkel, R., Myin-Germeys, I., & Wichers, M. (2018). Sensitivity to Peer Evaluation and Its Genetic and Environmental Determinants: Findings from a Population-Based Twin Study. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 49(5), 766-778.