Paternal Incarceration, Polygenic Scores, and Children’s Educational Attainment


Liu, H. & Clark, B. (2022). Paternal Incarceration, Polygenic Scores, and Children’s Educational Attainment. Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology.


This study is aimed to investigate how paternal incarceration moderates the genetic association with children’s educational attainment. Based on gene-environment interaction (G × E) models, we hypothesize that exposure to paternal incarceration, a critical source of health and social disadvantages, may reduce children’s genetic potential for educational attainment. To test the hypothesis, we conduct an analysis based on a whole-genome polygenic score for educational attainment using data from participants of European ancestry in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). To guard against false-positive findings due to passive gene-environment correlation, we replicated the analysis based on participants raised by a social (i.e., non-biological) father. We find that the association between the education polygenic score and educational attainment observed at Wave 5 is significantly lower among Add Health participants who experienced paternal incarceration than those who never experienced paternal incarceration. This study provides evidence that social and genetic factors jointly and interactively influence educational attainment. It demonstrates how developmental and life-course criminology can be integrated with socio-genomic research to improve our understanding of the consequences of criminal justice involvement. © 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.



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Export Date: 10 October 2022; Cited By: 0; Correspondence Address: H. Liu; School of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, United States; email:

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology


Liu, H.
Clark, B.

Year Published



21994641 (ISSN)



Reference ID