Research in social genetics indicates a person’s genome may influence outcomes of those in close relationships. Implications for cognitive function remain unexplored. The current study examined such “metagenomic” patterns among older U.S. couples.
Data were from married or cohabiting couples in the 2006-2016 waves of the Health and Retirement Study, nationally representative of U.S. adults over 50. Measures included cognitive function as well as separate polygenic scores for cognition and for educational attainment. Analysis was through parallel process latent growth models.
Consistent with a recent “genetic externalities” conception, one partner’s polygenic score for educational attainment was linked to the other’s baseline levels of cognitive function. Contrary to relational moderation speculations, neither a partner’s genetic scores nor educational attainment altered individual-level genetic influences.
Findings add to the growing evidence that transpersonal genetic influences in one’s proximal context have substantively important implications. Research is needed on the role of non-partnership ties in channeling such effects. Implications for life course theory are discussed.