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The Relationship Code

The Relationship Code

Deciphering Genetic and Social Influences on Adolescent Development

David Reiss, Jenae M. Neiderhiser, E. Mavis Hetherington, Robert Plomin

ISBN 9780674011267

Publication date: 05/30/2003

The Relationship Code is the report of a longitudinal study, conducted over a ten-year period, of the influence of family relationships and genetic factors on competence and psychopathology in adolescent development. The sample for this landmark study included 720 pairs of same-sex adolescent siblings—including twins, half siblings, and genetically unrelated siblings—and their parents.

Using a clear expressive style, David Reiss and his coinvestigators identify specific mechanisms that link genetic factors and the social environment in psychological development. They propose a striking hypothesis: family relationships are crucial to the expression of genetic influences on a broad array of complex behaviors in adolescents. Moreover, this role of family relationships may be very specific: some genetic factors are linked to mother–child relationships, others to father–child relations, some to relationship warmth, while others are linked to relationship conflict or control. The specificity of these links suggests that family relationships may constitute a code for translating genetic influences into the ontogeny of behaviors, a code every bit as important for behavior as DNA-RNA.


  • This book is of fundamental importance in biobehavioral sciences. The authors, all distinguished research scientists with years of experience with genetic and social studies, advance the nature–nurture debate… They present a uniquely new view of genetic influences, namely, the genetic tendencies for certain beneficial styles and personality are influenced significantly by patterns of relationships.

    —James M. Toolan, M.D., American Journal of Psychotherapy


  • David Reiss is Vivian Gill Distinguished Research Professor at George Washington University Medical Center.
  • Jenae Neiderhiser is Assistant Research Professor at George Washington University Medical Center.
  • E. Mavis Hetherington is James M. Page Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia.
  • Robert Plomin is Professor of Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry in London.

Book Details

  • 560 pages
  • 5-3/4 x 8-7/8 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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