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Recent studies comparing cognitive abilities between contemporary twins and singletons in developed countries have suggested that twin deficits in cognitive abilities no longer exist. We examined cognitive abilities in a sample of twins and singletons born recently in Nigeria to determine whether recent findings can be replicated in developing countries. Our sample consisted of 413 pairs of twins and 280 singletons collected from over 45 public schools in Abuja and its neighboring states in Nigeria. The ages of twins and singletons ranged from 9 to 20 years with a mean (SD) of 14.6 years (2.2 years) for twins and 16.1 years (1.8 years) for singletons. Zygosity of the same-sex twins was determined by analysis of 16 deoxyribonucleic acid markers. We asked participants to complete a questionnaire booklet that included Standard Progressive Matrices-Plus Version (SPM+), Mill-Hill Vocabulary Scale (MHV), Family Assets Questionnaire, and demographic questions. The data were corrected for sex and age and then analyzed using maximum likelihood model-fitting analysis. Although twins and singletons were comparable in family social class indicators, singletons did better than twins across all the tests (d = 0.10 to 0.35). The average of d for SPM+ total [0.32; equivalent to 4.8 Intelligence Quotient (IQ) points] and d for MHV (0.24; equivalent to 3.6 IQ points) was 0.28 (equivalent to 4.2 IQ points), similar to the twin-singleton gap found in old cohorts in developed countries. We speculate that malnutrition, poor health, and educational systems in Nigeria may explain the persistence of twin deficits in cognitive abilities found in our sample.


Yoon-Mi Hur, Richard Lynn. Twin-singleton differences in cognitive abilities in a sample of Africans in Nigeria. Twin research and human genetics : the official journal of the International Society for Twin Studies. 2013 Aug;16(4):808-15

PMID: 23835288

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