account arrow-down-linearrow-down-small arrow-downarrow-download arrow-left-small arrow-leftarrow-link arrow-rightarrow-upaudio-less-volume audio-not-playing audio-plus-volume audio awarded books calendar close-modal closedate document education emailevent Facebookhamburger impact instagramjustice linkedin location-outline location opinion page phonepinterestplay pluspost preview project reports search-bigsearch-old search share startime twitterwelfare youtube zoom-in zoom-out

A twin study: understanding and influencing pupils’ choices at age 16

Researchers: Professor Robert Plomin | Dr Kathryn Asbury

Project overview

This study aims to identify specific environmental factors that influence achievement, well-being and decision-making during the educational transition at age 16, when young people complete their final compulsory examinations and move on to further education, training, employment or unemployment.

Behavioural genetic research has taught us that the environments that make most difference to achievement and well-being are those not shared by children growing up in the same family. The sharpest tool for identifying these non-shared environments, and controlling for the effect of genes, involves looking at differences between identical twins.

In this study, the researchers will contact a large sample of adolescent identical twins (3,375 pairs) with a questionnaire regarding educationally relevant differences between them. The questionnaire answers will be used to identify 100 highly discordant pairs. The research team will then conduct in-depth telephone interviews with the twins and their parents about differences in experience that may have led to differences in outcome.

As a longer term goal, the project aims to use hypotheses generated from these interviews to design a measure of non-shared environmental influence on achievement and well-being. After feasibility and pilot testing, this measure will be administered to a sample of 1,000 non-identical twin pairs.


  • Professor Robert Plomin
    King's College London
  • Dr Kathryn Asbury
    University of York

  • Cheryl Lloyd
    Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

Explore our projects

Search projects

We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.