Attachment and Political Personality are Heritable and Distinct Systems, and Both Share Genetics with Interpersonal Trust and Altruism

Thomas Haarklau Kleppesto, Nikolai Olavi Czajkowski, Olav Vassend, Espen Roysamb, Nikolai Haahjem Eftedal, Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington, Eivind Ystrom, Jonas R. Kunst, Line C. Gjerde, Lotte Thomsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The attachment and caregiving domains maintain proximity and care-giving behavior between parents and offspring, in a way that has been argued to shape people’s mental models of how relationships work, resulting in secure, anxious or avoidant interpersonal styles in adulthood. Several theorists have suggested that the attachment system is closely connected to orientations and behaviors in social and political domains, which should be grounded in the same set of familial experiences as are the different attachment styles. We use a sample of Norwegian twins (N = 1987) to assess the genetic and environmental relationship between attachment, trust, altruism, right-wing authoritarianism (RWA), and social dominance orientation (SDO). Results indicate no shared environmental overlap between attachment and ideology, nor even between the attachment styles or between the ideological traits, challenging conventional wisdom in developmental, social, and political psychology. Rather, evidence supports two functionally distinct systems, one for navigating intimate relationships (attachment) and one for navigating social hierarchies (RWA/SDO), with genetic overlap between traits within each system, and two distinct genetic linkages to trust and altruism. This is counter-posed to theoretical perspectives that link attachment, ideology, and interpersonal orientations through early relational experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBehavior Genetics
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Altruism
  • Attachment
  • Genetics
  • Ideology
  • Political personality
  • Politics
  • Right-wing authoritarianism
  • Social dominance orientation
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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