SOCIOGENOME: Unravelling the genetic influences of reproductive behaviour and gene-environment interaction

Melindsociogenome bio photoa Mills is th Principal Investigator of the ERC funded SOCIOGENOME project. Sociogenome is comprehensive study of the role of genes and gene-environment (GxE) interaction on reproductive behaviour. Until now, social science research has focussed on socio-environmental explanations, largely neglecting the role of genes. Drawing from recent unprecedented advances in molecular genetics we examine whether there is a genetic component to reproductive outcomes, including age at first birth, number of children and infertility and their interaction with the social environment. For more information about this project, visit our project website: SOCIOGENOME.


Recent findings from the SOCIOGENOME project

Tropf, F.C.  et al. M.C. Mills. (2017). ‘Hidden heritability due to heterogeneity across seven populations,’ Nature Human Behaviour, 1: 757-765. To access this publication:

Mills, M.C., N. Barban & F.C. Tropf. (forthcoming). ‘The Sociogenomics of Polygenic Scores of Reproductive Behavior and Their Relationship to Other Fertility Traits,’ RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 4(4), doi: 10.7758/RSF.2018.4.4.07.

Barban, N…….M.C. Mills (2016). Genome-wide analysis identifies 12 loci influencing human reproductive behavior, Nature Genetics, 48: 1462-1472, doi: 10.1038/ng.3698

For Frequently Asked Questions, see:

For a film about this research, see:

Verweij, R.M., M.C. Mills et al. (2017). ‘Sexual dimorphism in the genetic influence on human childlessness,’ European Journal of Human Genetics, 25: 1067-74. [OPEN ACCESS]

Briley, D., F.C. Tropf, M.C.Mills (2017). “What explains the heritability of completed fertility? Evidence from Two large Twin Studies,” Behaviour Genetics, 47(1): 36-51.

Courtiol, A., F.C. Tropf & M.C.Mills (2016) When genes and environment disagree: making sense of trends in recent human evolutionProceedings of the National Academy of Science PNAS, 113(26): 7693-7695, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1608532113 Open Access

Okbay, A. et al. (2016) Genetic variants associated with subjective well-being, depressive symptoms and neuroticism identified through genome-wide analyses. Nature Genetics. 48: 624-633, doi:10.1038/ng.3552

Mehta, D.,…..M.C. Mills, N.R Way, S.Hong Lee. (2016). Evidence for genetic overlap between schizophrenia and age at first birth in women. JAMA Psychiatry, 73(3):193-194. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2964.

Stulp, G., R. Sear, M.Mills, L. Barrett. (2016). The reproductive ecology of industrial societies: the association between wealth and fertility, Human Nature: An Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective, 27: 445-470, doi: doi:10.1007/s12110-016-9272-9

Tropf, F. C., Mills, M., Barban, N., Stulp, G., and H. Snieder (2015) Human fertility, molecular genetics and natural selection in modern societies, PLoS ONE, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126821

Mills, M. & F. Tropf (2015). The biodemography of fertility: A review and future research frontiers, Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie,  67(1): 397-424. DOI: 10.1007/s11577-015-0319-4. Open Access Publication!

Tropf, F. C.,Barban, N., M. Mills, Snieder, H. & J. Mandemakers (2015) Genetic influence on age at first birth of female twins born in the UK, 1919-68Population Studies, pp. 129-145. DOI:10.1080/00324728.2015.1056823

See our June 2015 publication in PLOS ONE which pinpoints what part genes play in the age of first time mothers and family size

For selection of the media coverage, see:

Women sociogenome bio photostarting families later despite genetic drive – study The Guardian, 04/06/2015, p.13, Ian Sample

Feminism overrides early-birth gene The Times, 04/06/2015, p.23, Oliver Moody

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family The Independent, 04/06/2015, p.8, Steve Connor

 Feeling broody? It’s could all be down to the genes i (The paper for today), 04/06/2015, p.11, Steve Connor


Our Proceedings B paper on height and fertility was discussed in Science, The New York Times, Guardian and many others.

Stulp, G., Barrett, L., Tropf, F.C., Mills, M. (2015). Does natural selection favour taller stature among the tallest people on earth? Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282: 20150211

SOCGEN: Combining social science and molecular genetic research to examine inequality and the life course

Melinda Mills, together with David Steinsaltz from the Department of Statistics, University of Oxford and Nicola Barban and Felix Tropf (SociologNational Centre for Research Methods Logoy) work on this project funded by the ESRC and NCRM.  The key research questions to be answered in this project are:

  • To what extent can genetic data be informative about an individual’s life course behaviour?
  • Which statistical methods can be developed to examine the smaller effects that need to be detected in Gene X Environment (GxE) analyses, where the socio-environment interacts with or moderate genetic effects?
  • Which statistical tools and packages can be developed to deal with central analytical problems faced by life course researchers engaging in sociogenomic analyses? How can we introduce Bayesian models that accommodate longitudinal covariates and measurement error in both covariates and their outcomes? How can cope with multiple correlated covariates?
  • Can recent models from molecular genetics (GCTA – genome-wide complex trait analysis) be validated and adapted to deal with substantive life course research?
  • How can biological, genetic and medical research benefit from insights from the life course and social science research?

 Assisted Reproductive Technology and Childlessness

Melinda Mills is the co-Leader of Working Package 4 on Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Childlessness within the FamiliesAndSocieties Project, which is  visit has received funding from the European Union´s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013). FamiliesAndSocieties ( has the aim to investigate the diversity of family forms, relationships and life courses in Europe, to assess the compatibility of existing policies with these changes, and to contribute to evidence-based policy-making. The consortium brings together 25 leading universities and research institutes in 15 European countries and three transnational civil society organizations.

For more information about this Research working package, see the August 2015 interview with Melinda Mills and Maria Letizia Tanturri.

For some recent and Open Access Publications, see:

Präg, P. & M.C. Mills. (2017). ‘Cultural determinants influence assisted reproduction usage in Europe more than economic and demographic factors’, Human Reproduction, 32(11): 2305-2314. [OPEN ACCESS] To access the data manual to replicate this article, click here. To access the dataset to replicate this article, click here.

Barbuscia, A. & M. C. Mills. (2017). ‘Cognitive development in children up to age 11 years born after ART – a longitudinal cohort study,’ Human Reproduction. 32(7): 1482-88. [OPEN ACCESS]

Präg, P. & M. C. Mills (2017). “Assisted Reproductive Technology in Europe: Usage and Regulation in the Context of Cross-Border Reproductive Care,” pp. 289-309, in: Childlessness in Europe: Contexts, Causes and Consequences. Springer. [OPEN ACCESS]

Assortative Mating, Internet Dating & Partnerships

Melinda GLInternetDatershas also published in the area of assortative mating and partnerships, also using internet dating data from the multinational company eDarling and A selection of articles on this topic is listed below including examining: racial preferences of internet daters , equal rights and gay and lesbian internet daters, contraceptive use of cohabitors with a selection of recent articles listed below.

Potârcă, G., M. Mills & M. van Duijn. (2017). The Choices and Constraints of Secondary Singles. Willingness to Stepparent among Divorced Online Daters across Europe, Journal of Family Issues, 38(10): 1443-1470.

Sweeney, M., Castro, T. & M. Mills. (2015). The reproductive context of cohabitation in a comparative perspective, Demographic Research, 32(5): 147-182.

Stulp, G, Mills, M., T. Pollet & Barrett, L. (2014). Non-linear associations between stature and mate choice characteristics for American men and their spouses, American Journal of Human Biology, 26(4): 530-537.

Ivanova, K., Mills, M. and R. Veenstra (2014). Parental Residential and Partnering Transitions as Triggers of Adolescent Romantic Relationships, Journal of Marriage and Family, 76: 465–475.

Potârcă, G., Mills, M. and Lesnard, L. (2013). Family formation trajectories in Romania, the Russian Federation and France: Towards the Second Demographic Transition? European Journal of Population, 29: 69-101.

Poortman, A.-R. and M. Mills (2012). Joint investments in marriage and cohabitation: The role of legal and symbolic factors, Journal of Marriage and Family 74(2): 357-376.

Ivanova, K., R. Veenstra, and M. Mills. (2012). Who Dates? The Effects of Temperament, Puberty, and Parenting on Early Adolescent Experience with Dating. The TRAILS study, Journal of Early Adolescence. 32(3): 340-363.

Ivanova, K., M. Mills and R. Veenstra. (2011). The initiation of dating in adolescence: The effect of parental divorce. The TRAILS study, Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(4): 769-775.