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Which children go on to develop dyslexia? Since dyslexia has a multifactorial etiology, this question can be restated as: what are the factors that put children at high risk for developing dyslexia? It is argued that a useful theoretical framework to address this question is Pennington's (2006) multiple deficit model (MDM). This model replaces models that attribute dyslexia to a single underlying cause. Subsequently, the generalist genes hypothesis for learning (dis)abilities (Plomin and Kovas, 2005) is described and integrated with the MDM. Next, findings are presented from a longitudinal study with children at family risk for dyslexia. Such studies can contribute to testing and specifying the MDM. In this study, risk factors at both the child and family level were investigated. This led to the proposed intergenerational MDM, in which both parents confer liability via intertwined genetic and environmental pathways. Future scientific directions are discussed to investigate parent-offspring resemblance and transmission patterns, which will shed new light on disorder etiology.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Hum Neurosci

Publication Date





comorbidity, developmental disorders, dyslexia, family risk, generalist genes hypothesis, intergenerational multiple deficit model, intergenerational transmission