Beyond genes: A systematic review of environmental risk factors in specific reading disorder

Sara Mascheretti, Chiara Andreola, Simona Scaini, Simone Sulpizio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: While an understanding of the genetic contributions to specific reading disorder (RD) is emerging, there is no agreement about which putative hazard factors are clearly involved in the aetiology of this disorder. Aims: A literature review looking at the impact of environmental risk variables implicated in RD either per se or when interacting with the genes. Methods and procedures: We performed a systematic literature review using the following keywords: dyslexia OR reading disability AND environmental risk factors OR environmental hazard factors, in the following electronic databases: PubMed, Scopus and PsycINFO, without any time restrictions. Outcomes and results: Gestational weeks and birth weight are among the pre- and peri-natal risk factors shown to reliably predict reading readiness and the odds of having RD. Inconclusive findings have been reported for maternal cigarette smoking, family history of psychiatric and medical diseases, and risk of miscarriage. A broad definition of familial socio-economic status and home literacy environment have been identified as good life-long risk predictors of reading skills. Conclusions and implications: We highlighted the need to consider environmental hazards, their interactions and interactions with RD-candidate genes in the study of the aetiology of RD in order to provide much-needed insight into how these variables influence reading skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-152
Number of pages6
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Environmental risk factors
  • Gene-by-environment interaction
  • Reading disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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