A Study of Genetic and Environmental Influences on Maternal and Paternal CBCL Syndrome Scores in a Large Sample of 3-Year-Old Dutch Twins

Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Behavior Genetics (Impact Factor: 3.21). 12/2004; 34(6):571-83. DOI: 10.1007/s10519-004-5585-2
Source: PubMed


There is increasing evidence that behavioral problems are common in very young children, yet little is known about the etiology of individual differences in these problems. It is unclear to what degree environmental and genetic factors influence the development of early child psychopathology. In this paper, we focus on the following issues. Firstly, to what degree do genetic and environmental factors influence variation in behavioral problems? Secondly, to what degree are these underlying etiological factors moderated by sex and informant? We investigate these issues by analyzing Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) data on 9689 3-year-old twin pairs.
Rater Bias and Psychometric Models were fitted to CBCL/2-3 data obtained from mothers and fathers to determine the genetic and environmental contributions to the five CBCL syndromes:aggressive, oppositional, overactive, withdrawn, and anxious/depressed behavior.
Parental ratings are influenced by aspects of the child's behavior that are experienced in the same way by both parents and by aspects of the child's behavior that are experienced uniquely by each parent. There is evidence for high genetic contributions to all CBCL syndromes. Shared and non-shared environmental influences play significant roles as well. One exception is overactive behavior, which is influenced by genetic and non-shared environmental influences only.
Variation in behavior problems in the very young shows high heritability. Individual raters offer unique perspectives that can have an impact on estimates of problem behavior and genetic architecture. Therefore, multi-informant approaches in the assessment of the very young will be useful to clinicians and researchers alike.

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    • "The first mechanism proposed that genetic factors underlie the transmission of risk. The importance of genetic factors, even at the age of three, is documented by several studies with heritability rates ranging from 24% till 56% for the common behavioural problems (Derks et al., 2004; Van Hulle et al., 2007). Bartels et al. state that genetic factors are the most important cause of individual differences in internalizing and externalizing behaviours between the ages three and twelve (Bartels et al., 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Family history is a major risk factor for child problem behaviour, yet few studies have examined the association between grandparental psychiatric disorder and child problem behaviour. Results are inconsistent as to whether the effect of grandparental depression on child problem behaviour is independent of parental psychopathology. Mothers and their children participated in an ethnically Dutch subcohort of a population-based prospective cohort in the Netherlands. N = 816 (66%) mothers and n = 691 fathers participated in the prenatal interviews. N = 687 (84%) mothers and children and n = 565 (82%) fathers participated three years postpartum. (Grand)parental psychopathology was assessed during pregnancy of the mothers with the Family Informant Schedule and Criteria (FISC), the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) and the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). Child behaviour was assessed with the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) by mother and father when the child was three years old. Grandparental anxiety disorder predicted maternal reports of children's internalizing problems (OR = 1.98, 95% C.I. (1.20, 3.28), p-value<0.01) and externalizing problems (OR = 1.73, 95% C.I. (1.04, 2.87), p-value = 0.03), independent of parental psychopathology. Results were similar for grandparental depression; internalizing OR = 1.75, 95% C.I (1.11, 2.75), p-value = 0.02 and externalizing OR = 1.67, 95% C.I. (1.05, 2.64) p-value = 0.03. However, grandparental psychopathology was not associated with children's problem behaviour as reported by the father. Information on grandparental lifetime psychiatric disorder was assessed through a parental interview which may have led to an underestimation of the prevalence rates. These results confirm the importance of a family history including not only the parental but also the grandparental generations.
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    • "Unfortunately a limitation of this study was the limited power to assess sex × gene interaction effects in the quantitative analysis. This is an interesting area of research and one that should be considered in future research with more powerful samples, although at present there is little evidence for gene × sex interaction, at least in symptoms of overactivity [22]. "
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    • "Moreover, in line with findings in early childhood (Derks et al. 2004b; Eley et al. 2003), we found that genetic influences were stronger in boys than in girls. This is in contrast to studies into Anxious/Depressed behavior in which no meaningful sex differences in heritability estimates were found (Derks et al. 2004b; Boomsma et al. 2005). "
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