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Examining the role of passive gene–environment correlation in childhood depression using a novel genetically sensitive design

  • Frances Rice (a1), Gemma Lewis (a2), Gordon T. Harold (a3) and Anita Thapar (a2)

Abstract

Parental depression is associated with disruptions in the parent–child relationship, exposure to stressful family life events, and offspring depressive symptoms. Evidence suggests that intergenerational transmission of depression involves environmental and inherited contributions. We sought to evaluate the role of passive gene–environment correlation (rGE) in relation to depression, family life events that were due to parental behavior, and parental positivity in a sample where children varied in genetic relatedness to their rearing parents. Our study included 865 families with children born through assisted conception (444 related to both parents, 210 related to the mother only, 175 related to the father only, and 36 related to neither parent). Consistent with previous studies, the intergenerational transmission of depressive symptoms was largely due to environmental factors, although parent and child gender influenced results. Maternal and paternal depressive symptoms were associated with reduced positivity and increased parentally imposed life events regardless of parent–child relatedness. Results of path analysis were consistent with passive rGE for both maternal and paternal positivity in that positivity partially mediated the link between maternal/paternal depression and child depression only in genetically related parent–child pairs. Results also suggested passive rGE involving parentally imposed life events for mothers and fathers although passive rGE effects were smaller than for positivity.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Frances Rice, Department of Clinical, Educational, and Health Psychology, University College London, 26 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AP, UK; E-mail: f.rice@ucl.ac.uk.

References

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