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Developmental changes in genetic and environmental influences on Chinese child and adolescent anxiety and depression

  • Y. Zheng (a1) (a2), F. Rijsdijk (a3), J.-B. Pingault (a3) (a4), R. J. McMahon (a1) (a2) and J. B. Unger (a5)...

Abstract

Background

Twin and family studies using Western samples have established that child and adolescent anxiety and depression are under substantial genetic, modest shared environmental, and substantial non-shared environmental influences. Generalizability of these findings to non-Western societies remains largely unknown, particularly regarding the changes of genetic and environmental influences with age. The current study examined changes in genetic and environmental influences on self-reported anxiety and depression from late childhood to mid-adolescence among a Chinese twin sample. Sex differences were also examined.

Method

Self-reported anxiety and depression were collected from 712 10- to 12-year-old Chinese twins (mean = 10.88 years, 49% males) and again 3 years later. Quantitative genetic modeling was used to examine developmental changes in genetic and environmental influences on anxiety and depression, and sex differences.

Results

Heritability of anxiety and depression in late childhood (23 and 20%) decreased to negligible in mid-adolescence, while shared environmental influences increased (20 and 27% to 57 and 60%). Shared environmental factors explained most of the continuity of anxiety and depression (75 and 77%). Non-shared environmental factors were largely time-specific. No sex differences were observed.

Conclusions

Shared environmental influences might be more pronounced during the transition period of adolescence in non-Western societies such as China. Future research should examine similarities and differences in the genetic and environmental etiologies of child and adolescent internalizing and other psychopathology in development between Western and non-Western societies.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Y. Zheng, RCB 5246, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada. (Email: yza296@sfu.ca)

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