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Although risk markers for depressive disorders (DD) are dynamic, especially during adolescence, few studies have examined how change in risk levels during adolescence predict DD onset during transition to adulthood. We compared two competing hypotheses of the dynamic effects of risk. The risk escalation hypothesis posits that worsening of risk predicts DD onset beyond risk level. The chronic risk hypothesis posits that persistently elevated risk level, rather than risk change, predicts DD onset.
Our sample included 393 girls (baseline age 13.5–15.5 years) from the adolescent development of emotions and personality traits project. Participants underwent five diagnostic interviews and assessments of risk markers for DD at 9-month intervals and were re-interviewed at a 6-year follow-up. We focused on 17 well-established risk markers. For each risk marker, we examined the prospective effects of risk level and change on first DD onset at wave six, estimated by growth curve modeling using data from the first five waves.
For 13 of the 17 depression risk markers, elevated levels of risk during adolescence, but not change in risk, predicted first DD onset during transition to adulthood, supporting the chronic risk hypothesis. Minimal evidence was found for the risk escalation hypothesis.
Participants who had a first DD onset during transition to adulthood have exhibited elevated levels of risk throughout adolescence. Researchers and practitioners should administer multiple assessments and focus on persistently elevated levels of risk to identify individuals who are most likely to develop DD and to provide targeted DD prevention.
Preschool psychiatric symptoms significantly increase the risk for long-term negative outcomes. Transdiagnostic hierarchical approaches that capture general (‘p’) and specific psychopathology dimensions are promising for understanding risk and predicting outcomes, but their predictive utility in young children is not well established. We delineated a hierarchical structure of preschool psychopathology dimensions and tested their ability to predict psychiatric disorders and functional impairment in preadolescence.
Data for 1253 preschool children (mean age = 4.17, s.d. = 0.81) were drawn from three longitudinal studies using a similar methodology (one community sample, two psychopathology-enriched samples) and followed up into preadolescence, yielding a large and diverse sample. Exploratory factor models derived a hierarchical structure of general and specific factors using symptoms from the Preschool Age Psychiatric Assessment interview. Longitudinal analyses examined the prospective associations of preschool p and specific factors with preadolescent psychiatric disorders and functional impairment.
A hierarchical dimensional structure with a p factor at the top and up to six specific factors (distress, fear, separation anxiety, social anxiety, inattention-hyperactivity, oppositionality) emerged at preschool age. The p factor predicted all preadolescent disorders (ΔR2 = 0.04–0.15) and functional impairment (ΔR2 = 0.01–0.07) to a significantly greater extent than preschool psychiatric diagnoses and functioning. Specific dimensions provided additional predictive power for the majority of preadolescent outcomes (disorders: ΔR2 = 0.06–0.15; functional impairment: ΔR2 = 0.05–0.12).
Both general and specific dimensions of preschool psychopathology are useful for predicting clinical and functional outcomes almost a decade later. These findings highlight the value of transdiagnostic dimensions for predicting prognosis and as potential targets for early intervention and prevention.
Polygenic risk scores (PRSs) capture genetic vulnerability to psychiatric conditions. However, PRSs are often associated with multiple mental health problems in children, complicating their use in research and clinical practice. The current study is the first to systematically test which PRSs associate broadly with all forms of childhood psychopathology, and which PRSs are more specific to one or a handful of forms of psychopathology.
The sample consisted of 4717 unrelated children (mean age = 9.92, s.d. = 0.62; 47.1% female; all European ancestry). Psychopathology was conceptualized hierarchically as empirically derived general factor (p-factor) and five specific factors: externalizing, internalizing, neurodevelopmental, somatoform, and detachment. Partial correlations explored associations between psychopathology factors and 22 psychopathology-related PRSs. Regressions tested which level of the psychopathology hierarchy was most strongly associated with each PRS.
Thirteen PRSs were significantly associated with the general factor, most prominently Chronic Multisite Pain-PRS (r = 0.098), ADHD-PRS (r = 0.079), and Depression-PRS (r = 0.078). After adjusting for the general factor, Depression-PRS, Neuroticism-PRS, PTSD-PRS, Insomnia-PRS, Chronic Back Pain-PRS, and Autism-PRS were not associated with lower order factors. Conversely, several externalizing PRSs, including Adventurousness-PRS and Disinhibition-PRS, remained associated with the externalizing factor (|r| = 0.040–0.058). The ADHD-PRS remained uniquely associated with the neurodevelopmental factor (r = 062).
PRSs developed to predict vulnerability to emotional difficulties and chronic pain generally captured genetic risk for all forms of childhood psychopathology. PRSs developed to predict vulnerability to externalizing difficulties, e.g. disinhibition, tended to be more specific in predicting behavioral problems. The results may inform translation of existing PRSs to pediatric research and future clinical practice.
Genetics hold promise of predicting long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) outcomes following trauma. The aim of the current study was to test whether six hypothesized polygenic risk scores (PRSs) developed to capture genetic vulnerability to psychiatric conditions prospectively predict PTSD onset, severity, and 18-year course after trauma exposure.
Participants were 1490 responders to the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster (mean age at 9/11 = 38.81 years, s.d. = 8.20; 93.5% male; 23.8% lifetime WTC-related PTSD diagnosis). Prospective longitudinal data on WTC-related PTSD symptoms were obtained from electronic medical records and modelled as PTSD trajectories using growth mixture model analysis. Independent regression models tested whether six hypothesized psychiatric PRSs (PTSD-PRS, Re-experiencing-PRS, Generalized Anxiety-PRS, Schizophrenia-PRS, Depression-PRS, and Neuroticism-PRS) are predictive of WTC-PTSD outcomes: lifetime diagnoses, average symptom severity, and 18-year symptom trajectory. All analyses were adjusted for population stratification, 9/11 exposure severity, and multiple testing.
Depression-PRS predicted PTSD diagnostic status (OR 1.37, CI 1.17–1.61, adjusted p = 0.001). All PRSs, except PTSD-PRS, significantly predicted average PTSD symptoms (β = 0.06–0.10, adjusted p < 0.05). Re-experiencing-PRS, Generalized Anxiety-PRS and Schizophrenia-PRS predicted the high severity PTSD trajectory class (ORs 1.21–1.28, adjusted p < 0.05). Finally, PRSs prediction was independent of 9/11 exposure severity and jointly accounted for 3.7 times more variance in PTSD symptoms than the exposure severity.
Psychiatric PRSs prospectively predicted WTC-related PTSD lifetime diagnosis, average symptom severity, and 18-year trajectory in responders to 9/11 disaster. Jointly, PRSs were more predictive of subsequent PTSD than the exposure severity. In the future, PRSs may help identify at-risk responders who might benefit from targeted prevention approaches.
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