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A joint, hierarchical structure of psychopathology and personality has been reported in adults but should also be investigated at earlier ages, as psychopathology often develops before adulthood. Here, we investigate the joint factor structure of psychopathology and personality in eight-year-old children, estimate factor heritability and explore external validity through associations with established developmental risk factors.
Phenotypic and biometric exploratory factor analyses with bifactor rotation on genetically informative data from the Norwegian Mother, Father, and Child Cohort (MoBa) study. The analytic sub-sample comprised 10 739 children (49% girls). Mothers reported their children's symptoms of depression (Short Moods and Feelings Questionnaire), anxiety (Screen for Anxiety Related Disorders), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder inattention and hyperactivity, oppositional-defiant disorder, conduct disorder (Parent/Teacher Rating Scale for Disruptive Behavior Disorders), and Big Five personality (short Hierarchical Personality Inventory for Children). Developmental risk factors (early gestational age and being small for gestational age) were collected from the Medical Birth Registry.
Goodness-of-fit indices favored a p factor model with three residual latent factors interpreted as negative affectivity, positive affectivity, and antagonism, whereas psychometric indices favored a one-factor model. ADE solutions fitted best, and regression analyses indicated a negative association between gestational age and the p factor, for both the one- and four-factor solutions.
Correlations between normative and pathological traits in middle childhood mostly reflect one heritable and psychometrically interpretable p factor, although optimal fit to data required less interpretable residual latent factors. The association between the p factor and low gestational age warrants further study of early developmental mechanisms.
Anxiety and depressive disorders can be chronic and disabling. Although there are effective treatments, only a fraction of those impaired receive treatment. Predictors of treatment-seeking and treatment receipt could be informative for initiatives aiming to tackle the burden of untreated anxiety and depression.
To investigate sociodemographic characteristics associated with treatment-seeking and treatment receipt.
Two binary retrospective reports of lifetime treatment-seeking (n = 44 810) and treatment receipt (n = 37 346) were regressed on sociodemographic factors (age, gender, UK ethnic minority background, educational attainment, household income, neighbourhood deprivation and social isolation) and alternative coping strategies (self-medication with alcohol/drugs and self-help) in UK Biobank participants with lifetime generalised anxiety or major depressive disorder. Analyses were also stratified by gender.
Treatment access was more likely in those who reported use of self-help strategies, with university-level education and those from less economically advantaged circumstances (household income <£30 000 and greater neighbourhood deprivation). Treatment access was less likely in those who were male, from a UK ethnic minority background and with high household incomes (>£100 000). Men who self-medicated and/or had a vocational qualification were also less likely to seek treatment.
This work on retrospective reports of treatment-seeking and treatment receipt at any time of life replicates known associations with treatment-seeking and treatment receipt during time of treatment need. More work is required to understand whether improving rates of treatment-seeking improves prognostic outcomes for individuals with anxiety or depression.
Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric disorders worldwide. They often onset early in life, with symptoms and consequences that can persist for decades. This makes anxiety disorders some of the most debilitating and costly disorders of our time. Although much is known about the synaptic and circuit mechanisms of fear and anxiety, research on the underlying genetics has lagged behind that of other psychiatric disorders. However, alongside the formation of the Psychiatric Genomic Consortium Anxiety workgroup, progress is rapidly advancing, offering opportunities for future research.
Here we review current knowledge about the genetics of anxiety across the lifespan from genetically informative designs (i.e. twin studies and molecular genetics). We include studies of specific anxiety disorders (e.g. panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder) as well as those using dimensional measures of trait anxiety. We particularly address findings from large-scale genome-wide association studies and show how such discoveries may provide opportunities for translation into improved or new therapeutics for affected individuals. Finally, we describe how discoveries in anxiety genetics open the door to numerous new research possibilities, such as the investigation of specific gene–environment interactions and the disentangling of causal associations with related traits and disorders.
We discuss how the field of anxiety genetics is expected to move forward. In addition to the obvious need for larger sample sizes in genome-wide studies, we highlight the need for studies among young people, focusing on specific underlying dimensional traits or components of anxiety.
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