Alexithymia represents a risk factor for psychiatric and psychosomatic disorders and is associated with a less favourable outcome in various treatments modalities. With prevalence rates up to 30% in subjects seeking psychiatric or psychotherapeutic treatment, there is an urgent need for a better understanding of the psychobiology of alexithymia. Previous studies have described an association between alexithymic traits of mothers and their offspring but did not investigate the fathers´ contribution. Therefore, psychological mechanisms like the mother-child bonding may exclusively account for the observed association. The aim of the present study was to extent this research strategy to fathers, too.
The familial transmission of alexithymia was assessed in 86 child-parents trios. Significant associations between the TAS-20 scores of the children and mothers and children and fathers were found. The results were adjusted for age, gender and education. Factor 1 (difficulties identifying feelings) showed the largest intrafamilial association.
The significant association of both fathers´ and mothers´ TAS-20 scores with the TAS-20 scores in the offspring strongly support a familial transmission of alexithymia. As both parents contributed to the TAS-20 score of their offspring, psychological and genetic factors may be responsible for the observed association. Thus, in addition to psychological research of affect development and differentiation the search for genetic mechanism for alexithymia should be started.
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. Grabe et al. (2007). Alexithymia and Outcome in Psychotherapy. Psychother Psychosom (in press)