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While maternal at-risk drinking is associated with children's emotional and behavioral problems, there is a paucity of research that properly accounts for genetic confounding and gene–environment interplay. Therefore, it remains uncertain what mechanisms underlie these associations. We assess the moderation of associations between maternal at-risk drinking and childhood emotional and behavioral problems by common genetic variants linked to environmental sensitivity (genotype-by-environment [G × E] interaction) while accounting for shared genetic risk between mothers and offspring (GE correlation).
We use data from 109 727 children born to 90 873 mothers enrolled in the Norwegian Mother, Father, and Child Cohort Study. Women self-reported alcohol consumption and reported emotional and behavioral problems when children were 1.5/3/5 years old. We included child polygenic scores (PGSs) for traits linked to environmental sensitivity as moderators.
Associations between maternal drinking and child emotional (β1 = 0.04 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.03–0.05]) and behavioral (β1 = 0.07 [0.06–0.08]) outcomes attenuated after controlling for measured confounders and were almost zero when we accounted for unmeasured confounding (emotional: β1 = 0.01 [0.00–0.02]; behavioral: β1 = 0.01 [0.00–0.02]). We observed no moderation of these adjusted exposure effects by any of the PGS.
The lack of strong evidence for G × E interaction may indicate that the mechanism is not implicated in this kind of intergenerational association. It may also reflect insufficient power or the relatively benign nature of the exposure in this sample.
We investigate if covariation between parental and child attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) behaviors can be explained by environmental and/or genetic transmission.
We employed a large children-of-twins-and-siblings sample (N = 22 276 parents and 11 566 8-year-old children) of the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study. This enabled us to disentangle intergenerational influences via parental genes and parental behaviors (i.e. genetic and environmental transmission, respectively). Fathers reported on their own symptoms and mothers on their own and their child's symptoms.
Child ADHD behaviors correlated with their mother's (0.24) and father's (0.10) ADHD behaviors. These correlations were largely due to additive genetic transmission. Variation in children's ADHD behaviors was explained by genetic factors active in both generations (11%) and genetic factors specific to the children (46%), giving a total heritability of 57%. There were small effects of parental ADHD behaviors (2% environmental transmission) and gene–environment correlation (3%). The remaining variability in ADHD behaviors was due to individual-specific environmental factors.
The intergenerational resemblance of ADHD behaviors is primarily due to genetic transmission, with little evidence for parental ADHD behaviors causing children's ADHD behaviors. This contradicts theories proposing environmental explanations of intergenerational transmission of ADHD, such as parenting theories or psychological life-history theory.
Several longitudinal studies have cast doubt on the aetiological overlap between child and adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, a lack of genetically sensitive data following children across adulthood precludes direct evaluation of aetiological overlap between child and adult ADHD.
We circumvent the existing gap in longitudinal data by exploring genetic overlap between maternal (adult) and offspring (child) ADHD and comorbid symptoms in an extended family cohort.
Data were drawn from the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study, a Norwegian birth registry cohort of 114 500 children and their parents. Medical Birth Registry of Norway data were used to link extended families. Mothers self-reported their own ADHD symptoms when children were aged 3 years; reported children's ADHD symptoms at age 5 years; and children's ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder, anxiety and depression symptoms at age 8 years. Genetic correlations were derived from Multiple-Children-of-Twins-and-Siblings and extended bivariate twin models.
Phenotypic correlations between adult ADHD symptoms and child ADHD, ODD, conduct disorder, anxiety and depression symptoms at age 8 years were underpinned by medium-to-large genetic correlations (child ADHD: rG = 0.55, 95% CI 0.43−0.93; ODD: rG = 0.80, 95% CI 0.46−1; conduct disorder: rG = 0.44, 95% CI 0.28−1; anxiety: rG = 0.72, 95% CI 0.48−1; depression: rG = 1, 95% CI 0.66−1). These cross-generational adult–child genetic correlations were of a comparable magnitude to equivalent child–child genetic correlations with ADHD symptoms at age 5 years.
Our findings provide genetically sensitive evidence that ADHD symptoms in adulthood share a common genetic architecture with symptoms of ADHD and four comorbid disorders at age 8 years. These findings suggest that in the majority of cases, ADHD symptoms in adulthood are not aetiologically distinct from in childhood.
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.
Previous studies have found that stressful life events (SLEs) are associated with an increased risk of adult depression. However, many studies are observational in nature and limited by methodological issues, such as potential confounding by genetic factors. Genetically informative research, such as the co-twin control design, can strengthen causal inference in observational studies. Discrete-time survival analysis has several benefits and multilevel survival analysis can incorporate frailty terms (random effects) to estimate the components of the biometric model. In the current study, we investigated associations between SLEs and depression risk in a population-based twin sample (N = 2299).
A co-twin control design was used to investigate the influence of the occurrence of SLEs on depression risk. The co-twin control design involves comparing patterns of associations in the full sample and within dizygotic (DZ) and monozygotic twins (MZ). Associations were modelled using discrete-time survival analysis with biometric frailty terms. Data from two time points were used in the analyses. Mean age at Wave 1 was 28 years and mean age at Wave 2 was 38 years.
SLE occurrence was associated with increased depression risk. Co-twin control analyses indicated that this association was at least in part due to the causal influence of SLE exposure on depression risk for event occurrence across all SLEs and for violent SLEs. A minor proportion of the total genetic risk of depression reflected genetic effects related to SLEs.
The results support previous research in implicating SLEs as important risk factors with probable causal influence on depression risk.
A moderate to high alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in comparison with low consumption. The mechanisms underlying this association are not clear and have been suggested to be caused by residual confounding. The main objective of this study was to separate the familial and individual risk for CVD mortality and all-cause mortality related to alcohol consumption. This will be done by estimating the risk for CVD mortality and all-cause mortality in twin pairs discordant for alcohol consumption.
Alcohol consumption was assessed at two time points using self-report questionnaires in the Norwegian Twin Registry. Data on CVD mortality was obtained from the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry. Exposure–outcome associations for all-cause mortality and mortality due to other causes than CVD were estimated for comparison.
Coming from a family with moderate to high alcohol consumption was protective against cardiovascular death (HR = 0.54, 95% CI 0.65–0.83). Moderate and high alcohol consumption levels were associated with a slightly increased risk of CVD mortality at the individual level (HR = 1.33, 95% CI 1.02–1.73). There was no association between alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality both at the familial nor at the individual level.
The protective association of moderate to high alcohol consumption with a lower risk of CVD mortality was accounted for by familial factors in this study of twins. Early life genetic and environmental familial factors may mask an absence of health effect of moderate to high alcohol consumption on cardiovascular mortality.
Despite considerable efforts to understand the processes that underlie the development of externalizing behavior problems, it is still unclear why externalizing problems remain chronically high for some children, emerge early and cease by late childhood for others, and arise in adolescence in some cases. The purpose of this study was to examine how a wide range of child and family risk factors are linked to trajectories of externalizing behavior and how these relationships vary from infancy to middle adolescence. We used data from the community-based Norwegian Tracking Opportunities and Problems (TOPP) study sample (n = 921). A Cholesky factorization model was specified to separate stable and emerging risk doses across four developmental periods (infancy, early and middle childhood, and middle adolescence). Children in the High Stable class were characterized by substantially elevated risk levels in multiple domains throughout the study period. Children in the High Childhood Limited class had very high levels of temperamental emotionality, internalizing symptoms, and maternal mental distress, suggesting a substantial intrinsic emotional basis for their externalizing problems. Intrinsic factors seemed less salient for the Adolescent Onset class. These findings emphasize the need for a dynamic perspective on risk factors and support the importance of prevention and intervention efforts across multiple domains from early childhood and throughout adolescence.
Much progress has been made in twin research since our last special issue on twin registries (Hur, Y.-M., & Craig, J. M. (2013). Twin Research and Human Genetics, 16, 1–12.). This special issue provides an update on the state of twin family registries around the world. This issue includes 61 papers on twin family registries from 25 countries, of which 3 describe consortia based on collaborations of several twin family registries. The articles included in this issue discuss the establishment and maintenance of twin registries, recruitment strategies, methods of zygosity assessment, research aims and major findings from twin family cohorts, as well as other important topics related to twin studies. The papers amount to approximately 1.3 million monozygotic, dizygotic twins and higher order multiples and their family members who participate in twin studies around the world. Nine new twin family registries have been established across the world since our last issue, which demonstrates that twin registers are increasingly important in studies of the determinants and correlates of complex traits from disease susceptibility to healthy development.
We investigated whether children born preterm are at risk for language delay using a sibling-control design in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa), conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Participants included 26,769 siblings born between gestational weeks 23 and 42. Language delay was assessed when the children were 1.5, 3, and 5 years old. To adjust for familial risk factors, comparisons were conducted between preterm and full-term siblings. Pregnancy-specific risk factors were controlled for by means of observed variables. Findings showed that preterm children born before week 37 had increased risk for language delays at 1.5 years. At 3 and 5 years, only children born before week 34 had increased risk for language delay. Children born weeks 29–33 and before week 29 had increased risk for language delay at 1.5 years (RR = 4.51, 95% CI [3.45, 5.88]; RR = 10.32, 95% CI [6.7, 15.80]), 3 years (RR = 1.50, 95% CI [1.02, 2.21]; RR = 2.78, 95% CI [1.09, 7.07]), and 5 years (RR = 1.63, 95% CI [1.06, 2.51]; RR = 2.98, 95% CI [0.87, 10.26]), respectively. In conclusion, children born preterm are at risk for language delays, with familial confounders only explaining a moderate share of the association. This suggests a cause-effect relationship between early preterm birth and risk for language delay in preschool children.
Although maternal depressive symptoms are robustly associated with offspring early-life psychopathology symptoms, it is not clear which potential mechanisms are at play. We aimed to estimate the relative importance of genetic transmission and direct environmental exposure in these associations on three occasions in early childhood.
Biometric modeling of maternal sisters and their offspring from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. The analyzed sample comprised 22 316 mothers and 35 589 offspring. Mothers reported their own depressive symptoms using the Symptom checklist, and offspring's concurrent symptoms of psychopathology using the Child Behavior Checklist at 1.5, 3, and 5 years postpartum.
Associations between maternal symptoms of depression and offspring emotional problems were predominantly explained by passive genetic transmission at 1.5 and 3 years postpartum. At age 5, associations were more due to direct environmental exposure. For offspring behavioral problems, there was no net increase in the importance of direct environmental exposure across occasions.
Associations between maternal depressive symptoms and offspring psychopathology symptoms remained after accounting for shared genes, consistent with a small, causal effect. For offspring emotional problems, this effect appeared to increase in importance over time. Our findings imply that treatment of maternal depressive symptoms could also benefit the offspring, and that genetic confounding should be considered in future studies of such mother–offspring associations.
While snus has been the focus of increasing public health interest, twin studies have examined neither sources of individual variation for its use nor the sources of resemblance between snus and cigarette use. Twins from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health Panel were assessed by self-report questionnaire for the initiation of regular use and maximal quantity used for snus and cigarettes. Twin modeling was performed using OpenMx on data from 2767 twins including 856 complete pairs. Fitting univariate twin models produced similar results for cigarette initiation and quantity with estimates of additive genetic, shared environmental and unique environmental effects of approximately 77%, 0% and 23%, respectively. Estimates of snus initiation and quantity were, respectively, approximately 53%, 26% and 21%. Joint analyses suggested that the genetic, shared environmental and unique environmental correlations between cigarette and snus initiation and quantity were +.82, 0 and +.42, respectively. However, these results could not be statistically distinguished from a model which postulated that resemblance between cigarette initiation and quantity resulted from genetic and unique environmental correlations of +.47 and +.43. Compared with cigarette initiation and quantity of use in Norwegian twins, the role of genes was less prominent and shared environment more prominent for initiation and quantity of use of snus. Joint analyses of both tobacco phenotypes suggested, but did not confirm definitively, that genetic risk factors for cigarette and snus use were similar but not identical, while shared environmental factors existed that were specific to snus use.
Can the structure of genetic and environmental influences on normative personality traits (NPTs), abnormal personality traits (APTs), and DSM-IV criteria for personality disorders (PD) fit a high or low congruence model positing, respectively, close or more limited etiologic continuity?
Exploratory factor analysis was applied to transformed correlation matrices from Cholesky twin decompositions obtained in OpenMx. In 2801 adult twins from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health Twin Panel, NPTs and APTs were assessed by self-report using the Big Five Inventory (BFI) and PID-5-Norwegian Brief Form (PID-5-NBF), respectively. PDs were assessed at interview using the Structured Interview for DSM-IV Personality (SIDP-IV).
The best model yielded three genetic and three unique environmental factors. Genetic factors were dominated, respectively, by (i) high loadings on nearly all PDs and NPT/APT neuroticism and compulsivity, (ii) negative loadings on NPT agreeableness/conscientiousness and positive loadings on APT/PD measures of antisocial traits, and (iii) negative loadings on NPT extraversion and histrionic PD, and positive loadings on APT detachment and schizoid/avoidant PD. Unique environmental factors were dominated, by (i) high loadings on all PDs, (ii) high loadings on all APT dimensions and NPT neuroticism, and (iii) negative loadings on NPT extraversion and positive loadings on NPT detachment/avoidant PD.
Two genetic and one environmental common factor were consistent with a high congruence model while one genetic and two environmental factors were more supportive of a low congruence model. The relationship between genetic and environmental influences on personality assessed by NPTs, APTs, and PDs is complex and does not fit easily into a low or high congruence model.
Studies on the stability of genetic risk for depression have relied on self-reported symptoms rather than diagnoses and/or short follow-up time. Our aim is to determine to what degree genetic and environmental influences on clinically assessed major depressive disorder (MDD) are stable between age 18 and 45.
A population-based sample of 11 727 twins (6875 women) born between 1967 and 1991 was followed from 2006 to 2015 in health registry data from primary care that included diagnoses provided by treating physicians. Individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (n = 163) were excluded. We modelled genetic and environmental risk factors for MDD in an accelerated longitudinal design.
The best-fitting model indicated that genetic influences on MDD were completely stable from ages 18 to 45 and explained 38% of the variance. At each age, the environmental risk of MDD was determined by the risk at the preceding observation, plus new environmental risk, with an environmental correlation of +0.60 over 2 years. The model indicated no effects of shared environment and no environmental effects stable throughout the observational period. All long-term stability was therefore explained by genetic factors.
Different processes unfolded in the genetic and environmental risk for MDD. The genetic component is stable from later adolescence to middle adulthood and accounted for nearly all long-term stability. Therefore, molecular genetic studies can use age-heterogenous samples when investigating genetic risk variants of MDD. Environmental risk factors were stable over a short span of years with associations rapidly decreasing and no evidence of permanent environmental scarring.
Normative and pathological personality traits have rarely been integrated into a joint large-scale structural analysis with psychiatric disorders, although a recent study suggested they entail a common individual differences continuum.
We explored the joint factor structure of 11 psychiatric disorders, five personality-disorder trait domains (DSM-5 Section III), and five normative personality trait domains (the ‘Big Five’) in a population-based sample of 2796 Norwegian twins, aged 19‒46.
Three factors could be interpreted: (i) a general risk factor for all psychopathology, (ii) a risk factor specific to internalizing disorders and traits, and (iii) a risk factor specific to externalizing disorders and traits. Heritability estimates for the three risk factor scores were 48% (95% CI 41‒54%), 35% (CI 28‒42%), and 37% (CI 31‒44%), respectively. All 11 disorders had uniform loadings on the general factor (congruence coefficient of 0.991 with uniformity). Ignoring sign and excluding the openness trait, this uniformity of factor loadings held for all the personality trait domains and all disorders (congruence 0.983).
Based on our findings, future research should investigate joint etiologic and transdiagnostic models for normative and pathological personality and other psychopathology.
We examined genetic and environmental contributions to the development of symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in preschool children. ADHD symptoms in siblings at 1.5, 3, and 5 years of age were investigated in a population-based sample from the prospective Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. The longitudinal contributions of additive genetic, shared, twin-specific, and unique environmental influences were estimated using biometric structural equation models. Heritability of ADHD symptoms ranged from 54% to 70%. There was evidence of partially new genetic influences at successive ages, with genetic correlations ranging from .58 to .89. Contributions from shared environmental factors and twin-specific factors were minor. The importance of unique environmental effects appeared to increase across ages, and was mostly specific to a given age. There was no evidence suggesting that this pattern differs across males and females. Symptoms of ADHD are highly heritability in young children from as early as 1.5 years of age. Longitudinal stability of ADHD symptoms is mainly attributable to genetic influences, but there is also some evidence for age-specific genetic influences. These findings contribute to our understanding of development of ADHD early in life, and can guide future molecular genetics studies.
Until now, data have not been available to elucidate the genetic and environmental sources of comorbidity between all 10 DSM-IV personality disorders (PDs) and cocaine use. Our aim was to determine which PD traits are linked phenotypically and genetically to cocaine use. Cross-sectional data were obtained in a face-to-face interview between 1999 and 2004. Subjects were 1,419 twins (µage = 28.2 years, range = 19–36) from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health Twin Panel, with complete lifetime cocaine use and criteria for all 10 DSM-IV PDs. Stepwise multiple and Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator (LASSO) regressions were used to identify PDs related to cocaine use. Twin models were fitted to estimate genetic and environmental associations between the PD traits and cocaine use. In the multiple regression, antisocial (OR = 4.24, 95% CI [2.66, 6.86]) and borderline (OR = 2.19, 95% CI [1.35, 3.57]) PD traits were significant predictors of cocaine use. In the LASSO regression, antisocial, borderline, and histrionic were significant predictors of cocaine use. Antisocial and borderline PD traits each explained 72% and 25% of the total genetic risks in cocaine use, respectively. Genetic risks in histrionic PD were not significantly related to cocaine use. Importantly, after removing criteria referencing substance use, antisocial PD explained 65% of the total genetic variance in cocaine use, whereas borderline explained only 4%. Among PD traits, antisocial is the strongest correlate of cocaine use, for which the association is driven largely by common genetic risks.
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