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Bereaved youth are at greater risk for adverse mental health outcomes, yet less is known about how social context shapes health for bereaved children. Ecosocial theory is employed to conceptualize bereavement in the context of sociodemographic factors.
This longitudinal study used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Of the 15,454 pregnancies enrolled, 5050 youth were still enrolled at age 16.5 and completed self-report questionnaires on life events and emotional/behavioral symptoms.
Sociodemographic precursors associated with parent, sibling, or close friend bereavement included maternal smoking, parental education levels, and financial difficulties. The significant yet small main effect of higher cognitive ability, assessed at age 8, on reduced emotional/behavioral symptoms at age 16.5 (β = −0.01, SE = 0.00, p < 0.001) did not interact with bereavement. Bereavement of a parent, sibling, or close friend was associated with a 0.19 point higher emotional/behavioral symptom log score compared to non-bereaved youth (95% CI: 0.10–0.28), across emotional, conduct, and hyperactivity subscales.
Descriptive findings suggest sociodemographic precursors are associated with bereavement. While there was an association between the bereavement of a parent, sibling, or close friend and elevated emotional/behavioral symptoms, cognitive ability did not moderate that effect.
Adherence to healthy lifestyles can be beneficial for depression among adults, but the intergenerational impact of maternal healthy lifestyles on offspring depressive symptoms is unknown.
In total, 10 368 mothers in Nurses' Health Study II and 13 478 offspring in the Growing Up Today Study were paired. Maternal and offspring healthy lifestyles were defined as a composite score including a healthy diet, normal body mass index (BMI), never-smoking, light-to-moderate consumption of alcohol, and regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Maternal lifestyles were assessed during their offspring's childhood. Offspring depressive symptoms were repeatedly assessed five times using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale-10 (CESD-10); the offspring were between the ages of 14 and 30 when the first CESD-10 was assessed. Covariates included maternal variables (age at baseline, race/ethnicity, antidepressant use, pregnancy complications, etc.) and offspring age and sex.
Children of mothers with the healthiest lifestyle had significantly fewer depressive symptoms (a 0.30 lower CESD-10 score, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.09–0.50) in comparison with children of mothers with the least healthy lifestyle. The association was only found significant in female offspring but not in males. For individual maternal lifestyle factors, a normal BMI, never-smoking, and adherence to regular physical activity were independently associated with fewer depressive symptoms among the offspring. The association between maternal healthy lifestyles and offspring depressive symptoms was mediated by offspring's healthy lifestyles (mediation effect: 53.2%, 95% CI 15.8–87.3).
Our finding indicates the potential mechanism of intergenerational transmission of healthy lifestyles to reduce the risk of depressive symptoms in offspring.
Research suggests that increasing neighbourhood social cohesion can prevent mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. However, it is unknown whether this is the case for adolescents and young adults.
To investigate whether neighbourhood social cohesion can prevent depression and anxiety, and identify interventions that can increase neighbourhood cohesion in young people.
We conducted a rapid review for an overview of the available literature. PubMed, Campbell Collaboration, KSR Ltd and grey literature databases were searched from inception up to 10 July 2020. When synthesising the results, we applied a hierarchy of evidence, prioritising study designs that allowed for the most ability to infer causality. Risk of bias was assessed with the ROBIS tool and Joanna Briggs Institute risk-of-bias assessment. A narrative review and two workshops with young people were conducted to inform what future interventions may look like.
Forty-two peer-reviewed publications, including two systematic reviews, 13 longitudinal studies and 27 cross-sectional studies, were identified. Prospective longitudinal studies found that neighbourhood social cohesion factors (safety, trust, positive social connections, helping others and a lack of crime and violence) were associated with fewer depressive symptoms. Future interventions to increase neighbourhood cohesion should involve creating safe and attractive community centres, accessible and safe outdoor spaces, community activity groups and online communities.
Neighbourhood social cohesion has the potential to protect mental health. The next step is to conduct intervention studies to evaluate the effects on onset prevention. Clinicians should consider the impact cohesion can have on mental health, and signpost to community initiatives.
Causes of childhood behavior problems remain poorly understood. Enriched family environments and corresponding brain development may reduce the risk of their onset, but research investigating white matter neurodevelopmental pathways explaining associations between the family environment and behavior remains limited. We hypothesized that more positive prenatal and mid-childhood family functioning – a measure of a family's problem solving and supportive capacity – would be associated with two markers of preadolescent white matter neurodevelopment related to reduced behavior problems: higher global fractional anisotropy (FA) and lower global mean diffusivity (MD).
Data are from 2727 families in the Generation R Study, the Netherlands. Mothers reported family functioning (McMaster Family Assessment Device, range 1–4, higher scores indicate healthier functioning) prenatally and in mid-childhood (mean age 6.1 years). In preadolescence (mean age 10.1), the study collected diffusion-weighted scans. We computed standardized global MD and FA values by averaging metrics from 27 white matter tracts, and we fit linear models adjusting for possible confounders to examine global and tract-specific outcomes.
Prenatal and mid-childhood family functioning scores were moderately correlated, r = 0.38. However, only prenatal family functioning – and not mid-childhood functioning – was associated with higher global FA and lower global MD in preadolescence in fully adjusted models: βglobal FA = 0.11 (95% CI 0.00, 0.21) and βglobal MD = −0.15 (95% CI −0.28, −0.03) per one-unit increase in functioning score. Sensitivity and tract-specific analyses supported these global findings.
These results suggest high-functioning prenatal or perinatal family environments may confer lasting white matter neurodevelopmental benefits into preadolescence.
Psychopathology and cognitive development are closely related. Assessing the relationship between multiple domains of psychopathology and cognitive performance can elucidate which cognitive tasks are related to specific domains of psychopathology. This can help build theory and improve clinical decision-making in the future. In this study, we included 13,841 children and adolescents drawn from two large population-based samples (Generation R and ABCD studies). We assessed the cross-sectional relationship between three psychopathology domains (internalizing, externalizing, dysregulation profile (DP)) and four cognitive domains (vocabulary, fluid reasoning, working memory, and processing speed) and the full-scale intelligence quotient. Lastly, differential associations between symptoms of psychopathology and cognitive performance by sex were assessed. Results indicated that internalizing symptoms were related to worse performance in working memory and processing speed, but better performance in the verbal domain. Externalizing and DP symptoms were related to poorer global cognitive performance. Notably, those in the DP subgroup had a 5.0 point lower IQ than those without behavioral problems. Cognitive performance was more heavily affected in boys than in girls given comparable levels of psychopathology. Taken together, we provide evidence for globally worse cognitive performance in children and adolescents with externalizing and DP symptoms, with those in the DP subgroup being most heavily affected.
Psychotic experiences predict adverse health outcomes, particularly if they are persistent. However, it is unclear what distinguishes persistent from transient psychotic experiences.
In a large population-based cohort, we aimed to (a) describe the course of hallucinatory experiences from childhood to adolescence, (b) compare characteristics of youth with persistent and remittent hallucinatory experiences, and (c) examine prediction models for persistence.
Youth were assessed longitudinally for hallucinatory experiences at mean ages of 10 and 14 years (n = 3473). Multi-informant-rated mental health problems, stressful life events, self-esteem, non-verbal IQ and parental psychopathology were examined in relation to absent, persistent, remittent and incident hallucinatory experiences. We evaluated two prediction models for persistence with logistic regression and assessed discrimination using the area under the curve (AUC).
The persistence rate of hallucinatory experiences was 20.5%. Adolescents with persistent hallucinatory experiences had higher baseline levels of hallucinatory experiences, emotional and behavioural problems, as well as lower self-esteem and non-verbal IQ scores than youth with remittent hallucinatory experiences. Although the prediction model for persistence versus absence of hallucinatory experiences demonstrated excellent discriminatory power (AUC-corrected = 0.80), the prediction model for persistence versus remittance demonstrated poor accuracy (AUC-corrected = 0.61).
This study provides support for the dynamic expression of childhood hallucinatory experiences and suggests increased neurodevelopmental vulnerability in youth with persistent hallucinatory experiences. Despite the inclusion of a wide array of psychosocial parameters, a prediction model discriminated poorly between youth with persistent versus remittent hallucinatory experiences, confirming that persistent hallucinatory experiences are a complex multifactorial trait.
Loneliness is a major risk factor for both psychological disturbance and poor health outcomes in adults. This study aimed to assess whether childhood loneliness is associated with a long-term disruption in mental health that extends into adulthood.
This study is based on the longitudinal, community-representative Great Smoky Mountains Study of 1420 participants. Participants were assessed with the structured Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment interview up to eight times in childhood (ages 9–16; 6674 observations; 1993–2000) for childhood loneliness, associated psychiatric comorbidities and childhood adversities. Participants were followed up four times in adulthood (ages 19, 21, 25, and 30; 4556 observations of 1334 participants; 1999–2015) with the structured Young Adult Psychiatric Assessment Interview for psychiatric anxiety, depression, and substance use outcomes.
Both self and parent-reported childhood loneliness were associated with adult self-reported anxiety and depressive outcomes. The associations remained significant when childhood adversities and psychiatric comorbidities were accounted for. There was no evidence for an association of childhood loneliness with adult substance use disorders. More associations were found between childhood loneliness and adult psychiatric symptoms than with adult diagnostic status.
Childhood loneliness is associated with anxiety and depressive disorders in young adults, suggesting that loneliness – even in childhood – might have long-term costs in terms of mental health. This study underscores the importance of intervening early to prevent loneliness and its sequelae over time.
Experimental work in animals has shown that DNA methylation (DNAm), an epigenetic mechanism regulating gene expression, is influenced by typical variation in maternal care. While emerging research in humans supports a similar association, studies to date have been limited to candidate gene and cross-sectional approaches, with a focus on extreme deviations in the caregiving environment.
Here, we explored the prospective association between typical variation in maternal sensitivity and offspring epigenome-wide DNAm, in a population-based cohort of children (N = 235). Maternal sensitivity was observed when children were 3- and 4-years-old. DNAm, quantified with the Infinium 450 K array, was extracted at age 6 (whole blood). The influence of methylation quantitative trait loci (mQTLs), DNAm at birth (cord blood), and confounders (socioeconomic status, maternal psychopathology) was considered in follow-up analyses.
Genome-wide significant associations between maternal sensitivity and offspring DNAm were observed at 13 regions (p < 1.06 × 10−07), but not at single sites. Follow-up analyses indicated that associations at these regions were in part related to genetic factors, confounders, and baseline DNAm levels at birth, as evidenced by the presence of mQTLs at five regions and estimate attenuations. Robust associations with maternal sensitivity were found at four regions, annotated to ZBTB22, TAPBP, ZBTB12, and DOCK4.
These findings provide novel leads into the relationship between typical variation in maternal caregiving and offspring DNAm in humans, highlighting robust regions of associations, previously implicated in psychological and developmental problems, immune functioning, and stress responses.
A review of studies on vitamin D in schizophrenia and depression found insufficient evidence to inform advice for clinicians. On the basis of the review, I suggest advice for researchers, including better controlling for confounders in observational studies, testing the reverse causality hypothesis, studying vitamin D as a treatment or prevention specifically in patients with more pigmented skin, and prospective community trials of vitamin D supplementation combined with lifestyle advice.
Early childhood aggressive behaviour is a predictor of future violence. Therefore, identifying risk factors for children’s aggressive behaviour is important in understanding underlying mechanisms. Maternal postpartum depression is a known risk factor. However, little research has focused on the influence of paternal behaviour on early childhood aggression and its interaction with maternal postpartum depression.
This study was performed in two cohorts: the Fathers Project, in the United Kingdom (n = 143) and the Generation R Study, in The Netherlands (n = 549). In both cohorts, we related paternal antisocial personality (ASP) traits and maternal postpartum depressive (PPD) symptoms to childhood aggressive behaviour at age two (Fathers Project) and age three (Generation R Study). We additionally tested whether the presence of paternal ASP traits increased the association between maternal PPD–symptoms and early childhood aggression.
The association between paternal ASP traits and early childhood aggressive behaviour, corrected for maternal PPD-symptoms, was similar in magnitude between the cohorts (Fathers Project: standardized β = 0.12, p = 0.146; Generation R: β = 0.14, p = 0.001), although the association was not statistically significant in the Fathers Project. Strikingly, and in contrast to our expectations, there was evidence of a negative interaction between paternal ASP traits and maternal PPD-symptoms on childhood aggressive behaviour (Fathers Project: β = −0.20, p = 0.020; Generation R: β = −0.09, p = 0.043) in both studies. This meant that with higher levels of paternal ASP traits the association between maternal PPD-symptoms and childhood aggressive behaviour was less and vice versa.
Our findings stress the importance of including both maternal and paternal psychopathology in future studies and interventions focusing on early childhood aggressive behaviour.
Although childhood adversity is a potent determinant of psychopathology, relatively little is known about how the characteristics of adversity exposure, including its developmental timing or duration, influence subsequent mental health outcomes. This study compared three models from life course theory (recency, accumulation, sensitive period) to determine which one(s) best explained this relationship.
Prospective data came from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (n = 7476). Four adversities commonly linked to psychopathology (caregiver physical/emotional abuse; sexual/physical abuse; financial stress; parent legal problems) were measured repeatedly from birth to age 8. Using a statistical modeling approach grounded in least angle regression, we determined the theoretical model(s) explaining the most variability (r2) in psychopathology symptoms measured at age 8 using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and evaluated the magnitude of each association.
Recency was the best fitting theoretical model for the effect of physical/sexual abuse (girls r2 = 2.35%; boys r2 = 1.68%). Both recency (girls r2 = 1.55%) and accumulation (boys r2 = 1.71%) were the best fitting models for caregiver physical/emotional abuse. Sensitive period models were chosen alone (parent legal problems in boys r2 = 0.29%) and with accumulation (financial stress in girls r2 = 3.08%) more rarely. Substantial effect sizes were observed (standardized mean differences = 0.22–1.18).
Child psychopathology symptoms are primarily explained by recency and accumulation models. Evidence for sensitive periods did not emerge strongly in these data. These findings underscore the need to measure the characteristics of adversity, which can aid in understanding disease mechanisms and determining how best to reduce the consequences of exposure to adversity.
Previous studies have examined associations of cardiometabolic factors with depression and cognition separately.
To determine if depressive symptoms mediate the association between cardiometabolic factors and cognitive decline in two community studies.
Data for the analyses were drawn from the Rotterdam Study, the Netherlands (n = 2940) and the Whitehall II study, UK (n = 4469).
Mediation analyses suggested a direct association between cardiometabolic factors and cognitive decline and an indirect association through depression: poorer cardiometabolic status at time 1 was associated with a higher level of depressive symptoms at time 2 (standardised regression coefficient 0.07 and 0.06, respectively), which, in turn, was associated with greater cognitive decline between time 2 and time 3 (standardised regression coefficient of −0.15 and −0.41, respectively).
Evidence from two independent cohort studies suggest an association between cardiometabolic dysregulation and cognitive decline and that depressive symptoms tend to precede this decline.
There is growing interest in linking vitamin D deficiency with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The association between vitamin D deficiency during gestation, a critical period in neurodevelopment, and ASD is not well understood.
To determine the association between gestational vitamin D status and ASD.
Based on a birth cohort (n=4334), we examined the association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD), assessed from both maternal mid-gestation sera and neonatal sera, and ASD (defined by clinical records; n=68 cases).
Individuals in the 25OHD-deficient group at mid-gestation had more than twofold increased risk of ASD (odds ratio (OR)=2.42, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.09 to 5.07, P=0.03) compared with the sufficient group. The findings persisted in analyses including children of European ethnicity only.
Mid-gestational vitamin D deficiency was associated with an increased risk of ASD. Because gestational vitamin D deficiency is readily preventable with safe, inexpensive and readily available supplementation, this risk factor warrants closer scrutiny.
Cultural background is an important variable influencing neuropsychological performance. Multinational projects usually involve gathering data from participants from different countries and/or different cultures. Little is known about the influence of culture on neuropsychological testing results in children and especially in European children. The objectives of this study were to compare neuropsychological performance of children from six European countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland and Spain) using a comprehensive neuropsychological battery and to apply a statistical procedure to reduce the influence of country/cultural differences in neuropsychological performance. As expected, the results demonstrated differences in neuropsychological performance among children of the six countries involved. Cultural differences remained after adjusting for other confounders related to neuropsychological execution, such as sex, type of delivery, maternal age, gestational age and maternal educational level. Differences between countries disappeared and influence of culture was considerably reduced when standardised scores by country and sex were used. These results highlight the need for developing specific procedures to compare neuropsychological performance among children from different cultures to be used in multicentre studies.
The parent–child attachment relationship plays an important role in the development of the infant's stress regulation system. However, genetic and epigenetic factors such as FK506 binding protein 51 (FKBP5) genotype and DNA methylation have also been associated with hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis functioning. In the current study, we examined how parent–child dyadic regulation works in concert with genetic and epigenetic aspects of stress regulation. We study the associations of attachment, extreme maternal insensitivity, FKBP5 single nucleotide polymorphism 1360780, and FKBP5 methylation, with cortisol reactivity to the Strange Situation Procedure in 298 14-month-old infants. The results indicate that FKBP5 methylation moderates the associations of FKBP5 genotype and resistant attachment with cortisol reactivity. We conclude that the inclusion of epigenetics in the field of developmental psychopathology may lead to a more precise picture of the interplay between genetic makeup and parenting in shaping stress reactivity.
This study examined whether the association between age and amygdala–medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) connectivity in typically developing 6- to 10-year-old children is correlated with parental care. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging scans were acquired from 124 children of the Generation R Study who at 4 years old had been observed interacting with their parents to assess maternal and paternal sensitivity. Amygdala functional connectivity was assessed using a general linear model with the amygdalae time series as explanatory variables. Higher level analyses assessing Sensitivity × Age as well as exploratory Sensitivity × Age × Gender interaction effects were performed restricted to voxels in the mPFC. We found significant Sensitivity × Age interaction effects on amygdala–mPFC connectivity. Age was related to stronger amygdala–mPFC connectivity in children with a lower combined parental sensitivity score (b = 0.11, p = .004, b = 0.06, p = .06, right and left amygdala, respectively), but not in children with a higher parental sensitivity score, (b = –0.07, p = .12, b = –0.06, p = .12, right and left amygdala, respectively). A similar effect was found for maternal sensitivity, with stronger amygdala–mPFC connectivity in children with less sensitive mothers. Exploratory (parental, maternal, paternal) Sensitivity × Age × Gender interaction analyses suggested that this effect was especially pronounced in girls. Amygdala-mPFC resting-state functional connectivity has been shown to increase from age 10.5 years onward, implying that the positive association between age and amygdala–mPFC connectivity in 6- to 10-year-old children of less sensitive parents represents accelerated development of the amygdala–mPFC circuit.
Approximately half of the variation in wellbeing measures overlaps with variation in personality traits. Studies of non-human primate pedigrees and human twins suggest that this is due to common genetic influences. We tested whether personality polygenic scores for the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) domains and for item response theory (IRT) derived extraversion and neuroticism scores predict variance in wellbeing measures. Polygenic scores were based on published genome-wide association (GWA) results in over 17,000 individuals for the NEO-FFI and in over 63,000 for the IRT extraversion and neuroticism traits. The NEO-FFI polygenic scores were used to predict life satisfaction in 7 cohorts, positive affect in 12 cohorts, and general wellbeing in 1 cohort (maximal N = 46,508). Meta-analysis of these results showed no significant association between NEO-FFI personality polygenic scores and the wellbeing measures. IRT extraversion and neuroticism polygenic scores were used to predict life satisfaction and positive affect in almost 37,000 individuals from UK Biobank. Significant positive associations (effect sizes <0.05%) were observed between the extraversion polygenic score and wellbeing measures, and a negative association was observed between the polygenic neuroticism score and life satisfaction. Furthermore, using GWA data, genetic correlations of -0.49 and -0.55 were estimated between neuroticism with life satisfaction and positive affect, respectively. The moderate genetic correlation between neuroticism and wellbeing is in line with twin research showing that genetic influences on wellbeing are also shared with other independent personality domains.
Internalizing and externalizing problems are associated with poor academic performance, both concurrently and longitudinally. Important questions are whether problems precede academic performance or vice versa, whether both internalizing and externalizing are associated with academic problems when simultaneously tested, and whether associations and their direction depend on the informant providing information. These questions were addressed in a sample of 816 children who were assessed four times. The children were 6–10 years at baseline and 14–18 years at the last assessment. Parent-reported internalizing and externalizing problems and teacher-reported academic performance were tested in cross-lagged models to examine bidirectional paths between these constructs. These models were compared with cross-lagged models testing paths between teacher-reported internalizing and externalizing problems and parent-reported academic performance. Both final models revealed similar pathways from mostly externalizing problems to academic performance. No paths emerged from internalizing problems to academic performance. Moreover, paths from academic performance to internalizing and externalizing problems were only found when teachers reported on children's problems and not for parent-reported problems. Additional model tests revealed that paths were observed in both childhood and adolescence. Externalizing problems place children at increased risk of poor academic performance and should therefore be the target for interventions.
Previous studies have suggested that prenatal maternal folate deficiency is associated with reduced prenatal brain growth and psychological problems in offspring. However, little is known about the longer-term impact. The aims of this study were to investigate whether prenatal maternal folate insufficiency, high total homocysteine levels and low vitamin B12 levels are associated with altered brain morphology, cognitive and/or psychological problems in school-aged children. This study was embedded in Generation R, a prospective population-based cohort study. The study sample consisted of 256 Dutch children aged between 6 and 8 years from whom structural brain scans were collected using MRI. The mothers of sixty-two children had insufficient (<8 nmol/l) plasma folate concentrations in early pregnancy. Cognitive development was assessed by the Snijders-Oomen Niet-verbale intelligentietest – Revisie and the NEPSY-II-NL. Psychological problems were assessed at age 6 years using the parent report of the Child Behavior Checklist. Low prenatal folate levels were associated with a smaller total brain volume (B –33·34; 95 % CI –66·7, 0·02; P=050) and predicted poorer performance on the language (B –0·28; 95 % CI –0·52, –0·04; P=0·020) and visuo-spatial domains (B –0·27; 95 % CI –0·50, –0·04; P=0·021). High homocysteine levels (>9·1 µmol/l) predicted poorer performance on the language (B –0·31; 95 % CI –0·56, –0·06; P=0·014) and visuo-spatial domains (B –0·36; 95 % CI –0·60, –0·11; P=0·004). No associations with psychological problems were found. Our findings suggest that folate insufficiency in early pregnancy has a long-lasting, global effect on brain development and is, together with homocysteine levels, associated with poorer cognitive performance.