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The COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins) project is a large international collaborative effort to analyze individual-level phenotype data from twins in multiple cohorts from different environments. The main objective is to study factors that modify genetic and environmental variation of height, body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) and size at birth, and additionally to address other research questions such as long-term consequences of birth size. The project started in 2013 and is open to all twin projects in the world having height and weight measures on twins with information on zygosity. Thus far, 54 twin projects from 24 countries have provided individual-level data. The CODATwins database includes 489,981 twin individuals (228,635 complete twin pairs). Since many twin cohorts have collected longitudinal data, there is a total of 1,049,785 height and weight observations. For many cohorts, we also have information on birth weight and length, own smoking behavior and own or parental education. We found that the heritability estimates of height and BMI systematically changed from infancy to old age. Remarkably, only minor differences in the heritability estimates were found across cultural–geographic regions, measurement time and birth cohort for height and BMI. In addition to genetic epidemiological studies, we looked at associations of height and BMI with education, birth weight and smoking status. Within-family analyses examined differences within same-sex and opposite-sex dizygotic twins in birth size and later development. The CODATwins project demonstrates the feasibility and value of international collaboration to address gene-by-exposure interactions that require large sample sizes and address the effects of different exposures across time, geographical regions and socioeconomic status.
The genetic and social causes of individual differences in attitudes to gun control are estimated in a sample of senior male and female twin pairs in the United States. Genetic and environmental parameters were estimated by weighted least squares applied to polychoric correlations for monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins of both sexes. The analysis suggests twin similarity for attitudes to gun control in men is entirely genetic while that in women is purely social. Although the volunteer sample is small, the analysis illustrates how the well-tested concepts and methods of genetic epidemiology may be a fertile resource for deepening our scientific understanding of biological and social pathways that affect individual risk to gun violence.
Whether monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins differ from each other in a variety of phenotypes is important for genetic twin modeling and for inferences made from twin studies in general. We analyzed whether there were differences in individual, maternal and paternal education between MZ and DZ twins in a large pooled dataset. Information was gathered on individual education for 218,362 adult twins from 27 twin cohorts (53% females; 39% MZ twins), and on maternal and paternal education for 147,315 and 143,056 twins respectively, from 28 twin cohorts (52% females; 38% MZ twins). Together, we had information on individual or parental education from 42 twin cohorts representing 19 countries. The original education classifications were transformed to education years and analyzed using linear regression models. Overall, MZ males had 0.26 (95% CI [0.21, 0.31]) years and MZ females 0.17 (95% CI [0.12, 0.21]) years longer education than DZ twins. The zygosity difference became smaller in more recent birth cohorts for both males and females. Parental education was somewhat longer for fathers of DZ twins in cohorts born in 1990–1999 (0.16 years, 95% CI [0.08, 0.25]) and 2000 or later (0.11 years, 95% CI [0.00, 0.22]), compared with fathers of MZ twins. The results show that the years of both individual and parental education are largely similar in MZ and DZ twins. We suggest that the socio-economic differences between MZ and DZ twins are so small that inferences based upon genetic modeling of twin data are not affected.
Bullying victimization in childhood is associated with a broad array of serious mental health disturbances, including anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation and behavior. The key goal of this study was to evaluate whether bullying victimization is a true environmental risk factor for psychiatric disturbance using data from 145 bully-discordant monozygotic (MZ) juvenile twin pairs from the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development (VTSABD) and their follow-up into young adulthood.
Since MZ twins share an identical genotype and familial environment, a higher rate of psychiatric disturbance in a bullied MZ twin compared to their non-bullied MZ co-twin would be evidence of an environmental impact of bullying victimization. Environmental correlations between being bullied and the different psychiatric traits were estimated by fitting structural equation models to the full sample of MZ and DZ twins (N = 2824). Environmental associations were further explored using the longitudinal data on the bullying-discordant MZ twins.
Being bullied was associated with a wide range of psychiatric disorders in both children and young adults. The analysis of data on the MZ-discordant twins supports a genuine environmental impact of bullying victimization on childhood social anxiety [odds ratio (OR) 1.7], separation anxiety (OR 1.9), and young adult suicidal ideation (OR 1.3). There was a shared genetic influence on social anxiety and bullying victimization, consistent with social anxiety being both an antecedent and consequence of being bullied.
Bullying victimization in childhood is a significant environmental trauma and should be included in any mental health assessment of children and young adults.
A trend toward greater body size in dizygotic (DZ) than in monozygotic (MZ) twins has been suggested by some but not all studies, and this difference may also vary by age. We analyzed zygosity differences in mean values and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) among male and female twins from infancy to old age. Data were derived from an international database of 54 twin cohorts participating in the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins), and included 842,951 height and BMI measurements from twins aged 1 to 102 years. The results showed that DZ twins were consistently taller than MZ twins, with differences of up to 2.0 cm in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.9 cm in adulthood. Similarly, a greater mean BMI of up to 0.3 kg/m2 in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.2 kg/m2 in adulthood was observed in DZ twins, although the pattern was less consistent. DZ twins presented up to 1.7% greater height and 1.9% greater BMI than MZ twins; these percentage differences were largest in middle and late childhood and decreased with age in both sexes. The variance of height was similar in MZ and DZ twins at most ages. In contrast, the variance of BMI was significantly higher in DZ than in MZ twins, particularly in childhood. In conclusion, DZ twins were generally taller and had greater BMI than MZ twins, but the differences decreased with age in both sexes.
The public health burden of alcohol is unevenly distributed across the life course, with levels of use, abuse, and dependence increasing across adolescence and peaking in early adulthood. Here, we leverage this temporal patterning to search for common genetic variants predicting developmental trajectories of alcohol consumption. Comparable psychiatric evaluations measuring alcohol consumption were collected in three longitudinal community samples (N = 2,126, obs = 12,166). Consumption-repeated measurements spanning adolescence and early adulthood were analyzed using linear mixed models, estimating individual consumption trajectories, which were then tested for association with Illumina 660W-Quad genotype data (866,099 SNPs after imputation and QC). Association results were combined across samples using standard meta-analysis methods. Four meta-analysis associations satisfied our pre-determined genome-wide significance criterion (FDR < 0.1) and six others met our ‘suggestive’ criterion (FDR <0.2). Genome-wide significant associations were highly biological plausible, including associations within GABA transporter 1, SLC6A1 (solute carrier family 6, member 1), and exonic hits in LOC100129340 (mitofusin-1-like). Pathway analyses elaborated single marker results, indicating significant enriched associations to intuitive biological mechanisms, including neurotransmission, xenobiotic pharmacodynamics, and nuclear hormone receptors (NHR). These findings underscore the value of combining longitudinal behavioral data and genome-wide genotype information in order to study developmental patterns and improve statistical power in genomic studies.
For over 100 years, the genetics of human anthropometric traits has attracted scientific interest. In particular, height and body mass index (BMI, calculated as kg/m2) have been under intensive genetic research. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how heritability estimates vary between human populations. Opportunities to address this question have increased recently because of the establishment of many new twin cohorts and the increasing accumulation of data in established twin cohorts. We started a new research project to analyze systematically (1) the variation of heritability estimates of height, BMI and their trajectories over the life course between birth cohorts, ethnicities and countries, and (2) to study the effects of birth-related factors, education and smoking on these anthropometric traits and whether these effects vary between twin cohorts. We identified 67 twin projects, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, using various sources. We asked for individual level data on height and weight including repeated measurements, birth related traits, background variables, education and smoking. By the end of 2014, 48 projects participated. Together, we have 893,458 height and weight measures (52% females) from 434,723 twin individuals, including 201,192 complete twin pairs (40% monozygotic, 40% same-sex dizygotic and 20% opposite-sex dizygotic) representing 22 countries. This project demonstrates that large-scale international twin studies are feasible and can promote the use of existing data for novel research purposes.
Objective: Despite an increasing recognition that psychiatric disorders can be diagnosed as early as preschool, little is known how early genetic and environmental risk factors contribute to the development of psychiatric disorders during this very early period of development. Method: We assessed infant temperament at age 1, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and separation anxiety disorder (SAD) at ages 3 through 5 years in a sample of Hispanic twins. Genetic, shared, and non-shared environmental effects were estimated for each temperamental construct and psychiatric disorder using the statistical program MX. Multivariate genetic models were fitted to determine whether the same or different sets of genes and environments account for the co-occurrence between early temperament and preschool psychiatric disorders. Results: Additive genetic factors accounted for 61% of the variance in ADHD, 21% in ODD, and 28% in SAD. Shared environmental factors accounted for 34% of the variance in ODD and 15% of SAD. The genetic influence on difficult temperament was significantly associated with preschool ADHD, SAD, and ODD. The association between ODD and SAD was due to both genetic and family environmental factors. The temperamental trait of resistance to control was entirely accounted for by the shared family environment. Conclusions: There are different genetic and family environmental pathways between infant temperament and psychiatric diagnoses in this sample of Puerto Rican preschool age children.
Little is known regarding the underlying relationship between smoking initiation and current quantity smoked during adolescence into young adulthood. It is possible that the influences of genetic and environmental factors on this relationship vary across sex and age. To investigate this further, the current study applied a common causal contingency model to data from a Virginia-based twin study to determine: (1) if the same genetic and environmental factors are contributing to smoking initiation and current quantity smoked; (2) whether the magnitude of genetic and environmental factor contributions are the same across adolescence and young adulthood; and (3) if qualitative and quantitative differences in the sources of variance between males and females exist. Study results found no qualitative or quantitative sex differences in the relationship between smoking initiation and current quantity smoked, though relative contributions of genetic and environmental factors changed across adolescence and young adulthood. More specifically, smoking initiation and current quantity smoked remain separate constructs until young adulthood, when liabilities are correlated. Smoking initiation is explained by genetic, shared, and unique environmental factors in early adolescence and by genetic and unique environmental factors in young adulthood; while current quantity smoked is explained by shared environmental and unique environmental factors until young adulthood, when genetic and unique environmental factors play a larger role.
Considerable evidence from twin and adoption studies indicates that both genetic and shared environmental factors play a substantial role in the liability to antisocial behavior. Although twin and adoption designs can resolve genetic and environmental influences, they do not provide information about assortative mating, parent–offspring transmission, or the contribution of these factors to trait variation. We examined the role of genetic and environmental factors for conduct disorder (CD) using a twin–parent design. This design allows the simultaneous estimation of additive genetic, shared and individual-specific environmental effects, as well as sex differences in the expression of genes and environment in the presence of assortative mating and combined genetic and cultural transmission. A retrospective measure of CD was obtained from twins and their parents or guardians in the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavior Development and its Young Adult Follow up sample. Both genetic and environmental factors play a significant role in the liability to CD. Major influences on individual differences appeared to be additive genetic (38%–40%) and unique environmental (39%–42%) effects, with smaller contributions from the shared environment (18%–23%), assortative mating (~2%), cultural transmission (~2%) and resulting genotype-environment covariance. This study showed significant heritability, which is slightly increased by assortative mating, and significant effects of primarily nonparental shared environment on CD.
Several studies report apparent sibling contrast effects in analyses of twin resemblance. In the presence of genetic differences, contrast effects reduce the dizygotic (DZ) twin correlation relative to that in monozygotic (MZ) twins and produce higher DZ than MZ variance. Explanations of contrast effects are typically cast in terms of direct social interaction between twins or an artifact of the process of rating children by their parents. We outline a model for sibling imitation and contrast effects that depends on social interaction between parents and children. In addition to predicting the observed pattern of twin variances and covariances, the parental mediation of child imitation and contrast effects leads to differences in the variance of parents of MZ and DZ twins and differences between the correlations of parents with their MZ and DZ children.
Three dimensions of temperament — difficult temperament, unadaptablility and unsociability — were assessed in the first year of life by maternal interview in twins born in Puerto Rico during 2001 and 2002. Eight hundred and sixty-five eligible mothers (80%) were traced and interviewed. Model- fitting results showed that additive genetic factors and the individual specific environment contributed to variation in all three dimensions. In addition, the pattern of variances and correlations suggested that sibling contrast effects influence ratings of difficult temperament. Moderate effects of the shared environment contributed to ratings of adaptability and sociability. There was a significant genetic correlation between difficult temperament and unadaptability. Genetic and environmental effects do not differ significantly between boys and girls. The study is the first population-based study of Puerto Rican twins and one of few to attempt the assessment of behavior in the first year. Preliminary results for difficult temperament and sociability were consistent with those in other populations and ages. In contrast, a significant effect of the shared environment on the temperamental trait of unadaptability has not been reported previously.
The children of twins (COT) design has been proposed as an alternative to the adoption study to resolve the direct effects of parental treatment from secondary parent–child association due to genetic factors. The basic analytical approach compares the parent–offspring correlation with the correlation between children and the monozygotic (MZ) twins of their parents. We show that a significant difference between these correlations does not imply direct environmental causality when the measured parental treatment in question is dyadic, that is, influenced by both parents even when mating is random. Nongenetic causal effects yield very similar patterns of correlation to secondary genetic effects on dyadic treatment variables. The fact that many candidate environments, such as parental divorce, are dyadic gives reason to question the interpretation of their correlations with behavior in the children of twins.
Recent studies among males have reported a genotype–environment interaction (G×E) in which low-activity alleles at the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) locus conferred greater sensitivity to the effects of childhood adversity on risk for conduct disorder (CD). So far, few studies of females have controlled for gene–environment correlation or used females heterozygous for this X-linked gene.
Logistic regression analysis of a sample of 721 females ages 8–17 years from the longitudinal Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development (VTSABD) assessed the additive effects of MAOA genotypes on risk for CD, together with the main effect of childhood adversity and parental antisocial personality disorder (ASP), as well as the interaction of MAOA with childhood adversity on risk for CD.
A significant main effect of genotype on risk for CD was detected, where low-activity MAOA imparted the greatest risk to CD in girls while controlling for the significant effects of maternal ASP and childhood adversity. Significant G×E with weak effect was detected when environmental exposure was untransformed, indicating a higher sensitivity to childhood adversity in the presence of the high-activity MAOA allele. The interaction was no longer statistically significant after applying a ridit transformation to reflect the sample sizes exposed at each level of childhood adversity.
The main effect of MAOA on risk for CD in females, its absence in males and directional difference of interaction is suggestive of genotype–sex interaction. As the effect of G×E on risk for CD was weak, its inclusion is not justified.
Background. Despite the demonstrable influence of both genes and the family environment on children's behavioural and emotional development, the mechanisms by which these factors are transmitted from parents to their children are not known. Numerous aspects of the family have long been associated with behavioural and emotional problems in children; it is not clear, however, whether these family variables represent genuine environmental risks or secondary consequences of the underlying genetic liability shared between parents and their children.
Method. In this study we present a model for analysing the non-genetic contributions of family background to risk for childhood and adolescent depression and conduct disturbance using simulated data on adult MZ and DZ twins, their spouses and children.
Results. The twin offspring design provides substantial power to detect remarkably small non-genetic effects on parent–offspring resemblance against the background of genetic transmission. As presented, the model is able to resolve the direction of transmission from both parent to child (passive genotype–environment correlation) and child to parent (evocative genotype–environment correlation).
Conclusions. Unlike many other genetic studies, a study of twins and their children can sort out which putative family environmental risk factors do actually have a significant environmental impact on the child and which ones only appear to do so because they are associated with genetic mediation.
Background. Although there is evidence that genetic factors influence individual differences in environmental risk exposure, there are few findings on genetic effects on differential parenting. The present study sought to examine this issue.
Methods. The sample comprised 1117 pairs of like-sex male and female twins, aged 8–16 years, and their parents, recruited from the school population of Virginia. Differential ratings of the within-family experiences were provided by the Twin Inventory of Relationships and Experiences (TIRE).
Results. Dimensions describing the within-family environment based on differential ratings contrasting the twins with one another, were influenced, to an approximately equal extent, by both genetic and environmental factors.
Conclusions. The findings suggest that genetic differences between like-sex siblings lead them to experience their family environment differently, but also that environmental influences significantly affect interactions within the family.
Background. Previous studies have shown that the presence of conduct disorder may contribute to the persistence of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptomatology into adolescence; however, the aetiological relationship between the two phenotypes remains undetermined. Furthermore, studies utilizing multiple informants have indicated that teacher ratings of these phenotypes are more valid than maternal reports.
Methods. The genetic structure underlying the persistence of ADHD and oppositional-defiant disorder/conduct disorder (ODD/CD) symptomatologies as rated by mothers and teachers at two occasions of measurement was investigated on a sample of 494 male and 603 female same sex adolescent twin pairs participating in the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development (VTSABD).
Results. Using structural modelling techniques, one common genetic factor was shown to govern the covariation between the phenotypes across informants and occasion of measurement with additional genetic factors specific to ODD/CD symptomatology and persistence of symptomatology at reassessment. Genetic structures underlying the phenotypes were, to some extent, informant dependent.
Conclusions. The findings indicate that it is unlikely that the co-morbidity between ADHD and ODD/CD is due to environmental influences that are independent of ADHD. Rather it is likely to be due to a shared genetic liability either operating directly, or indirectly through gene–environment correlations or interactions. The covariation between phenotypes across informants and time is governed by a common set of genes, but it seems that ODD/CD is also influenced by additional genetic factors. Developmentally, different forms of genetic liability control ADHD in males and inattention in females.
The phenotypic and genetic interrelationships underlying ADHD symptomatology assessed by various instruments were examined on a sample of 735 male and 819 female same-sex twin pairs, aged 8 to 16 years, participating in the first phase of the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development (VTSABD). Multivariate analyses were applied to parental and teacher ratings from an investigator-based interview, the CAPA, and three questionnaires (the CBCL and the Rutter Parent and Teacher Scales). Results from patterns of intercorrelations and factor analyses of maternal measures suggested that at the phenotypic level, these assessed the same underlying behavioural construct, which differed from other emotional and behavioural constructs. However, genetic analyses showed that in addition to a common factor underlying the expression of ADHD as assessed across the range of measures, additional genetic factors were identified that were method- and rater-specific. The findings suggest that although the investigator-based interview and the behavioural checklists tap similar aspects of ADHD behaviour, there is additional rater-specific variance.
In this report we characterize associations between parental psychiatric disorders and children's psychiatric symptoms and disorders using a population-based sample of 850 twin families. Juvenile twins are aged 8–17 years and are personally interviewed about their current history of DSM-III-R conduct, depression, oppositional-defiant, overanxious, and separation anxiety disorders using the CAPA-C. Mothers and fathers of twins are personally interviewed about their lifetime history of DSM-III-R alcoholism, antisocial personality disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, panic disorder/agoraphobia, social phobia, and simple phobia using a modified version of the SCID and the DIS. Generalized least squares and logistic regression are used to identify the juvenile symptoms and disorders that are significantly associated with parental psychiatric histories. The specificity of these associations is subsequently explored in a subset of families with maternal plus parental psychiatric histories with a prevalence > 1 %. Parental depression that is not comorbid or associated with a different spousal disorder is associated with a significantly elevated level of depression and overanxious disorder symptoms and a significantly increased risk for overanxious disorder. Risks are higher for both symptomatic domains in association with maternal than paternal depression, and highest in association with maternal plus paternal depression. Risks for other juvenile symptoms and disorders index the comorbid and spousal histories with which parental depression is commonly associated. Paternal alcoholism that is not comorbid or associated with a maternal disorder is not significantly associated with current psychiatric symptoms or disorders in offspring. Risks for oppositional-defiant or conduct symptoms/disorders in the offspring of alcoholic parents index parental comorbidity and/or other spousal histories.
Background. There is extensive evidence of statistical associations between family
discord/maladaptation and antisocial behaviour in the children, but questions remain on the extent to
which the psychopathological risks are genetically or environmentally mediated.
Methods. Twin pairs (N = 1350), aged 8 to 16 years, in the general population-based Virginia Twin
Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development were assessed using the Child and Adolescent
Psychiatric Assessment interview administered separately to both twins and both parents.
Structured interviews for parental lifetime psychiatric disorders were also administered to the
mothers and fathers. Maternal reports on Olsson's Family Adaptability and Cohesiveness
questionnaire and the Dyadic Adjustment Scale were used as indices of the family environment. A
path analytical model based on an extended twin-family design was used to test hypotheses about
parent–offspring similarity for conduct disorder symptomatology.
Results. Family discord and maladaptation, which intercorrelated at 0·63, were associated with a
roughly two-fold increase in risk for conduct disorder symptomatology. When parental conduct
disorder was included in the model the environmental mediation effect for family maladaptation
remained, but that for family discord was lost.
Conclusion. It is concluded that there is true environmental mediation from family maladaptation,
operating as a shared effect, which accounts for 3·5% of the phenotypic variance. The assumptions
underlying this genetic research strategy are made explicit, together with its strengths and