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Early callous-unemotional (CU) behaviors identify children at risk for severe and persistent aggression and antisocial behavior. Recent work suggests that fearlessness and low social affiliation are implicated in the etiology of CU behaviors, although more research is needed to clarify these etiological pathways, as well as the role of parenting.
Using a sample of preschoolers (N = 620), we examined pathways between observed fear in response to social and non-social stimuli and observed social affiliation during social interactions at age 3 and increases child CU behaviors and oppositional-defiant behaviors from ages 3 to 5. To elucidate the role of parenting in exacerbating or buffering the relationships between low fear and social affiliation and CU behaviors, we tested whether parental harshness or low warmth moderated these pathways.
Fearlessness and low social affiliation uniquely predicted increases in CU behaviors, but not oppositional-defiant behaviors, from ages 3 to 5. Moreover, there was evidence for differential moderation of the fear pathway by harsh parenting, such that harsh parenting predicted increases in CU behaviors in fearless children but increases in oppositional-defiant behaviors in fearful children.
Fearlessness and low social affiliation contribute to the development of CU behaviors. Harsh parenting can exacerbate the risky fearlessness pathway. Preventative interventions aimed at reducing risk for CU behaviors and persistent aggression and antisocial behavior should target socioaffiliative processes and provide parents with strategies and training to manage and scaffold rule-compliant behavior when children show low fearful arousal.
The Boston University Twin Project (BUTP) uses a multimethod, longitudinal approach to study the role of genetic and environmental factors on the development of child temperament and related behaviors in early childhood. There are two phases in this project. The first, described in the previous Twin Research and Human Genetics special issue on twin registries, focused on activity level and comprised over 300 twin pairs assessed in the home and laboratory at ages 2 and 3. In this article, we describe subject recruitment, sample characteristics, and study procedures and measures of the second phase of the BUTP. This recent study focuses more broadly on the development of multiple temperament dimensions and explores associations between temperament trajectories, parenting and child adjustment in a new cohort of approximately 300 twin pairs assessed at 3, 4 and 5 years of age.
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.
Callous–unemotional (CU) behaviors demonstrate meaningful individual differences in early childhood, even in nonclinical samples with low mean levels of CU, but the factors underlying this variation have not been examined. This study investigated genetic and environmental contributions to individual differences and to sources of continuity and change in CU in toddler twins (145 monozygotic, 169 dizygotic) assessed at ages 2 and 3 years. CU, as assessed by the Child Behavior Checklist 1.5–5 (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2000), was moderately stable across age (r = .45, p < .0001). Longitudinal biometric analyses revealed genetic and nonshared environmental influences on CU at both ages, with no significant contribution from shared environmental factors. Stability from age 2 to 3 was due to genetic factors, whereas change was due to both genetic and nonshared environmental influences. This genetic and nonshared environmental change was substantial, suggesting malleability of CU in early childhood. Over 50% of the genetic influences and 100% of the nonshared environmental influences on CU at age 3 were independent of those that operated at age 2. Implications of novel sources of variance across age are discussed.
We analyzed birth order differences in means and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) in monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins from infancy to old age. The data were derived from the international CODATwins database. The total number of height and BMI measures from 0.5 to 79.5 years of age was 397,466. As expected, first-born twins had greater birth weight than second-born twins. With respect to height, first-born twins were slightly taller than second-born twins in childhood. After adjusting the results for birth weight, the birth order differences decreased and were no longer statistically significant. First-born twins had greater BMI than the second-born twins over childhood and adolescence. After adjusting the results for birth weight, birth order was still associated with BMI until 12 years of age. No interaction effect between birth order and zygosity was found. Only limited evidence was found that birth order influenced variances of height or BMI. The results were similar among boys and girls and also in MZ and DZ twins. Overall, the differences in height and BMI between first- and second-born twins were modest even in early childhood, while adjustment for birth weight reduced the birth order differences but did not remove them for BMI.
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.
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.
The Boston University Twin Project (BUTP) is a multi-method, multi-situation, longitudinal study of early child temperament and related behaviors. The first phase of this project focused primarily on activity level and comprised over 300 twin pairs assessed in the home and lab at ages 2 and 3. Subject recruitment, sample characteristics, and study procedures are described. A second phase broadens our focus to the development of multiple temperament dimensions and developmental outcomes in a new cohort of 300 twin pairs to be assessed at 3, 4, and 5 years of age. Recruitment is currently underway.
Twin studies of child temperament using objective measures consistently suggest moderate heritability for most dimensions. However, parent rating measures produce unusual patterns of results. Intraclass correlations for identical (MZ) twins are typically high, whereas fraternal (DZ) twin intraclass correlations are much lower than would be predicted from an additive genetic model. The ‘too low’ DZ correlations can be explained by parent-rating biases that either exaggerate the differences between DZ twins (contrast effects) or that inflate the similarity of MZ twins (assimilation effects), or by the presence of non-additive genetic variance. To evaluate the three possible explanations, we used model-fitting procedures applied to parent-rating data averaged across 14, 20, 24, and 36 months of age in a sample of 196 twin pairs participating in the MacArthur Longitudinal Twin Study. The data were best described by a model that included contrast effects. Implications for non-twin research are discussed. Twin Research (2000) 3, 224–233.
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