Relative influence of genetics and shared environment on child mental health symptoms depends on comorbidity

Matthew K. Vendlinski, Kristin N. Javaras, Carol A. Van Hulle, Kathryn Lemery, Rose Maier, Richard J. Davidson, H. Hill Goldsmith

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Abstract

Background: Comorbidity among childhood mental health symptoms is common in clinical and community samples and should be accounted for when investigating etiology. We therefore aimed to uncover latent classes of mental health symptoms in middle childhood in a community sample, and to determine the latent genetic and environmental influences on those classes. Methods: The sample comprised representative cohorts of twins. A questionnaire-based assessment of mental health symptoms was used in latent class analyses. Data on 3223 twins (1578 boys and 1645 girls) with a mean age of 7.5 years were analyzed. The sample was predominantly non-Hispanic Caucasian (92.1%). Results: Latent class models delineated groups of children according to symptom profiles-not necessarily clinical groups but groups representing the general population, most with scores in the normative range. The best-fitting models suggested 9 classes for both girls and boys. Eight of the classes were very similar across sexes; these classes ranged from a "Low Symptom" class to a "Moderately Internalizing & Severely Externalizing" class. In addition, a "Moderately Anxious" class was identified for girls but not boys, and a "Severely Impulsive & Inattentive" class was identified for boys but not girls. Sex-combined analyses implicated moderate genetic influences for all classes. Shared environmental influences were moderate for the "Low Symptom" and "Moderately Internalizing & Severely Externalizing" classes, and small to zero for other classes. Conclusions: We conclude that symptom classes are largely similar across sexes in middle childhood. Heritability was moderate for all classes, but shared environment played a greater role for classes in which no one type of symptom predominated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere103080
JournalPLoS One
Volume9
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 31 2014

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Vendlinski, M. K., Javaras, K. N., Van Hulle, C. A., Lemery, K., Maier, R., Davidson, R. J., & Goldsmith, H. H. (2014). Relative influence of genetics and shared environment on child mental health symptoms depends on comorbidity. PLoS One, 9(7), [e103080]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0103080