Published: 17th April 2020
New study links genetics to childhood emotional, social and psychiatric problems
The results indicate there are shared genetic factors that affect a range of psychiatric and related traits across a person's lifespan
In recent research, scientists have linked the emotional, social and psychiatric problems in children and adolescents with higher levels of genetic vulnerability for adult depression. The study implies that the genetics passed from parents may be linked with psychiatric problems in children and adolescents and may also leading to depression in adults.
University of Queensland scientists made the finding while analysing the genetic data of more than 42,000 children and adolescents from seven cohorts across Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK. Professor Christel Middeldorp said that researchers have also found a link with a higher genetic vulnerability for insomnia, neuroticism and body mass index.
"By contrast, study participants with higher genetic scores for educational attainment and emotional well-being were found to have reduced childhood problems," Professor Middeldorp said. "We calculated a person's level of genetic vulnerability by adding up the number of risk genes they had for a specific disorder or trait and then made adjustments based on the level of importance of each gene We found the relationship was mostly similar across ages," Middeldorp added.
The results indicate there are shared genetic factors that affect a range of psychiatric and related traits across a person's lifespan. Middeldorp said that around 50 per cent of children and adolescents with psychiatric problems, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), continue to experience mental disorders as adults, and are at risk of disengaging with their school community among other social and emotional problems.
"Our findings are important as they suggest this continuity between childhood and adult traits is partly explained by genetic risk," the Professor said. "Individuals at risk of being affected should be the focus of attention and targeted treatment," Middeldorp continued.
"Although the genetic vulnerability is not accurate enough at this stage to make individual predictions about how a person's symptoms will develop over time, it may become so in the future, in combination with other risk factors. And, this may support precision medicine by providing targeted treatments to children at the highest risk of persistent emotional and social problems," Middeldorp added.