Genetic Links Found Between Childhood Psychopathology and Adult Depression

May 04, 2020 | Biotechnology

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Emotional, social, and psychiatric problems in children and adolescents have been linked to higher levels of genetic vulnerability for adult depression, according to University of Queensland scientists. They made the finding “Genetic Associations Between Childhood Psychopathology and Adult Depression and Associated Traits in 42 998 Individuals: A Meta-Analysis”, which appears in JAMA Psychiatry, while analyzing the genetic data of more than 42,000 children and adolescents from seven cohorts across five European countries.

Christel Middeldorp, MD, PhD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Child Health Research Centre at the University of Queensland, 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 wellbeing were found to have reduced childhood problems,” she pointed out.

“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.”

“Adult mood disorders are often preceded by behavioral and emotional problems in childhood. It is yet unclear what explains the associations between childhood psychopathology and adult traits. To investigate whether genetic risk for adult mood disorders and associated traits is associated with childhood disorders,” write the investigators.

“This meta-analysis examined data from 7 ongoing longitudinal birth and childhood cohorts from the U.K., the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Starting points of data collection ranged from July 1985 to April 2002. Participants were repeatedly assessed for childhood psychopathology... More of this in the GEN Blog.

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