A NEW GENETICALLY INFORMATIVE APPROACH TO THE STUDY OF CHILD PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
R. Sellers1, Ph.I. Barsky2,3, I.D. Voronina2,3, Yu.V. Kovas2,4, G.T. Harold1,2
1 Department of Psychology, University of Sussex, Sussex, UK;
2 International Center for Research in Human Development, Tomsk State University, Russia,
3 Laboratory of age psychogenetics, Psychological Institute of RAE, Russia;
4 Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
In this paper, we outline current understanding of the role of common genetic and environmental factors underlying risk for offspring psychopathology. Specifically we summarise research examining gene-environment interplay and child-related developmental outcomes (e.g. depression, conduct problems, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: ADHD) before briefly describing a novel methodology that has begun to advance our understanding of the relative role of common genetic factors, environmental factors, and the interplay between the two in explaining variation in children’s psychopathology. This methodology is based on families where children have been conceived through assisted reproductive technologies (ART). Children conceived via these methods, specifically in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be genetically related to both parents (homologous IVF), the mother only (sperm donation), the father only (egg donation), or to neither parent (embryo donation). A further category exists where both parents are genetically related to the child but the intrauterine environment is provided by a genetically unrelated surrogate. By comparing the similarity of parent and offspring across each of these groups, we can examine the contribution of genes, and also disentangle the relative effects of genes, intrauterine and post-natal environmental influences on childhood psychopathology. This methodology offers a unique complement to the study of gene-environment interplay, with relevance to a range of complementary disciplines including psychiatric genetics, epidemiology and developmentally-focused research.
Keywords: genetic factors, environmental factors, child psychopathology, etiology.