European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 259-279

First online:

Child and adolescent psychiatric genetics

  • Johannes HebebrandAffiliated withDepartment of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, LVR-Klinikum Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen Email author 
  • , Andre ScheragAffiliated withInstitute of Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology, University of Duisburg-Essen
  • , Benno G. SchimmelmannAffiliated withUniversity Hospital Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Bern
  • , Anke HinneyAffiliated withDepartment of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, LVR-Klinikum Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen

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The current status of child and adolescent psychiatric genetics appears promising in light of the initiation of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for diverse polygenic disorders and the molecular elucidation of monogenic Rett syndrome, for which recent functional studies provide hope for pharmacological treatment strategies. Within the last 50 years, tremendous progress has been made in linking genetic variation to behavioral phenotypes and psychiatric disorders. We summarize the major findings of the Human Genome Project and dwell on largely unsuccessful candidate gene and linkage studies. GWAS for the first time offer the possibility to detect single nucleotide polymorphisms and copy number variants without a priori hypotheses as to their molecular etiology. At the same time it is becoming increasingly clear that very large sample sizes are required in order to enable genome wide significant findings, thus necessitating further large-scaled ascertainment schemes for the successful elucidation of the molecular genetics of childhood and adolescent psychiatric disorders. We conclude by reflecting on different scenarios for future research into the molecular basis of early onset psychiatric disorders. This review represents the introductory article of this special issue of the European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.


Candidate gene Linkage Rett syndrome Gene–environment interaction Genome-wide association study