Externalizing behaviors in preadolescents: familial risk to externalizing behaviors, prenatal and perinatal risks, and their interactions

  • Cathelijne J. M. Buschgens
  • Sophie H. N. Swinkels
  • Marcel A. G. van Aken
  • Johan Ormel
  • Frank C. Verhulst
  • Jan K. Buitelaar



Accumulating evidence indicates that there is a rich and varied interplay between persons and their environments, which strongly suggests that this involves gene-environment correlations and interactions. We investigated whether familial risk (FR) to externalizing behaviors and prenatal and perinatal risk factors, separately or in interaction with each other, predicted externalizing behaviors.


The subjects were 10- to 12-year-old preadolescents who were taking part in TRAILS, a large prospective population-based cohort study (N = 2,230). Regression analyses were used to determine the relative contribution of FR and prenatal and perinatal risks to parent and teacher ratings of inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity aggression, and delinquency.


Regression models explained between 6 and 11% of the variance of externalizing behaviors. We found main effects of FR (vs. no FR), macrosomia (birth weight > 4,500 g), maternal prenatal smoking (MPS), pregnancy and delivery complications (PDCs), and gender that were rather consistent across rater and outcome measures. For some outcome measures, the effect of MPS and PDCs depended on the presence of FR. These included both positive and negative interaction effects. Correlations between FR and prenatal and perinatal risks were significant but rather low.


Both main effects and interaction effects of FR and prenatal and perinatal risks contributed to externalizing behaviors in preadolescents, but all effects were of small size. Further research including use of candidate gene polymorphisms is necessary to identify the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of these main and interaction effects.


externalizing behavior familial risk prenatal and perinatal risks gene-environment interaction 


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cathelijne J. M. Buschgens
    • 1
  • Sophie H. N. Swinkels
    • 1
    • 5
  • Marcel A. G. van Aken
    • 2
  • Johan Ormel
    • 3
  • Frank C. Verhulst
    • 4
  • Jan K. Buitelaar
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryRadboud University Nijmegen Medical CentreNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Developmental PsychologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryUniversity Medical Centre GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryErasmus MC-SophiaRotterdamThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Karakter Child and Adolescent Psychiatry University CentreNijmegenThe Netherlands

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