Behavior Genetics

, 39:255 | Cite as

Genetic and Environmental Influences on Autistic-Like Behaviors in 2-Year-Old Twins

Original Research

Abstract

This study aims to explore the genetic and environmental contributions to autistic-like behaviors in a general population sample of toddlers. In a classic twin study of 313 same-sex, 2-year-old twin pairs, autistic-like behaviors were assessed via parent ratings on the pervasive developmental problems subscale of the Child Behavior Checklist and observationally using tester ratings on the orientation/engagement subscale of the Behavior Rating Scale. Analyses show moderate, significant heritabilities for both measures of autistic-like behaviors, as well as modest, but significant shared environmental effects. These genetic and environmental influences overlap greatly between the two measures. Autistic-like behaviors in 2-year-old twins are largely genetic in etiology, but are also influenced by a shared environmental component at this age. This is the first study to examine the etiology of such behaviors in a sample of toddlers, thus providing novel information which could guide future research on genetic and environmental factors that affect these behaviors.

Keywords

Autistic disorder Behavioral genetics Child Behavior Checklist 

References

  1. Abrahams BS, Geschwind DH (2008) Advances in autism genetics: on the threshold of a new neurobiology. Nat Rev Genet 9:341–355. doi:10.1038/nrg2346 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Achenbach TM, Rescorla LA (2000) Manual for the ASEBA preschool forms and profiles. University of Vermont, Research Center for Children, Youth, & Families, BurlingtonGoogle Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association (2000) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders DSM-IV-TR Text revision. APA, WashingtonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bailey A, Le Couteur A, Gottesman I et al (1995) Autism as a strongly genetic disorder: evidence from a British twin study. Psychol Med 25:63–77PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bayley N (1993) Bayley scales of infant development, 2nd edn. The Psychological Corporation, San AntonioGoogle Scholar
  6. Chakrabarti S, Fombonne E (2005) Pervasive developmental disorders in preschool children: confirmation of high prevalence. Am J Psychiatry 162:1133–1141. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.6.1133 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chawarska K, Klin A, Paul R, Volkmar F (2007) Autism spectrum disorder in the second year: stability and change in syndrome expression. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 48:128–138. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01685.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Constantino JN, Todd RD (2003) Autistic traits in the general population: a twin study. Arch Gen Psychiatry 60:524–530. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.60.5.524 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Constantino JN, Todd RD (2005) Intergenerational transmission of subthreshold autistic traits in the general population. Biol Psychiatry 57:655–660. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2004.12.014 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Constantino JN, Hudziak JJ, Todd RD (2003) Deficits in reciprocal social behavior in male twins: evidence for a genetically independent domain of psychopathology. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 42:458–467PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Derks EM, Hudziak J, van Beijsterveldt C, Dolan C, Boomsma D (2004) A study of genetic and environmental influences on maternal and paternal cbcl syndrome scores in a large sample of 3-year-old Dutch twins. Behav Genet 34:571–583. doi:10.1007/s10519-004-5585-2 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. DiCicco-Bloom E, Lord C, Zwaigenbaum L et al (2006) The developmental neurobiology of autism spectrum disorder. J Neurosci 26:6897–6906. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1712-06.2006 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eley TC, Stevenson J (1999) Exploring the covariation between anxiety and depression symptoms: a genetic analysis of the effects of age and sex. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 40:1273–1284. doi:10.1111/1469-7610.00543 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Folstein SE, Rosen-Sheidley B (2001) Genetics of autism: complex aetiology for a heterogeneous disorder. Nat Rev Genet 2:943–955. doi:10.1038/35103559 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goldsmith HH, Reilly J, Lemery KS, Longley J, Prescott A (1995) The laboratory temperament assessment battery-preschool version: description of procedures. University of Wisconsin, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  16. Hoekstra RA, Bartels M, Verweij CJH, Boomsma D (2007) Heritability of autistic traits in the general population. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 161:372–377. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.4.372 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hollingshead A (1975) Four-factor index of social status. Yale University, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  18. Knafo A, Plomin R (2006) Prosocial behavior from early to middle childhood: genetic and environmental influences on stability and change. Dev Psychol 42:771–786. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.42.5.771 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Liang KY, Zeger SL (1986) Longitudinal data analysis using generalized linear models. Biometrika 73:13–22. doi:10.1093/biomet/73.1.13 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Martin NG, Eaves LJ (1977) The genetical analysis of covariance structure. Heredity 38:79–95. doi:10.1038/hdy.1977.9 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McGue M, Bouchard TJ (1984) Adjustment of twin data for the effects of age and sex. Behav Genet 14:325–343. doi:10.1007/BF01080045 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Neale MC, Boker SM, Xie G, Maes HH (2006) Mx: statistical modeling, 7th edn. Virginia Commonwealth University, RichmondGoogle Scholar
  23. Piven J, Palmer P, Jacobi D, Childress D, Arndt S (1997) Broader autism phenotype: evidence from a family history study of multiple-incidence autism families. Am J Psychiatry 154:185–190PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Plomin R (1986) Development, genetics, and psychology. Erlbaum, HillsdaleGoogle Scholar
  25. Plomin R, DeFries JC, McClearn GE, McGuffin P (2001) Behavioral genetics, 4th edn. Worth Publishing, NYGoogle Scholar
  26. Price TS, Freeman B, Craig I, Ebersole L, Plomin R (2000) Infant zygosity can be assigned by parental report questionnaire data. Twin Res 3:129–133. doi:10.1375/136905200320565391 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rescorla L, Ross GS, McClure S (2007) Language delay and behavioral/emotional problems in toddlers: finding from two developmental clinics. J Speech Lang Hear Res 50:1063–1078. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2007/074) PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rice F, Harold GT, Thapar A (2002) Assessing the effects of age, sex and shared environment on the genetic aetiology of depression in childhood and adolescence. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 43:1039–1051. doi:10.1111/1469-7610.00231 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Risch N, Spiker D, Lotspeich L, Nouri N, Hinds D, Hallmayer J et al (1999) A genomic screen of autism: evidence for a multilocus etiology. Am J Hum Genet 65:493–507. doi:10.1086/302497 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ronald A, Happé F, Plomin R (2005) The genetic relationship between individual differences in social and nonsocial behaviours characteristic of autism. Dev Sci 8:444–458. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2005.00433.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ronald A, Happé F, Bolton P et al (2006) Genetic heterogeneity between the three components of the autism spectrum: a twin study. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 45:691–699. doi:10.1097/01.chi.0000215325.13058.9d PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rutter M (2000) Genetic studies of autism: from the 1970s into the millennium. J Abnorm Child Psychol 28:3–14. doi:10.1023/A:1005113900068 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Saudino KJ, Plomin R, DeFries JC (1996) Tester-related temperament at 14, 20, and 24 months: environmental change and genetic continuity. Br J Dev Psychol 14:129–144Google Scholar
  34. Saudino KJ, Carter AS, Purper-Ouakil D, Gorwood P (2008) The etiology of behavioral problems and competences in very young twins. J Abnorm Psychol 117:48–62. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.117.1.48 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schmitz S, Cherny S, Fulker D, Mrazek D (1994) Genetic and environmental influences on early childhood behavior. Behav Genet 24:25–34. doi:10.1007/BF01067926 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Scourfield J, John B, Martin N, McGuffin P (2004) The development of prosocial behaviour in children and adolescents: a twin study. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 45:927–935. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2004.t01-1-00286.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sikora DM, Hall TA, Hartley SL, Gerrard-Morris AE, Cagle S (2008) Does parent report of behavior differ across ADOS-G classifications: analysis of scores from the CBCL and GARS. J Autism Dev Disord 38:440–448. doi:10.1007/s10803-007-0407-z PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Spiker D, Lotspeich LJ, Dimiceli S, Myers RM, Risch N (2002) Behavioral phenotypic variation in autism multiplex families: evidence for a continuous severity gradient. Am J Med Genet 114:129–136. doi:10.1002/ajmg.10188 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zeger SL, Liang KY (1986) Longitudinal data analysis for discrete and continuous outcomes. Biometrics 42:121–130. doi:10.2307/2531248 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zwaigenbaum L, Thurm A, Stone W, Baranek G, Bryson S, Iverson J et al (2007) Studying the emergence of autism spectrum disorders in high-risk infants: methodological and practical issues. J Autism Dev Disord 37:466–480. doi:10.1007/s10803-006-0179-x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations