Behavior Genetics

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 314–325 | Cite as

Child Care, Socio-economic Status and Problem Behavior: A Study of Gene–Environment Interaction in Young Dutch Twins

  • Christel M. MiddeldorpEmail author
  • Diane J. Lamb
  • Jacqueline M. Vink
  • Meike Bartels
  • Catharina E. M. van Beijsterveldt
  • Dorret I. Boomsma
Original Research


The influences of formal child care before age 4 on behavioral problems at 3, 5, and 7 years of age were assessed in 18,932 Dutch twins (3,878 attended formal child care). The effect of formal child care was studied on the average level of problem behavior and as moderator of genetic and non-genetic influences, while taking into account effects of sex and parental socio-economic status (SES). There was a small association between attending formal child care and higher externalizing problems, especially when SES was low. Heritability was lower for formal child care and in lower SES conditions. These effects were largest at age 7 and for externalizing problems. In 7 year-old boys and girls, the difference in heritability between the formal child care group of low SES and the home care group of high SES was 30 % for externalizing and ~20 % for internalizing problems. The decrease in heritability was explained by a larger influence of the environment, rather than by a decrease in genetic variance. These results support a bioecological model in which heritability is lower in circumstances associated with more problem behavior.


Child care Internalizing problem behavior Externalizing problem behavior Gene–environment interaction Twins Genetics 



This research was supported by ZonMw, grant number 920-03-268, and “Spinozapremie” (NWO/SPI 56-464-14192); “Twin-family database for behavior genetics and genomics studies” (NWO 480-04-004); Genetics of Mental Illness: European Research Council (ERC-230374, PI Boomsma); Genetic influences on stability and change in psychopathology from childhood to young adulthood (NWO/ZonMW 91210020), NWO (VENI 916-76-125; PI Middeldorp) and ERC Starting Grant 284167 (PI Vink).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

The data collection was approved by the Medical Research Ethics Committee of the VU University Medical Centre.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christel M. Middeldorp
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Diane J. Lamb
    • 1
  • Jacqueline M. Vink
    • 1
    • 3
  • Meike Bartels
    • 1
    • 4
  • Catharina E. M. van Beijsterveldt
    • 1
  • Dorret I. Boomsma
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Netherlands Twin Register, Department Biological PsychologyVU UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryGGZ inGeest/VU Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam (NCA)AmsterdamThe Netherlands
  4. 4.EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care ResearchVU University Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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