Examining the Role of Genetic Risk and Longitudinal Transmission Processes Underlying Maternal Parenting and Psychopathology and Children’s ADHD Symptoms and Aggression: Utilizing the Advantages of a Prospective Adoption Design

Abstract

Although genetic factors may contribute to initial liability for ADHD onset, there is growing evidence of the potential importance of the rearing environment on the developmental course of ADHD symptomatology. However, associations between family-level variables (maternal hostility, maternal depressive symptoms) and child behaviors (developmental course of ADHD and aggression) may be explained by genes that are shared by biologically related parents and children. Furthermore, ADHD symptoms and aggression commonly co-occur: it is important to consider both simultaneously to have a better understanding of processes underlying the developmental course of ADHD and aggression. To addresses these issues, we employed a longitudinal genetically sensitive parent–offspring adoption design. Analyses were conducted using Cohort I (n = 340) of the Early Growth and Development Study with cross-validation analyses conducted with Cohort II (n = 178). Adoptive mother hostility, but not depression, was associated with later child ADHD symptoms and aggression. Mothers and their adopted children were genetically unrelated, removing passive rGE as a possible explanation. Early child impulsivity/activation was associated with later ADHD symptoms and aggression. Child impulsivity/activation was also associated with maternal hostility, with some evidence for evocative gene-environment correlation processes on adoptive mother depressive symptoms. This study provides novel insights into family-based environmental influences on child ADHD and aggression symptoms, independent of shared parental genetic factors, implications of which are further explicated in the discussion.

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Acknowledgements

This project was supported by grants R01 HD042608 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH, U.S. PHS (PI Years 1–5: Reiss; PI Years 6–10: Leve); R01 DA020585 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health and OBSSR, NIH, U.S. PHS (PI: Neiderhiser); UG3/UH3 OD023389 from the Office of the Director, NIH, U.S. PHS (PIs: Leve, Neiderhiser, Ganiban); and R01 MH092118 from the National Institute of Mental Health (PIs: Neiderhiser, Leve). Sellers and Harold were supported by Economic and Social Research Council project grant awards (ES/N003098/1 and ES/L014718/1 respectively). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Gordon T. Harold.

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Ruth Sellers, Gordon T. Harold, Anita Thapar, Jenae M. Neiderhiser, Jody M. Ganiban, David Reiss, Daniel S. Shaw, Misaki N. Natsuaki and Leslie D. Leve declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Sellers, R., Harold, G.T., Thapar, A. et al. Examining the Role of Genetic Risk and Longitudinal Transmission Processes Underlying Maternal Parenting and Psychopathology and Children’s ADHD Symptoms and Aggression: Utilizing the Advantages of a Prospective Adoption Design. Behav Genet 50, 247–262 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10519-020-10006-y

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Keywords

  • Aggression
  • ADHD symptoms
  • Maternal depression
  • Maternal hostility
  • Gene-environment correlation