Do Genetic Factors Explain the Links Between Callous-Unemotional, Attention Hyperactivity and Oppositional Defiant Problems in Toddlers?
Research demonstrates that callous-unemotional (CU) behaviors, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiant Problems (ODD) are related, but little is known about the sources of covariation among the three externalizing behaviors. The present study looked at genetic and environmental links between all three behavioral domains in twins at ages 2 and 3 years (MZ = 145, DZ = 169), a time when CU behaviors are beginning to emerge. CU, ADHD, and ODD behaviors as assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist 1.5–5 (Achenbach and Rescorla 2000) were strongly interrelated at both ages. Genetic factors primarily explained the covariation among the three behavioral domains via a common externalizing factor; however, there were also genetic factors unique to each behavior. Furthermore, the majority of nonshared environmental influences on each externalizing behavior were behavior-specific. The heritable externalizing factor was highly stable across age, largely due to genetic factors shared across ages 2 and 3 years. Despite their extensive phenotypic and genetic overlap, CU, ADHD, and ODD behaviors have unique genetic and nonshared environmental influences as early as toddlerhood. This supports phenotypic research showing that the three are related but distinct constructs in very young children.
KeywordsCallous-unemotional ADHD ODD Early childhood Twins Behavior problems
The Boston University Twin Project (BUTP) is supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH062375) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD068435) to Dr. Saudino. The twins’ and families’ participation is gratefully acknowledged.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study was approved by the Boston University Institutional Review Board.
Parents provided informed consent for their twins’ participation at the beginning of the first visit to the lab.
- Achenbach, T. M., & Rescorla, L. A. (2000). Manual for the ASEBA preschool forms & profiles: An integrated system of multi-informant assessment; child behavior checklist for ages 1 1/2–5; language development survey; caregiver-teacher report form. Burlington: University of Vermont.Google Scholar
- Burt, S. A., Krueger, R. F., McGue, M., & Iacono, W. G. (2001). Sources of covariation among attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder: the importance of shared environment. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110(4), 516–525. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.110.4.516.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- De la Osa, N., Granero, R., Trepat, E., Domenech, J. M., & Ezpeleta, L. (2016). The discriminative capacity of CBCL/1½-5-DSM5 scales to identify disruptive and internalizing disorders in preschool children. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 25(1), 17–23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-015-0694-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Dick, D. M., Viken, R. J., Kaprio, J., Pulkkinen, L., & Rose, R. J. (2005). Understanding the covariation among childhood externalizing symptoms: genetic and environmental influences on conduct disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 33(2), 219–229. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-005-1829-8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Flom, M., & Saudino, K. J. (2016). Callous–unemotional behaviors in early childhood: genetic and environmental contributions to stability and change. Development and Psychopathology. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579416001267.
- Frick, P. J., Ray, J. V., Thornton, L. C., & Kahn, R. E. (2014a). Annual research review: a developmental psychopathology approach to understanding callous-unemotional traits in children and adolescents with serious conduct problems. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 55(6), 532–548. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12152.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Frick, P. J., Ray, J. V., Thornton, L. C., & Kahn, R. E. (2014b). Can callous-unemotional traits enhance the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of serious conduct problems in children and adolescents? A comprehensive review. Psychological Bulletin, 140(1), 1–57. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0033076.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Hollingshead, A. B. (1975). Four factor index of social status. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/download/30754699/yjs_fall_2011.pdf#page=21.
- Kendler, K. S., Heath, A. C., Martin, N. G., & Eaves, L. J. (1987). Symptoms of anxiety and symptoms of depression: same genes, different environments? Archives of General Psychiatry, 44(5), 451–457. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.1987.01800170073010.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Nadder, T. S., Rutter, M., Silberg, J. L., Maes, H. H., & Eaves, L. J. (2002). Genetic effects on the variation and covariation of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional-defiant disorder/conduct disorder (ODD/CD) symptomalogies across informant and occasion of measurement. Psychological Medicine, 32(1), 39–53. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291701004792.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Neale, M. C., Boker, S. M., Xie, G., & Maes, H. H. (2006). Mx: Statistical modeling version 7th edition. Richmond: VCU Box 900126.Google Scholar
- Neumann, A., Pappa, I., Lahey, B. B., Verhulst, F. C., Medina-Gomez, C., Jaddoe, V. W., … Tiemeier, H. (2016). Single nucleotide polymorphism heritability of a general psychopathology factor in children. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 55(12), 1038–1045. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2016.09.498.
- Olds, D. L., Robinson, J., Song, N., Little, C., & Hill, P. (2005). Reducing risks for mental disorders during the first five years of life: A review of the literature. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Rockville.Google Scholar
- Pardini, D., Obradović, J., & Loeber, R. (2006). Interpersonal callousness, hyperactivity/impulsivity, inattention, and conduct problems as precursors to delinquency persistence in boys: a comparison of three grade-based cohorts. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 35(1), 46–59. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15374424jccp3501_5.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Plomin, R., DeFries, J., Knopik, V., & Neiderhiser, J. (2013). Behavioral genetics. vol. 6. Basingstoke: Worth Publishers.Google Scholar
- Rhee, S. H., Willcutt, E. G., Hartman, C. A., Pennington, B. F., & DeFries, J. C. (2008). Test of alternative hypotheses explaining the comorbidity between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36(1), 29–40. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-007-9157-9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Saudino, K. J. (2017). Rater bias models. Wiley StatsRef: Statistics Reference Online. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118445112.stat06373.pub2.
- Taylor, J., Loney, B. R., Bobadilla, L., lacono, W. G., & McGue, M. (2003). Genetic and environmental influences on psychopathy trait dimensions in a community sample of male twins. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31(6), 633–645. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1026262207449.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Tuvblad, C., Zheng, M., Raine, A., & Baker, L. A. (2009). A common genetic factor explains the covariation among ADHD ODD and CD symptoms in 9-10 year old boys and girls. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37(2), 153–167. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-008-9278-9.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Van der Valk, J. C., Van den Oord, E., Verhulst, F. C., & Boomsma, D. I. (2001). Using parental ratings to study the etiology of 3-year-old twins’ problem behaviors: different views or rater bias? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42(7), 921–931. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021963001007648.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Viding, E., & McCrory, E. J. (2012). Genetic and neurocognitive contributions to the development of psychopathy. Development and Psychopathology, 24(03), 969–983. https://doi.org/10.1017/S095457941200048X.
- Waller, R., Hyde, L. W., Grabell, A. S., Alves, M. L., & Olson, S. L. (2015a). Differential associations of early callous-unemotional, oppositional, and ADHD behaviors: multiple domains within early-starting conduct problems? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(6), 657–666. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12326.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Waller, R., Shaw, D. S., Neiderhiser, J. M., Ganiban, J. M., Natsuaki, M. N., Reiss, D., … Hyde, L. W. (2015b). Toward an understanding of the role of the environment in the development of early callous behavior. Journal of Personality. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12221.
- Willoughby, M. T., Waschbusch, D. A., Moore, G. A., & Propper, C. B. (2011). Using the ASEBA to screen for callous unemotional traits in early childhood: factor structure, temporal stability, and utility. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 33(1), 19–30. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-010-9195-4.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Willoughby, M. T., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Gottfredson, N. C., & Wagner, N. J. (2014). Measuring callous unemotional behaviors in early childhood: factor structure and the prediction of stable aggression in middle childhood. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 36(1), 30–42. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-013-9379-9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Willoughby, M. T., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Waschbusch, D. A., & Gottfredson, N. C. (2015). An examination of the parent report version of the inventory of callous-unemotional traits in a community sample of first-grade children. Assessment, 22(1), 76–85. https://doi.org/10.1177/1073191114534886.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar