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A polygenic score for age-at-first-birth predicts disinhibition

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Leah S. Richmond-Rakerd, Terrie Edith Moffitt, Louise Arseneault, Daniel W. Belsky, Jennie Connor, David L. Corcoran, HonaLee Harrington, Renate Houts, Richie Poulton, Joey Prinz, Sandhya Ramrakha, Karen Sugden, Jasmin Wertz, Benjamin Williams, Avshalom Caspi

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of child psychology and psychiatry
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Feb 2020

King's Authors


Background. A recent genome-wide association study identified molecular-genetic associations with age-at-first-birth. However, the meaning of these genetic discoveries is unclear. Drawing on evidence linking early pregnancy with disinhibitory behavior, we tested the hypothesis that genetic discoveries for age-at-first-birth predict disinhibition.
Methods. We included participants with genotype data from the two-decade-long Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Study (N=1,999) and the four-decade-long Dunedin Study (N=918). We calculated a genome-wide polygenic score for age-at-first-birth and tested whether it was associated with a range of disinhibitory outcomes across the life-course, including low childhood self-control; risk for externalizing psychopathology; officially-recorded criminal offending; substance-dependence; informant reports of disinhibitory problems; and number of lifetime sexual partners. We further tested whether associations were attributable to accelerated pubertal maturation.
Results. In both cohorts, the age-at-first-birth polygenic score predicted low childhood self-control, externalizing psychopathology, officially-recorded criminal offending, substance-dependence, and number of sexual partners. Associations were modest, but robust across replication. Childhood disinhibition partly mediated associations between the polygenic score and reproductive behaviors. In constrast, associations were not attributable to accelerated pubertal timing.
Conclusions. Genomic discoveries for age-at-first-birth are about more than reproductive biology: they provide insight into the disinhibitory traits and behaviors that accompany early parenthood. Age-at-first-birth is a useful proxy phenotype for researchers interested in disinhibition. Further, interventions that improve self-regulation abilities may benefit young parents and their children.

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