Maternal depression and the polygenic p factor: A family perspective on direct and indirect effects

Ziada Ayorech*, Rosa Cheesman, Espen M. Eilertsen, Ludvig Daae Bjørndal, Espen Røysamb, Tom A. McAdams, Alexandra Havdahl, Eivind Ystrom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Within-family studies typically assess indirect genetic effects of parents on children, however social support theory points to a critical role of partners and children on women's depression. To address this research gap and account for the high heterogeneity of depression, we calculated a general psychiatric factor using eleven major psychiatric polygenic scores (polygenic p), in up to 25,000 parent-offspring trios from the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). Multilevel modeling of trio polygenic p was used to distinguish direct and indirect genetic effects on mothers depression during pregnancy (gestational age 17 and 30 weeks), infancy (6 months, 18 months) and early childhood (3 years, 5 years, and 8 years). We found mothers polygenic p predicts their depression symptoms (b = 0.092; 95 % CI [0.087,0.098]), outperforming prediction using a single major depressive disorder polygenic score (b = 0.070, 95 % CI [0.066,0.075]). Jointly modeling trio polygenic p revealed indirect genetic effects of fathers (b = 0.022, 95 % CI [0.014,0.030]) and children (b = 0.021, 95 % CI [0.010,0.037]) on mothers' depression. Our results support the generalizability of polygenic effects across mental health and highlight the role of close family members on women's depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-167
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023


  • Depression
  • MBRN
  • MoBa
  • P factor
  • Polygenic scores


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