Socioeconomic status and risk for child psychopathology: exploring gene-environment interaction in the presence of gene-environment correlation using extended families in the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Birth Cohort Study

Isabella Badini*, Yasmin Ahmadzadeh, Daniel Wechsler, Torkild H. Lyngstad, Christopher Rayner, Espen Moen Eilertsen, Helena Zavos, Eivind Ystrom, Tom A. McAdams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Low socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with increased risk for emotional and behavioural problems among children. Evidence from twin studies has shown that family SES moderates genetic and environmental influences on child mental health. However, it is also known that SES is itself under genetic influence and previous gene-environment interaction (G×E) studies have not incorporated the potential genetic overlap between child mental health and family SES into G×E analyses. We applied a novel approach using extended family data to investigate the moderation of aetiological influences on child emotional and behavioural problems by parental socioeconomic status in the presence of modelled gene-environment correlation.

Methods: The sample comprised >28,100 children in extended-family units drawn from the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). Mothers reported children’s emotional and behavioural symptoms. Parents’ income and educational attainment were obtained through linkage to administrative register data. Bivariate moderation Multiple-Children-of-Twins-and-Siblings (MCoTS) models were used to analyse relationships between offspring outcomes (emotional and behavioural symptom scores) and parental socioeconomic moderators (income rank and educational attainment).

Results: The aetiology of child emotional symptoms was moderated by maternal and paternal educational attainment. Shared environmental influences on child emotional symptoms were greater at lower levels of parents’ education. The aetiology of child behavioural symptoms was moderated by maternal, but not paternal, socioeconomic factors. Genetic factors shared between maternal income and child behavioural symptoms were greater in families with lower levels maternal income. Nonshared environmental influences on child behavioural symptoms were greater in families with higher maternal income and education.

Conclusions: Parental socioeconomic indicators moderated familial influences and non-shared environmental influences on child emotional and behavioural outcomes. Maternal SES and child mental health share aetiological overlap such that shared genetic influence was greater at the lower end of the socioeconomic distribution. Our findings collectively highlight the role that family socioeconomic factors play in shaping the origins of child emotional and behavioural problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-187
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Volume65
Issue number2
Early online date12 Aug 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

Keywords

  • Emotional problems
  • Behavioural problems
  • socioeconomic status
  • MoBa
  • Gene-environment interaction

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