A genetically informed study of the longitudinal relation between irritability and anxious/depressed symptoms.


Journal Article

OBJECTIVE: Little is known about the longitudinal genetic and environmental association between juvenile irritability and symptoms of anxiety and depression. This study's goal was to assess the relationship between these constructs across a critical developmental period spanning childhood to young adulthood. METHOD: Parents (n = 1,348 twin pairs) from the Swedish Twin Study of Child and Adolescent Development completed the Child/Adult Behavior Checklist (CBCL/ABCL) about their twin children. Data were collected during a prospective, 4-wave study starting in childhood (ages 8-9 years) and ending in young adulthood (ages 19-20 years). An irritability score and an anxious/depressed score were computed from CBCL/ABCL item endorsements. Genetically informative cross-lagged models were used to estimate the genetic and environmental relationship between these 2 constructs across time. RESULTS: Our models suggested that irritability more strongly predicted anxious/depressed symptoms than vice versa, consistent with a causal role of irritability on anxiety/depression at older ages. This relationship was significant only in late childhood/early adolescence. Additive genetic and unique environmental factors were significant contributors to both irritability and anxious/depressed symptoms and were both specific to and shared between these 2 constructs. The same common environmental factors influenced both constructs, although these factors accounted for a smaller amount of variance than genetic or unique environmental factors. CONCLUSION: This study adds to our understanding of the developmental relationship between irritability and anxious/depressed symptoms and the contribution of genes and environmental factors to their association across development. Findings suggest the need to monitor for emergence of internalizing symptoms in irritable children and their potential need for therapeutic intervention.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Savage, J; Verhulst, B; Copeland, W; Althoff, RR; Lichtenstein, P; Roberson-Nay, R

Published Date

  • May 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 54 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 377 - 384

PubMed ID

  • 25901774

Pubmed Central ID

  • 25901774

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1527-5418

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jaac.2015.02.010


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States