Do environmental effects indexed by parental genetic variation influence common psychiatric symptoms in childhood?

Transl Psychiatry. 2023 Mar 18;13(1):94. doi: 10.1038/s41398-023-02348-y.


Parental genes may indirectly influence offspring psychiatric outcomes through the environment that parents create for their children. These indirect genetic effects, also known as genetic nurture, could explain individual differences in common internalising and externalising psychiatric symptoms during childhood. Advanced statistical genetic methods leverage data from families to estimate the overall contribution of parental genetic nurture effects. This study included up to 10,499 children, 5990 mother-child pairs, and 6,222 father-child pairs from the Norwegian Mother Father and Child Study. Genome-based restricted maximum likelihood (GREML) models were applied using software packages GCTA and M-GCTA to estimate variance in maternally reported depressive, disruptive, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in 8-year-olds that was explained by direct offspring genetic effects and maternal or paternal genetic nurture. There was no strong evidence of genetic nurture in this sample, although a suggestive paternal genetic nurture effect on offspring depressive symptoms (variance explained (V) = 0.098, standard error (SE) = 0.057) and a suggestive maternal genetic nurture effect on ADHD symptoms (V = 0.084, SE = 0.058) was observed. The results indicate that parental genetic nurture effects could be of some relevance in explaining individual differences in childhood psychiatric symptoms. However, robustly estimating their contribution is a challenge for researchers given the current paucity of large-scale samples of genotyped families with information on childhood psychiatric outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / genetics
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / psychology
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Parents* / psychology