Background. There is increasing evidence that behavioral problems are common in very young children, yet little is known about the etiology of individual differences in these problems. It is unclear to what degree environmental and genetic factors influence the development of early child psychopathology. In this paper, we focus on the following issues. Firstly, to what degree do genetic and environmental factors influence variation in behavioral problems? Secondly, to what degree are these underlying etiological factors moderated by sex and informant? We investigate these issues by analyzing Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) data on 9689 3-year-old twin pairs. Methods. Rater Bias and Psychometric Models were fitted to CBCL/2-3 data obtained from mothers and fathers to determine the genetic and environmental contributions to the five CBCL syndromes:aggressive, oppositional, overactive, withdrawn, and anxious/depressed behavior. Results. Parental ratings are influenced by aspects of the child's behavior that are experienced in the same way by both parents and by aspects of the child's behavior that are experienced uniquely by each parent. There is evidence for high genetic contributions to all CBCL syndromes. Shared and non-shared environmental influences play significant roles as well. One exception is overactive behavior, which is influenced by genetic and non-shared environmental influences only. Conclusions. Variation in behavior problems in the very young shows high heritability.Individual raters offer unique perspectives that can have an impact on estimates of problem behavior and genetic architecture. Therefore, multi-informant approaches in the assessment of the very young will be useful to clinicians and researchers alike.
- Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)