Psychopathology in 7-year-old children: Differences in maternal and paternal ratings and the genetic epidemiology

L.W. Wesseldijk, I.O. Fedko, M. Bartels, M.G. Nivard, C.E.M. van Beijsterveldt, D.I. Boomsma, C.M. Middeldorp

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The assessment of children's psychopathology is often based on parental report. Earlier studies have suggested that rater bias can affect the estimates of genetic, shared environmental and unique environmental influences on differences between children. The availability of a large dataset of maternal as well as paternal ratings of psychopathology in 7-year old children enabled (i) the analysis of informant effects on these assessments, and (ii) to obtain more reliable estimates of the genetic and non-genetic effects. DSM-oriented measures of affective, anxiety, somatic, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, oppositional-defiant, conduct, and obsessive-compulsive problems were rated for 12,310 twin pairs from the Netherlands Twin Register by mothers (N=12,085) and fathers (N=8,516). The effects of genetic and non-genetic effects were estimated on the common and rater-specific variance. For all scales, mean scores on maternal ratings exceeded paternal ratings. Parents largely agreed on the ranking of their child's problems (r 0.60-0.75). The heritability was estimated over 55% for maternal and paternal ratings for all scales, except for conduct problems (44-46%). Unbiased shared environmental influences, i.e., on the common variance, were significant for affective (13%), oppositional (13%), and conduct problems (37%). In clinical settings, different cutoffs for (sub)clinical scores could be applied to paternal and maternal ratings of their child's psychopathology. Only for conduct problems, shared environmental and genetic influences explain an equal amount in differences between children. For the other scales, genetic factors explain the majority of the variance, especially for the common part that is free of rater bias.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-260
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


FundersFunder number
Seventh Framework Programme602768, 230374

    Cohort Studies

    • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


    Dive into the research topics of 'Psychopathology in 7-year-old children: Differences in maternal and paternal ratings and the genetic epidemiology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this