Spousal resemblance in psychopathology: a comparison of parents of children with and without psychopathology

L.W. Wesseldijk, G.C. Dieleman, R.J.L. Lindauer, M. Bartels, G. Willemsen, J.J. Hudziak, D.I. Boomsma, C.M. Middeldorp

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Background: Spouses resemble each other for psychopathology, but data regarding spousal resemblance in externalizing psychopathology, and data regarding spousal resemblance across different syndromes (e.g. anxiety in wives and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD] in husbands) are limited. Moreover, knowledge is lacking regarding spousal resemblance in parents of children with psychiatric disorders. We investigated and compared spousal resemblance within and across internalizing and externalizing symptom domains in parents of children with and without psychopathology. Methods: Symptoms of depression, anxiety, avoidant personality, ADHD, and antisocial personality were assessed with the Adult Self Report in 728 mothers and 544 fathers of 778 children seen in child and adolescent psychiatric outpatient clinics and in 2075 mothers and 1623 fathers of 2784 children from a population-based sample. Differences in symptom scores and spousal correlations between the samples were tested. Results: Parents in the clinical sample had higher symptom scores than in the population-based sample. In both samples, correlations within and across internalizing and externalizing domains of psychopathology were significant. Importantly, correlations were significantly higher in the clinical sample (P = 0.03). Correlations, within and across symptoms, ranged from 0.14 to 0.30 in the clinical sample and from 0.05 to 0.23 in the population-based sample. Conclusions: This large study shows that spousal resemblance is not only present within but also across symptom domains. Especially in the clinical sample, ADHD symptoms in fathers and antisocial personality symptoms in mothers were correlated with a range of psychiatric symptoms in their spouses. Clinicians need to be alert of these multiple affected families.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-55
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Psychiatry
Volume2016 Apr
Issue number34
Early online date27 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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