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J Abnorm Psychol. 2010 May;119(2):376-88. doi: 10.1037/a0019342.

The etiology of associations between negative emotionality and childhood externalizing disorders.

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Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Despite consistent documentation of associations between childhood negative emotionality and externalizing psychopathology, few genetically informative studies have investigated the etiology of that association. The goal of the current study was to delineate the etiology of the covariation of negative emotionality and childhood externalizing problems (e.g., oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, inattention, and hyperactivity/impulsivity). Twin families were recruited from Georgia state birth records and completed parental report questionnaires of negative emotionality and common Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; American Psychiatric Association, 2000) child psychiatric disorders. Results suggest both genetic and environmental influences underlying negative emotionality and each externalizing symptom dimension, with additional evidence for sibling competition/rater contrast effects for inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Bivariate model-fitting analyses indicated that a portion of the additive (43%-75%) and nonadditive (26%-100%) genetic influences underlying each symptom dimension was accounted for by the genetic influences underlying negative emotionality. Finally, an independent pathways model examining the etiology of the association between negative emotionality and the externalizing dimensions indicated that a substantial portion of the additive genetic, nonadditive genetic, and nonshared environmental influences underlying externalizing behavior is shared with negative emotionality.

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