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Depress Anxiety. 2012 Sep;29(9):754-61. doi: 10.1002/da.21941. Epub 2012 Apr 11.

Genetic and environmental contributions to separation anxiety: a meta-analytic approach to twin data.

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1
Academic Centre for the Study of Behavioural Plasticity, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) and separation anxiety symptoms (SA) have been studied both epidemiologically and genetically; however, large between-studies discrepancies emerge relative to the role of genetic, shared-, and nonshared environmental influences on these conditions.

METHODS:

Based upon available literature, 18 cohorts and 31,859 subjects belonging to twin samples in Europe, the United States, and Australia were included in three meta-analytic estimations of: the standardized variance components of etiological influences on SAD/SA, and on the effect of sex and rater.

RESULTS:

Meta-analytic estimations carried out on all cohorts showed that within-family (genetic 43% and shared environmental 17%) factors explain most of individual differences for SAD/SA. Meta-heritability estimates were higher among females (.52) than males (.26), whereas nonshared environmental effects were stronger for the latter (.74) than for the former (.41). When SAD/SA was rated by parents, the shared environmental influences were higher than those obtained with self-assessment instruments (.23 versus .05), but this may reflect an age difference between subsamples.

CONCLUSIONS:

A shared environmental effect is present and important in SAD/SA. Our results support at an etiological level the involvement of parents in treating SAD/SA in children, and the provision of specific strategies to parents to manage their own anxiety.

PMID:
22496044
DOI:
10.1002/da.21941
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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