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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2009 Sep;93(3):313-21. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2009.03.011. Epub 2009 Mar 31.

Genetic and environmental influences on externalizing behavior and alcohol problems in adolescence: a female twin study.

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Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Department of Community Health, Brown University Medical School, Box G-S121-4, Providence, RI 02912, United States.


Genetic and environmental contributions to the observed correlations among DSM-IV ADHD problems [inattentive (INATT) and hyperactive/impulsive (HYP/IMP) behaviors], conduct problems (CDP) and alcohol problems (AlcProb) were examined by fitting multivariate structural equation models to data from the Missouri Adolescent Female Twin Study [N=2892 twins (831 monozygotic pairs, 615 dizygotic pairs)]. Based on results of preliminary regression models, we modified the structural model to jointly estimate (i) the regression of each phenotype on significant familial/prenatal predictors, and (ii) genetic and environmental contributions to the residual variance and covariance. Results suggested that (i) parental risk factors, such as parental alcohol dependence and regular smoking, increase risk for externalizing behavior; (ii) prenatal exposures predicted increased symptomatology for HYP/IMP (smoking during pregnancy), INATT and CDP (prenatal alcohol exposure); (iii) after adjusting for measured familial/prenatal risk factors, genetic influences were significant for HYP/IMP, INATT, and CDP; however, similar to earlier reports, genetic effects on alcohol dependence symptoms were negligible; and (iv) in adolescence, correlated liabilities for conduct and alcohol problems are found in environmental factors common to both phenotypes, while covariation among impulsivity, inattention, and conduct problems is primarily due to genetic influences common to these three behaviors. Thus, while a variety of adolescent problem behaviors are significantly correlated, the structure of that association may differ as a function of phenotype (e.g., comorbid HYP/IMP and CDP vs. comorbid CDP and AlcProb), a finding that could inform different approaches to treatment and prevention.

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