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Adopt Foster. 2019 Oct;43(3):351-371. doi: 10.1177/0308575919866526. Epub 2019 Sep 26.

Utilising Genetically-Informed Research Designs to Better Understand Family Processes and Child Development: Implications for Adoption and Foster Care Focused Interventions.

Author information

School of Psychology, Andrew and Virginia Rudd Centre for Adoption Research and Practice, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.
Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, School of Medicine, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.
Prevention Science Institute, University of Oregon, Eugene, USA.
School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin, Ireland.
School of Social Work and Social Care, University of Sussex, UK.
Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9PH.


Understanding the interplay between genetic factors and family environmental processes (e.g., inter-parental relationship quality, positive versus negative parenting practices) and children's mental health (e.g., anxiety, depression, conduct problems, ADHD) in the contexts of adoption and foster-care research and practice is critical for effective prevention and intervention programme development. Whilst evidence highlights the importance of family environmental processes for the mental health and well-being of children in adoption and foster care, there is relatively limited evidence of effective interventions specifically for these families. Additionally, family-based interventions not specific to the context of adoption and foster-care typically show small to medium effects, and even where interventions are efficacious, not all children benefit. One explanation for why interventions may not work well for some is that responses to intervention may be influenced by an individual's genetic make-up. This paper summarises how genetically-informed research designs can help disentangle genetic from environmental processes underlying psychopathology outcomes for children, and how this evidence can provide improved insights into the development of more effective preventative intervention targets for adoption and foster-care families. We discuss current difficulties in translating behavioural genetics research to prevention science, and provide recommendations to bridge the gap between behavioural genetics research and prevention science, with lessons for adoption and foster-care research and practice.


adoption; child; family; foster-care; genetically-informed research designs; intervention; mental health; prevention science; quantitative genetics

[Available on 2020-10-01]

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declared no conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship or the publication of this article

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