Publications by authors named "Jay Belsky"

165 Publications

Differential susceptibility 2.0: Are the same children affected by different experiences and exposures?

Dev Psychopathol 2021 Feb 26:1-9. Epub 2021 Feb 26.

Department of Human Ecology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.

Differential susceptibility theory stipulates that some children are more susceptible than others to both supportive and adverse developmental experiences/exposures. What remains unclear is whether the same individuals are most affected by different exposures (i.e., domain general vs. specific). We address this issue empirically for the first time using, for illustrative and proof-of-principle purposes, a novel influence-statistics' method with data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care. Results indicated that previously documented effects of greater quality of care on enhanced pre-academic skills and greater quantity of care on more behavior problems apply mostly to different children. Analyses validating the new method indicated, as predicted, that (a) the quantity-of-care effect applied principally to children from more socioeconomically advantaged families and that (b) being highly susceptible to both, one or neither childcare effect varied as a function of a three-gene, polygenic-plasticity score (serotonin transporter linked polymorphic region [5-HTTLPR], dopamine receptor D4 [DRD4], brain-derived neurotrophic factor [BDNF]) in a dose-response manner (i.e., 2>1>0). While domain-specific findings involving child-care effects cannot be generalized to other environmental influences, the influence-statistics' approach appears well suited for investigating the generality-specificity of environment effects, that is, of "differential, differential susceptibility."
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579420002205DOI Listing
February 2021

Infant temperament, early-childhood parenting, and early-adolescent development: Testing alternative models of Parenting × Temperament interaction.

Dev Psychopathol 2021 Jan 15:1-12. Epub 2021 Jan 15.

Department of Human Ecology, University of California, Davis, USA.

Here we evaluate whether infant difficult temperament (6 months) functions as a vulnerability or more general plasticity factor when investigating effects of early-childhood parenting (8-42 months) on both positive and negative early-adolescent socioemotional development (age 8-11 years). Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC, N = 14,541) and a re-parameterized model-testing approach to distinguish alternative person × environment conceptual models, results indicated that temperament × parenting interacted in predicting externalizing (i.e., hyperactivity, conduct problems), but not other behavior (i.e., emotional symptoms, peer problems), in a (weak) differential susceptibility manner. While more and less supportive parenting predicted, respectively, fewer and more behavior problems, it did so more strongly for children who were more difficult as infants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579420002096DOI Listing
January 2021

Attachment goes to court: child protection and custody issues.

Attach Hum Dev 2021 Jan 11:1-52. Epub 2021 Jan 11.

Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge , Cambridge, UK.

Attachment theory and research are drawn upon in many applied settings, including family courts, but misunderstandings are widespread and sometimes result in misapplications. The aim of this consensus statement is, therefore, to enhance understanding, counter misinformation, and steer family-court utilisation of attachment theory in a supportive, evidence-based direction, especially with regard to child protection and child custody decision-making. The article is divided into two parts. In the first, we address problems related to the use of attachment theory and research in family courts, and discuss reasons for these problems. To this end, we examine family court applications of attachment theory in the current context of the best-interest-of-the-child standard, discuss misunderstandings regarding attachment theory, and identify factors that have hindered accurate implementation. In the second part, we provide recommendations for the application of attachment theory and research. To this end, we set out three attachment principles: the child's need for familiar, non-abusive caregivers; the value of continuity of good-enough care; and the benefits of networks of attachment relationships. We also discuss the suitability of assessments of attachment quality and caregiving behaviour to inform family court decision-making. We conclude that assessments of caregiver behaviour should take center stage. Although there is dissensus among us regarding the use of assessments of attachment quality to inform child custody and child-protection decisions, such assessments are currently most suitable for targeting and directing supportive interventions. Finally, we provide directions to guide future interdisciplinary research collaboration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14616734.2020.1840762DOI Listing
January 2021

Early life adversity, pubertal timing, and epigenetic age acceleration in adulthood.

Dev Psychobiol 2021 Jan 10. Epub 2021 Jan 10.

University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA.

Background: Given associations linking early life adversity, pubertal timing, and biological aging, we examined the direct and indirect effects of early life trauma on adult biological aging (via age of menarche).

Methods: Participants were premenopausal women (N = 183). Path models evaluated whether early life trauma predicted early pubertal timing and thereby, adult epigenetic age acceleration (indexed via four epigenetic clocks: Horvath DNAm Age, Hannum DNAm Age, DNAm PhenoAge, and DNAm GrimAge). Secondary analyses explored the effects of type of trauma (abuse and neglect) and adult chronic stress status (caregiver of child with autism and non-caregiver).

Results: Early life trauma and earlier age at menarche independently predicted accelerated aging based on one of the four epigenetic clocks, DNAm GrimAge, though early life trauma was not associated with age of menarche. Childhood abuse, but not neglect, predicted faster epigenetic aging; results did not differ by chronic stress status.

Conclusions: Early trauma and early menarche appear to exert independent effects on DNAm GrimAge, which has been shown to be the strongest epigenetic predictor of mortality risk. This study identifies a potential correlate or determinant of accelerated epigenetic aging-menarcheal age. Future research should address the limitations of this study by using racially diverse samples.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.22085DOI Listing
January 2021

Three phases of Gene × Environment interaction research: Theoretical assumptions underlying gene selection.

Dev Psychopathol 2020 Sep 3:1-12. Epub 2020 Sep 3.

Department of Human Ecology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.

Some Gene × Environment interaction (G×E) research has focused upon single candidate genes, whereas other related work has targeted multiple genes (e.g., polygenic scores). Each approach has informed efforts to identify individuals who are either especially vulnerable to the negative effects of contextual adversity (diathesis stress) or especially susceptible to both positive and negative contextual conditions (differential susceptibility). A critical step in all such molecular G×E research is the selection of genetic variants thought to moderate environmental influences, a subject that has not received a great deal of attention in critiques of G×E research (beyond the observation of small effects of individual genes). Here we conceptually distinguish three phases of G×E work based on the selection of genes presumed to moderate environmental effects and the theoretical basis of such decisions: (a) single candidate genes, (b) composited (multiple) candidate genes, and (c) GWAS-derived polygenic scores. This illustrative, not exhaustive, review makes it clear that implicit or explicit theoretical assumptions inform gene selection in ways that have not been clearly articulated or fully appreciated.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579420000966DOI Listing
September 2020

The co-occurrence between symptoms of internet gaming disorder and psychiatric disorders in childhood and adolescence: prospective relations or common causes?

J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2020 08 5;61(8):890-898. Epub 2020 Jul 5.

Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway.

Background: Internet gaming disorder (IGD) is highlighted as a condition for further study in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Some studies indicate that IGD appears comorbid with other psychiatric disorders. We examine concurrent and prospective links between symptoms of IGD and symptoms of common psychiatric disorders in childhood and adolescence to determine whether observed comorbidity is a result of (a) reciprocal relations or (b) common underlying causes.

Methods: A community sample (n = 702) of Norwegian children completed the Internet Gaming Disorder Interview (IGDI) to assess DSM-5 defined IGD symptoms at ages 10, 12 and 14 years. The Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment (CAPA) assessed symptoms of depression, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD) at the same time points.

Results: A Random Intercept Cross-lagged Panel Model (RI-CLPM), which captures pure within-person changes and adjusts for all unmeasured time-invariant factors (e.g., genetics, parent education) revealed no associations between IGD symptoms and psychopathology, except that increased IGD symptoms at ages 10 and 12 predicted decreased symptoms of anxiety two years later.

Conclusions: No support emerged for concurrent or prospective relations between IGD and psychiatric symptoms, except in one case: increased IGD symptoms forecasted reduction in anxiety symptoms. Observed co-occurrence between IGD symptoms and mental health problems can mainly be attributed to common underlying factors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.13289DOI Listing
August 2020

Mothers' distress exposure and children's withdrawn behavior - A moderating role for the Interferon Gamma gene (IFNG).

Dev Psychobiol 2020 09 18;62(6):783-791. Epub 2020 Feb 18.

CIPsi, School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal.

The dysregulation of the inflammatory response, including pro-inflammatory molecules, produces neuropsychiatric symptoms and depression-like behavior, including withdrawal from the physical and social environment. Genetic variants that enhance immune reactivity may thus increase inflammatory and withdrawn reactions to stress. Here we investigated a functional polymorphism of Interferon Gamma gene (IFNG +874 T > A, rs2430561) as moderator of the relationship between mothers' distress exposure and children's withdrawn behavior at preschool age. Participants were 198 Portuguese preschool children (mean age = 57.98 months). Exposure to mother's distress was assessed using the Brief Symptom Inventory, and withdrawn behavior with the Caregiver Teacher Report Form. All children provided saliva samples for genotyping. Contrary to expecations based on prior work, the rs2430561 AA genotype-not the T variant-interacted with (high levels of) mothers' distress exposure, to increase children's withdrawn behavior. No significant main effects were detected. The polymorphism in Interferon Gamma gene showed specific environmental stressor-dependent effects on withdrawn behavior during childhood, ones which are interpreted in light of the "behavioral immune system" hypothesis, and which proved inconsistent with diathesis-stress thinking.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21955DOI Listing
September 2020

Testing three hypotheses about effects of sensitive-insensitive parenting on telomeres.

Dev Psychol 2020 Feb;56(2):237-250

Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Telomeres are the protective DNA-protein sequences appearing at the ends of chromosomes; they shorten with each cell division and are considered a biomarker of aging. Shorter telomere length and greater erosion have been associated with compromised physical and mental health and are hypothesized to be affected by early life stress. In the latter case, most work has relied on retrospective measures of early life stressors. The Dutch research ( = 193) presented herein tested 3 hypotheses prospectively regarding effects of sensitive-insensitive parenting during the first 2.5 years on telomere length at age 6, when first measured, and change over the following 4 years. It was predicted that (1) less sensitive parenting would predict shorter telomeres and greater erosion and that such effects would be most pronounced in children (2) exposed to prenatal stress and/or (3) who were highly negatively emotional as infants. Results revealed, only, that prenatal stress amplified parenting effects on telomere change-in a differential-susceptibility-related manner: Prenatally stressed children displayed more erosion when they experienced insensitive parenting and less erosion when they experienced sensitive parenting. Mechanisms that might initiate greater postnatal plasticity as a result of prenatal stress are highlighted and future work outlined. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000879DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7391860PMC
February 2020

Does 5-HTTLPR moderate the effect of the quality of environmental context on maternal sensitivity? Testing the differential susceptibility hypothesis.

Psychiatr Genet 2020 04;30(2):49-56

CIPsi, School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal.

Evidence documenting associations between 5-HTTLPR and parenting behavior led to testing the hypothesis that this polymorphism moderates the effect of the quality of environmental context on maternal sensitivity. Participants were 210 Portuguese mothers and their preschool children, recruited from the community. An index reflecting the quality of the environmental context was derived based on nine markers (e.g. single parenthood; parental education, economic difficulties, family conflict, maternal psychopathology). Maternal sensitivity was measured observationally. Maternal saliva was collected with OraGene kits for genetic analysis. Results revealed a gene-X-environment interaction, such that short-allele homozygotes proved more sensitive to the family context than long-allele carriers (i.e. sL/LL), displaying the highest and lowest levels of maternal sensitivity, depending on, respectively, low and high quality levels of the environmental context. Because even mothers carrying the long allele evinced similar responsiveness to the environmental context, but to a lesser extent, findings proved consistent with the weak differential susceptibility model of person-X-context interaction. Results are discussed in light of prior and related gene-X-environment findings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/YPG.0000000000000247DOI Listing
April 2020

Biological embedding of maternal postpartum depressive symptoms: The potential role of cortisol and telomere length.

Biol Psychol 2020 02 14;150:107809. Epub 2019 Nov 14.

Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Medical Center Kapittelweg 29, 6525 EN Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Although maternal postpartum depressive symptoms (PDS) are associated with child behavior problems, the underlying biological mechanisms are poorly understood. Thus, the current study focused on 193 healthy mother-child dyads and investigated child cortisol and telomere length as potential mediating factors. At 3 and 6 months postpartum, mothers reported on PDS. At age 6, children provided saliva and buccal swab samples. At age 10, mothers and children reported on child behavior problems. Structural equation modelling revealed (a) no association between PDS and child behavior problems and thus no possibility of mediation, but that (b) lower cortisol forecast more child-reported internalizing problems, and (c) shorter telomere length predicted more child-reported internalizing and externalizing problems. These findings raise mediational questions about the determinants of these biomarkers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2019.107809DOI Listing
February 2020

Early family adversity, stability and consistency of institutional care and infant cognitive, language and motor development across the first six months of institutionalization.

Infant Behav Dev 2019 11 9;57:101387. Epub 2019 Nov 9.

CIPsi - Psychology Research Center, School of Psychology, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal. Electronic address:

This study extends research on the effects of institutionalization-by examining the trajectories of cognitive, language and motor development of 64 Portuguese infants and toddlers across the first six months of institutionalization, while determining whether pre-institutional adversities and the stability and consistency of institutional care predict children's development. At time of enrollment, 23.4%, 32.8% and 31.3% of the children were moderately to severely delayed, respectively, in their cognitive, linguistic and motor functioning. Developmental problems persisted after six months of institutionalization. The accumulation of early pre-institutional adversities predicted cognitive and motor limitations at admission to the institutions, but not variation in subsequent development. The stability and consistency of institutional care also failed to predict developmental growth and change. Children who had never lived with their families of origin showed a better language development at enrollment than their counterparts who had lived with their families of origin before institutionalization. Such advantage was followed by a deceleration in language growth after six months of institutional placement. Results are discussed in terms of short- vs. longer-term effects of institutionalization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2019.101387DOI Listing
November 2019

Does prenatal stress amplify effects of postnatal maternal depressive and anxiety symptoms on child problem behavior?

Dev Psychol 2020 Jan 4;56(1):128-137. Epub 2019 Nov 4.

Department of Mental Disorders.

Emerging evidence suggests that prenatal stress does not solely undermine child functioning but increases developmental plasticity to both negative and positive postnatal experiences. Here we test this proposition using the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study while implementing an extreme-group (i.e., high vs. low prenatal stress) design (n = 27,889 children for internalizing and n = 27,892 for externalizing problems). To measure prenatal stress, mothers reported on depressive and anxiety symptoms at gestational weeks 17 and 30 and of stressful life events at gestational week 30. We then evaluated whether, collectively, such prenatal stress amplified the effect of mothers' postnatal depressive and anxiety symptoms on children's internalizing and externalizing behavior problems at age 5 years. Results showed prenatal stress amplified effects of postnatal maternal depression/anxiety on child internalizing but not externalizing behavior, with some indication that this Prenatal-Stress-×-Postnatal-Maternal-Depression interaction proved more consistent with differential susceptibility than diathesis stress thinking: Children exposed to prenatal stress evinced greater internalizing problems if exposed to more postnatal maternal depressive/anxiety symptoms and, somewhat less strongly, displayed less internalizing problems if they experienced lower postnatal maternal depressive/anxiety symptoms. However, analyses using the whole sample instead of extreme groups yielded opposing results with children exposed to the least prenatal stress evincing greater sensitivity to postnatal maternal depressive/anxiety symptoms with regards to externalizing and internalizing behavior. Taken together, it appears that prenatal stress may have differing effects on plasticity depending on prenatal stress severity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000850DOI Listing
January 2020

General Psychopathology and Dysregulation Profile in a Longitudinal Community Sample: Stability, Antecedents and Outcomes.

Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 2020 02;51(1):114-126

University College London, London, UK.

The general factor of psychopathology (GP, or p factor) and the Dysregulation Profile (DP) are two conceptually similar, but independently developed approaches to understand psychopathology. GP and DP models and their stability, antecedents and outcomes are studied in a longitudinal sample of 1073 children (49.8% female). GP and DP models were estimated at ages 8 and 14 years using the parent-reported Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and Youth Self Report (YSR). Early childhood antecedents and adolescent outcomes were derived using a multi-method multi-informant approach. Results showed that the general GP and DP had similar key symptoms and were similarly related to early-childhood antecedents (e.g., lower effortful control, higher maternal depression) and adolescent outcomes (e.g., reduced academic functioning, poorer mental health). This study demonstrates that GP and DP are highly similar constructs in middle childhood and adolescence, both describing a general vulnerability for psychopathology with (emotional) dysregulation at its core. Scientific integration of these approaches could lead to a better understanding of the structure, antecedents and outcomes of psychopathology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10578-019-00916-2DOI Listing
February 2020

Personality, depressive symptoms, the interparental relationship and parenting: Prospective associations of an actor-partner interdependency model.

J Fam Psychol 2019 Sep 18;33(6):671-681. Epub 2019 Jul 18.

Department of Psychology, Education and Child Studies.

Grounded on Belsky's process model and family systems theories and using an actor-partner interdependency modeling (APIM) approach (Belsky & Jaffee, 2006; Cox & Paley, 2003), the current study was the first to examine whether Big Five personality characteristics and depressive symptoms of parents and their partners are related to adolescent-perceived parenting behavior directly and indirectly via interparental stress experienced by both parents. Longitudinal data (Time 1: 2001; Time 2: 2007; and Time 3: 2009) from a large community sample of Flemish families was used ( = 455; Time 1 children: = 7.10 years). Results revealed that, for both parents, more agreeableness and autonomy predicted more parental warmth, and more depressive symptoms and lower agreeableness predicted more overreactive discipline (i.e., actor effects). Both parents' depressive symptoms predicted their own interparental stress (i.e., actor effects). Regarding partner-effects, paternal overreactive discipline was shaped by mother's extraversion and experienced interparental stress, and paternal warmth was affected by mother's experienced interparental stress in addition to fathers' own psychological resources. In contrast, maternal parenting was affected by their own psychological resources only. Although no consistent mediating role of interparental stress was found, one small dyadic indirect effect indicated that maternal depressive symptoms were related to more paternal overreactive discipline via heightened levels of interparental stress experienced by both parents. These results provide new support for the idea of interdependency between parents and specifically support the fathering vulnerability hypothesis. Tentatively, this study informs clinical practice by showing that family interventions aiming to improve parenting should pay attention to specific personality characteristics affecting parenting behavior and adopt a dyadic approach including both parents, especially when targeting paternal parenting. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/fam0000553DOI Listing
September 2019

Parents' Personality-Disorder Symptoms Predict Children's Symptoms of Anxiety and Depressive Disorders - a Prospective Cohort Study.

J Abnorm Child Psychol 2019 12;47(12):1931-1943

Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 7491, Dragvoll, Trondheim, Norway.

Personality disorder (PD) symptomatology is characterized by interpersonal problems and emotional dysregulation, which may affect offspring of parents with PD symptoms. Notably though, studies are needed to discern (i) whether parental PDs forecast symptoms of psychiatric disorders in offspring during their childhood years and (ii) whether such prospective relations obtain after accounting for common causes (e.g., genetics, common methods). To address these issues, we followed up a community sample of Norwegian children biennially from ages 4 to 8 (n = 594), using a semi-structured psychiatric interview (PAPA/CAPA) to capture DSM-IV defined symptoms of emotional disorders. Parental symptoms of personality disorders were captured by the DSM-IV and ICD-10 Personality Questionnaire (DIP-Q), whereas depression and anxiety in caregivers were measured using the Beck Depression Inventory -II and Beck Anxiety Inventory, respectively. Upon applying a hybrid fixed and random effects method that takes into account all unmeasured time-invariant confounders, we found that: (i) Parental symptoms of DSM-IV defined Cluster A and C were related to symptoms of anxiety disorders in offspring two years later, even after accounting for children's initial levels of anxiety and parental anxiety, whereas (ii) Parental DSM-IV Cluster B predicted symptoms of depressive disorders in children, adjusted for children's initial levels of depression and parental depression. Clinical implications of the results are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10802-019-00568-9DOI Listing
December 2019

Time Spent Gaming and Social Competence in Children: Reciprocal Effects Across Childhood.

Child Dev 2020 05 23;91(3):861-875. Epub 2019 Apr 23.

Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Electronic games are popular and many children spend much time on this activity. Here we investigate whether the quantity of time children spend on gaming is related to their social development, making this the first study to examine this relationship in children. We examine prospective relations between time spent gaming and social competence in a community sample of Norwegian 6 year olds (n = 873) followed up at ages 8, 10, and 12, controlling for socioeconomic status, body mass index, and time spent gaming together with friends. Results revealed that greater social competence at both 8 and 10 years predicted less gaming 2 years later and that more age-10 gaming predicted less social competence at age 12 but only among girls.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13243DOI Listing
May 2020

Genetics of nurture: A test of the hypothesis that parents' genetics predict their observed caregiving.

Dev Psychol 2019 Jul 28;55(7):1461-1472. Epub 2019 Mar 28.

Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Duke University.

Twin studies have documented that parenting behavior is partly heritable, but it is unclear how parents' genetics shape their caregiving. Using tools of molecular genetics, the present study investigated this process by testing hypotheses about associations between a genome-wide polygenic score for educational attainment and parental caregiving in 702 members of the Dunedin Study, a population-representative birth cohort. Data have been prospectively collected from when Study members were born through to midlife, and include assessments of the caregiving they provided once they became parents. Results showed that parents' polygenic scores predicted warm, sensitive, and stimulating caregiving, both in personal interactions with their young children (as captured on video) and through the home environments they created for their families (as observed by home visitors). The magnitude of this effect was small. Polygenic-score associations were independent of well-established predictors of parenting, such as parents' own childhood experiences of parenting and the age at which they became parents. Polygenic-score associations were mediated by parents' early-emerging cognitive abilities and self-control skills. Findings have implications for theory and research about genetic influences on caregiving and child development. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000709DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6586484PMC
July 2019

Parental predictors of children's executive functioning from ages 6 to 10.

Br J Dev Psychol 2019 09 28;37(3):410-426. Epub 2019 Feb 28.

NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway.

According to prominent models of child development, parental factors may contribute to individual differences in children's executive functioning (EF). Here, we examine the relative importance of parents' socio-economic status, mental health, and parenting as predictors of EF development, drawing on a large (n = 1,070) community sample of Norwegian children who received biennial EF assessments from 6 to 10 years of age. We measure EF by means of the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function. We assess parenting through observer ratings of parent-child interactions and parental mental health via the Beck Anxiety Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory, and Hopkins Symptom Checklist. When we adjust for all time-invariant unmeasured confounders, higher parental education predicts superior EF development, whereas harsh parenting forecasts poorer EF development. However, parenting does not mediate the effect of parental education. These results indicate that harsh parenting should be targeted in interventions aimed at improving EF. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? Parental factors seem to affect child development of executive functions (EF). Specifically, parental socio-economic status, mental health, and their parenting seem to influence the developmental course of child EF. What does this study add? To what degree the parental influence on EF development is likely to be driven by time-invariant factors, for example, genetics. The relative influence of positive and negative parenting on EF development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjdp.12282DOI Listing
September 2019

Distinguishing differential susceptibility, diathesis-stress, and vantage sensitivity: Beyond the single gene and environment model.

Dev Psychopathol 2020 02;32(1):73-83

Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Qc, Canada.

Currently, two main approaches exist to distinguish differential susceptibility from diathesis-stress and vantage sensitivity in Genotype × Environment interaction (G × E) research: regions of significance (RoS) and competitive-confirmatory approaches. Each is limited by its single-gene/single-environment foci given that most phenotypes are the product of multiple interacting genetic and environmental factors. We thus addressed these two concerns in a recently developed R package (LEGIT) for constructing G × E interaction models with latent genetic and environmental scores using alternating optimization. Herein we test, by means of computer simulation, diverse G × E models in the context of both single and multiple genes and environments. Results indicate that the RoS and competitive-confirmatory approaches were highly accurate when the sample size was large, whereas the latter performed better in small samples and for small effect sizes. The competitive-confirmatory approach generally had good accuracy (a) when effect size was moderate and N ≥ 500 and (b) when effect size was large and N ≥ 250, whereas RoS performed poorly. Computational tools to determine the type of G × E of multiple genes and environments are provided as extensions in our LEGIT R package.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579418001438DOI Listing
February 2020

Prenatal stress enhances postnatal plasticity: The role of microbiota.

Dev Psychobiol 2019 07 21;61(5):729-738. Epub 2018 Dec 21.

Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of California, Davis, California.

Separate fields of inquiry indicate (a) that prenatal stress is associated with heightened behavioral and physiological reactivity and (b) that these postnatal phenotypes are themselves associated with increased susceptibility to both positive and negative environmental influences. Collectively, this work supports Pluess and Belsky's (Psychopathology, 2011, 23, 29) claim that prenatal stress fosters, promotes or "programs" postnatal developmental plasticity. Herein, we review animal and human evidence consistent with this hypothesis before advancing the novel idea that infant intestinal microbiota may be one candidate mechanism for instantiating developmental plasticity as a result of prenatal stress. We then review research indicating that prenatal stress predicts differences in infant intestinal microbiota; that infant intestinal microbiota is associated with behavioral and physiological reactivity phenotypes; and, thus, that prenatal stress may influence infant intestinal microbiota in a way that results in heightened physiological and behavioral reactivity and, thereby, postnatal developmental plasticity. Finally, we offer ideas for testing this claim and consider implications for intervention and use of probiotics during early infancy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21816DOI Listing
July 2019

Networks of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms Across Development.

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2018 12 26;57(12):964-973. Epub 2018 Sep 26.

University of Liverpool, UK. Electronic address:

Objective: Frequent co-occurrence and bidirectional longitudinal associations have led some researchers to question the boundaries between depression and anxiety. A longitudinal investigation of the interconnected symptom structure of these constructs may help determine the extent to which they are distinct, and whether this changes over development. Therefore, the present study used network analysis to examine these symptom-symptom associations developmentally from early childhood to mid-adolescence.

Method: We analyzed data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (N = 1,147). Depression and anxiety symptoms were assessed on 7 occasions between ages 5 and 14 years using maternal reports. Regularized partial correlation networks were constructed at each time point, and diagnostic boundaries were explored using empirical tests of network modularity (ie, clustering of symptom nodes). Nonparametric permutation tests were used to determine whether symptoms became more associated over development, and network centrality was examined to identify developmental changes in the overall importance of specific symptoms.

Results: Symptoms formed highly interconnected networks, as evidenced by strong associations between depression and anxiety symptoms and a lack of distinct clustering. There was some evidence of an increase in overall connectivity as children aged. Feeling "anxious/fearful" and "unhappy/sad" were consistently the most central symptoms over development.

Conclusion: Minimal clustering of nodes indicated no separation of depression and anxiety symptoms from early childhood through mid-adolescence. An increase in connectivity over development suggests that symptoms may reinforce each other, potentially contributing to the high levels of lifetime continuity of these disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2018.05.027DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6290121PMC
December 2018

Child's oxytocin response to mother-child interaction: The contribution of child genetics and maternal behavior.

Psychoneuroendocrinology 2019 04 16;102:79-83. Epub 2018 Nov 16.

CIPsi, School of Psychology, University of Minho, Portugal. Electronic address:

The oxytocinergic system is a primary biological system involved in regulating a child's needs for bonding and for protection from threats. It is responsive to social experiences in close relationships, though evidence across studies is not entirely consistent. Guided by previous literature, we investigated individual and environmental factors predicting and presumably affecting children's oxytocin (OT) response during mother-child interaction. by focusing on children's OXTR genotype, and maternal behavior, respectively. This was achieved by assessing salivary OT levels of 88 Portuguese preschoolers prior to and following a mother-child interaction task, and by genotyping children's OXTR SNP rs53576. Maternal interactive behavior was assessed using Ainsworth scales. Results indicated that child genotype and mother's sensitive responsiveness interacted in predicting change in child OT concentrations from before to after the interaction. Specifically, Genotypic differences emerged under conditions of low maternal sensitive responsiveness: OT levels increased over time for children with the GG genotype when maternal sensitive responsiveness was low, but no such genotypic differences were evident when mothers were highly sensitive responsive. Findings provide preliminary support for the notion that increased understanding of children's OT and close relationships requires consideration of both individual and environmental factors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.11.022DOI Listing
April 2019

Interactive effects of early-life income harshness and unpredictability on children's socioemotional and academic functioning in kindergarten and adolescence.

Dev Psychol 2018 Nov 27;54(11):2101-2112. Epub 2018 Sep 27.

Department of Human Ecology.

This research investigates whether and how two fundamental environmental factors-harshness and unpredictability-interact in regulating child and adolescent development, informed by life-history theory and drawing on data from the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development ( = 1,364). Early life harshness was operationalized as the typical level of family income-to-needs based on six repeated measurements across the first 4.5 years of life and early life unpredictability as random variation using the same family income measurements. Results revealed that children functioned most competently in the social and academic domain as kindergarteners when exposed to low environmental harshness and low unpredictability and least competently when they experienced high harshness and low unpredictability. The same interaction pattern emerged in adolescence in forecasting cognitive-academic competence and sexual behavior. Findings are discussed in terms of how reliable and unreliable environmental cues shape developmental trajectories. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000601DOI Listing
November 2018

Prenatal stress and enhanced developmental plasticity.

J Neural Transm (Vienna) 2018 12 11;125(12):1759-1779. Epub 2018 Sep 11.

Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of California, One Shields Avenue, 3321 Hart Hall, Davis, CA, 95616, USA.

Two separate lines of inquiry indicate (a) that prenatal stress is associated with heightened behavioral and physiological reactivity, and (b) that these postnatal phenotypes are associated with increased susceptibility to both positive and negative developmental experiences and environmental exposures. This research considered together raises the intriguing hypothesis first advanced by Pluess and Belsky (Dev Psychopathol 23:29-38, 2011) that prenatal-stress fosters, promotes or "programs" postnatal developmental plasticity. In this paper, we review further evidence consistent with this proposition, including a novel animal study which experimentally manipulated both prenatal stress and postnatal rearing. Directions for future work focused on mechanisms mediating the plasticity-inducing effects of prenatal stress and the moderators of such effects are outlined.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00702-018-1926-9DOI Listing
December 2018

Polygenic differential susceptibility to prenatal adversity.

Dev Psychopathol 2019 05 7;31(2):439-441. Epub 2018 Aug 7.

Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics and Mental Health,Douglas Mental Health University Institute,McGill University,Douglas Mental Health University Institute.

A recent article in this journal reported a number of gene × environment interactions involving a serotonin transporter-gene network polygenic score and a composite index of prenatal adversity predicting several problem behavior outcomes at 48 months (e.g., anxious/depressed, pervasive developmental problems) and at 60 months (e.g., withdrawal, internalizing problems), yet did not illuminate the nature or form these genetic × environment interactions took. Here we report results of six additional analyses to evaluate whether these interactions reflected diathesis-stress or differential-susceptibility related processes. Analyses of the regions of significance and proportion of interaction index are consistent with the diathesis-stress model, seemingly because of the truncated nature of the adversity score (which did not extend to supportive/positive prenatal experiences/exposures); in contrast, the proportion (of cases) affected index favors the differential-susceptibility model. These results suggest the need for future studies to extend measurement of the prenatal environment to highly supportive experiences and exposures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579418000378DOI Listing
May 2019

Prenatal programming of postnatal plasticity revisited-And extended.

Dev Psychopathol 2018 08;30(3):825-842

University of California,Davis.

Two sets of evidence reviewed herein, one indicating that prenatal stress is associated with elevated behavioral and physiological dysregulation and the other that such phenotypic functioning is itself associated with heightened susceptibility to positive and negative environmental influences postnatally, raises the intriguing hypothesis first advanced by Pluess and Belsky (2011) that prenatal stress fosters, promotes, or "programs" postnatal developmental plasticity. Here we review further evidence consistent with this proposition, including new experimental research systematically manipulating both prenatal stress and postnatal rearing. Collectively this work would seem to explain why prenatal stress has so consistently been linked to problematic development: stresses encountered prenatally are likely to continue postnatally, thereby adversely affecting the development of children programmed (by prenatal stress) to be especially susceptible to environmental effects. Less investigated are the potential benefits prenatal stress may promote, due to increased plasticity, when the postnatal environment proves to be favorable. Future directions of research pertaining to potential mechanisms instantiating postnatal plasticity and moderators of such prenatal-programming effects are outlined.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579418000548DOI Listing
August 2018

The Brief Attachment Scale (BAS-16): A short measure of infant attachment.

Child Care Health Dev 2018 09 25;44(5):766-775. Epub 2018 Jul 25.

Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, London, UK.

Background: Insecure attachment in infancy is associated with a range of later socioemotional problems; therefore, it is important to identify at-risk children so that support can be provided. However, there are currently no well-validated brief measures of infant attachment. The aim of this study is to create a brief version of the Attachment Q-Sort (AQS), one of the gold-standard measures of attachment.

Method: Data was used from the National Institute of Child Health and Development Study of Child Care and Youth Development (N = 1,364). The factor structure of the AQS was explored, and Item Response Theory was used to select a reduced number of items. Convergent validity of the shortened measure was assessed through associations with the Strange Situation Procedure. Correlations with sensitivity, externalising, and social competence were also examined.

Results: The Brief Attachment Scale (BAS-16) was created consisting of two scales of eight items, relating to (a) harmonious interaction with the caregiver and (b) proximity-seeking behaviours. The BAS-16 showed comparable convergent, discriminant, and concurrent validity to the full AQS.

Conclusion: This brief version of the AQS shows potential as a screening measure for insecure attachment in infancy. Further development and validation is required in separate samples.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cch.12599DOI Listing
September 2018

Development and validation of an observational measure of symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Attach Hum Dev 2019 04 18;21(2):111-131. Epub 2018 Jul 18.

a School of Psychology , CIPsi, University of Minho , Braga , Portugal.

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is presumed to be a consequence of social neglect and deprivation of the kind particularly associated with institutional care. Despite its clinical relevance there is a lack of assessment tools for RAD based on the direct observation of child-caregiver interaction. Here we describe the development and validation of such a tool for use with preschool children, the Rating of Inhibited Attachment Disordered Behavior (RInAB). The RInAB is composed of 17 ratings grouped in three subscales assessing (1) Attachment, (2) Exploratory, and (3) Socioemotional behavior. Participants were 134 institutionalized preschool children (M = 54.84 months; SD = 10.83; 60% boys) and their caregivers. Adequate reliability was found for RInAB subscales and total score. Confirmatory factor analyses documented the three aforementioned RInAB subscales. Correlational analyses documented: (i) construct validity via positive and significant associations with caregiver sensitivity and quality of child-caregiver relationship; (ii) convergence validity via association evidence with some emotionally/withdrawn inhibited items of the Disturbed Attachment Interview (DAI), as well as, with Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)'s somatic complaints and withdraw syndrome scales; and (iii) discriminant validity via nonsignificant or negative associations with DAI-indiscriminate subscale, Rating of Infant and Stranger Engagement (RISE) and CBCL-externalizing problems. Discussion highlights the contributions complementary roles of RInAB for a comprehensive assessment of child RAD-related functioning.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14616734.2018.1499209DOI Listing
April 2019

Symptoms of Internet Gaming Disorder in Youth: Predictors and Comorbidity.

J Abnorm Child Psychol 2019 01;47(1):71-83

NTNU Social Science, Trondheim, Norway.

Internet gaming disorder (IGD) was included in the Addendum to DSM-5 as a condition for further study. Studies of community samples using a diagnostic interview are lacking, and evaluations of the proposed symptoms, comorbidities, and predictors of IGD are scarce. To provide such information participants in a Norwegian prospective community study were assessed with a clinical interview at age 10 years. Symptoms of other psychiatric disorders were measured with the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment at ages 8 and 10 (n = 740). Children, parents, and teachers provided information on demographics, temperament, intelligence, executive functions, self-concept, social skills, victimization, emotion regulation, family climate, and parenting. Results indicated that IGD was present in 1.7% (95% confidence interval, 0.7-2.7) of the participants (3.0% boys and 0.5% girls). Factor analysis revealed two factors: heavy involvement and negative consequences. The positive predictive value of withdrawal, tolerance, and unsuccessful attempts to control gaming symptoms to the disorder was low. Symptoms of other common disorders correlated weakly with IGD-symptoms (i.e., from r = 0.07 to r = 0.15). Upon adjusting for gender and gaming at age 8, only limited social and emotion regulation skills at age 8 predicted more age-10 IGD symptoms. In conclusion, IGD is already present in a small percentage of Norwegian 10-year olds. At least three of the proposed symptoms -- withdrawal, tolerance and unsuccessful attempts to control gaming -- merit further study given their weak associations with the disorder. Symptoms of IGD are only marginally associated with symptoms of other psychiatric disorders and only predicted by social skills and emotion regulation deficits.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10802-018-0422-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329732PMC
January 2019

Predictors of eating behavior in middle childhood: A hybrid fixed effects model.

Dev Psychol 2018 06 8;54(6):1099-1110. Epub 2018 Mar 8.

Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Children's eating behavior influences energy intake and thus weight through choices of type and amount of food. One type of eating behavior, food responsiveness, defined as eating in response to external cues such as the sight and smell of food, is particularly related to increased caloric intake and weight. Because little is known about the potential determinants of such behavior, we focus herein on child and parent predictors of food responsiveness in a large community sample of Norwegian 6-year-olds, followed up at ages 8 and 10. To measure children's food responsiveness, parents completed the Children's Eating Behavior Questionnaire. Potential predictors were children's inhibition and symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression, and parents' instrumental and controlling feeding practices as well as parental restrained eating. After accounting for children's initial levels of food responsiveness within a hybrid fixed effects method that takes into consideration all unmeasured time-invariant confounders, more child attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms and greater restrained eating by parents predicted more food responsiveness at both ages 8 and 10. These results may provide important insights for efforts to prevent overeating. (PsycINFO Database Record
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000504DOI Listing
June 2018