Objective: To explain the differential course of anxiety and depression in individuals from childhood to adulthood by examining age-related changes in the genetic and environmental etiology of anxious and depressive symptoms. Method: A sample of 1470, 1839, and 2023 Dutch twins aged 12, 14, and 16 years reported on symptoms of anxious depression (AD) and withdrawn behavior (WB), using the Youth Self Report (YSR). AD and WB were analyzed with bivariate cross-sectional genetic models for each age group to obtain estimates of the relative influence of genes (A), shared (C), and nonshared (E) environment. Results: The best-fitting models revealed no difference between heritability estimates in boys and girls. Familial clustering at age 12 years was explained by genetic and shared environmental factors. At ages 14 and 16 years, genetic factors were sufficient to explain familial clustering, shared environmental effects were absent. Genetic influences on AD and WB correlated highly. Conclusions: These findings are in agreement with earlier studies on age-specific effects of genes and shared environment on anxiety, depression, and withdrawn behavior in childhood and adolescence. The current study demonstrated that the decrease in the role of shared environment occurs after age 12. Hormonal changes accompanying the onset of puberty do not seem to explain the change in risk factors, as in 90% of the subjects puberty had already started. More knowledge on age-specific risk factors may offer opportunities for therapeutic interventions.

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Keywords Adolescence, Anxious depression, Genetics, Twins, Withdrawn behavior, adolescent, adult, adulthood, anxiety disorder, article, behavior disorder, child, childhood, controlled study, depression, environmental factor, female, genetic model, groups by age, heredity, human, male, priority journal, self report, sex difference, twins, withdrawn behavior, zygosity
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2009.11.014, hdl.handle.net/1765/19453