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27-01-2015 | Uitgave 1/2016

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 1/2016

Common Etiological Sources of Anxiety, Depression, and Somatic Complaints in Adolescents: A Multiple Rater twin Study

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology > Uitgave 1/2016
Helga Ask, Trine Waaktaar, Karoline Brobakke Seglem, Svenn Torgersen


Somatic complaints in children and adolescents may be considered part of a broader spectrum of internalizing disorders that include anxiety and depression. Previous research on the topic has focused mainly on the relationship between anxiety and depression without investigating how common somatic symptoms relate to an underlying factor and its etiology. Based on the classical twin design with monozygotic and dizygotic twins reared together, our study aimed to explore the extent to which the covariation between three phenotypes in adolescent girls and boys can be represented by a latent internalizing factor, with a focus on both common and specific etiological sources. A population-based sample of twins aged 12–18 years and their mothers and fathers (N = 1394 families) responded to questionnaire items measuring the three phenotypes. Informants’ ratings were collapsed using full information maximum likelihood estimated factor scores. Multivariate genetic analyses were conducted to examine the etiological structure of concurrent symptoms. The best fitting model was an ACE common pathway model without sex limitation and with one substantially heritable (44 %) latent factor shared by the phenotypes. Concurrent symptoms also resulted from shared (25 %) and non-shared (31 %) environments. The factor loaded most on depression symptoms and least on somatic complaints. Trait-specific influences explained 44 % of depression variance, 59 % of anxiety variance, and 65 % of somatic variance. Our results suggest the presence of a general internalizing factor along which somatic complaints and mental distress can be modeled. However, specific influences make the symptom types distinguishable.

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