Genetic Overlap between Schizophrenia and Developmental Psychopathology: Longitudinal and Multivariate Polygenic Risk Prediction of Common Psychiatric Traits during Development

Michel G. Nivard*, Suzanne H. Gage, Jouke J. Hottenga, Catharina E.M. Van Beijsterveldt, Abdel Abdellaoui, Meike Bartels, Bart M.L. Baselmans, Lannie Ligthart, Beate St Pourcain, Dorret I. Boomsma, Marcus R. Munafò, Christel M. Middeldorp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Several nonpsychotic psychiatric disorders in childhood and adolescence can precede the onset of schizophrenia, but the etiology of this relationship remains unclear. We investigated to what extent the association between schizophrenia and psychiatric disorders in childhood is explained by correlated genetic risk factors. Methods Polygenic risk scores (PRS), reflecting an individual's genetic risk for schizophrenia, were constructed for 2588 children from the Netherlands Twin Register (NTR) and 6127 from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children (ALSPAC). The associations between schizophrenia PRS and measures of anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and oppositional defiant disorder/conduct disorder (ODD/CD) were estimated at age 7, 10, 12/13, and 15 years in the 2 cohorts. Results were then meta-analyzed, and a meta-regression analysis was performed to test differences in effects sizes over, age and disorders. Results Schizophrenia PRS were associated with childhood and adolescent psychopathology. Meta-regression analysis showed differences in the associations over disorders, with the strongest association with childhood and adolescent depression and a weaker association for ODD/CD at age 7. The associations increased with age and this increase was steepest for ADHD and ODD/CD. Genetic correlations varied between 0.10 and 0.25. Conclusion By optimally using longitudinal data across diagnoses in a multivariate meta-analysis this study sheds light on the development of childhood disorders into severe adult psychiatric disorders. The results are consistent with a common genetic etiology of schizophrenia and developmental psychopathology as well as with a stronger shared genetic etiology between schizophrenia and adolescent onset psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1197-1207
Number of pages11
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017

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