Adverse childhood experiences, and mental health: a genetically informed approach
Children exposed to victimisation, neglect, and dysfunctional home environments have an elevated risk of developing mental health problems. However, the extent to which these adverse childhood experiences cause mental health problems is not known, because previous studies have not accounted for genetic confounding. In this talk, I will describe my research plans to apply genetic methods to examine the impact of adverse childhood experiences on mental health, using IToR and MoBa data. I will also present preliminary results from a GWAS of bullying victimisation.
A wide range of parental risk factors are known to associate with the development of mental health difficulties in childhood. However, in addition to adverse environments, parent transmits their genotypes to children, which makes it challenging to untangle the causal effects of parental risk factors from genetic transmission. Several concepts in the behavioural genetics literature have been coined to label this issue: passive gene-environment correlation, dynastic effects, and genetic nurture. Recently, new approaches using polygenic scores and Mendelian randomization have been developed, which have the potential to shed a new light on this old problem. Such methods can be leveraged to identify to what extent the associations between parental risk and child outcomes reflect mainly genetic transmission or point to causal effects. I will present preliminary results of this approach in ALSPAC and MOBA and expose our research plans.