Genes, Environment, and Psychopathology

Course Description

This groundbreaking volume synthesizes the results of the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders, which yielded longitudinal data on more than 9,000 individuals. The authors trace how risk for depression, anxiety, eating disorders, antisocial behavior, alcoholism, and substance abuse emerges from the interplay of a variety of genetic and environmental influences. Major questions addressed include whether risk is disorder-specific, how to distinguish between correlational and causal genetic and environmental factors, sex differences in risk, and how risk and protective factors interact over time.

About Authors

Kenneth S. Kendler, MD, is the Banks Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Human Genetics at the Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University. Since 1983, he has been engaged in studies of the genetics of psychiatric and substance use disorders, and he has been the director of the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders since its inception. Dr. Kendler’s work has utilized the methods of both large-scale population-based twin studies and molecular genetics. He has published over 430 peer-reviewed articles, has received a number of national and international awards, is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, serves on several editorial boards, and is Editor of Psychological Medicine. Since 1996, Dr. Kendler has served as Director of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics.

Carol A. Prescott, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at the University of Southern California.


Learning Objectives

After completing this course you’ll be able to:

Chapter 1             The Scientific and Social Context of the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders

  • Discuss the early work of the researchers who studied twins for human differences.
  • Describe the three generations of psychiatric epidemiology studies
  • List the six key features of the author’s studies of VATSPSUD.
  • Discuss the four approaches toward the science of the author’s research.

Chapter 2     Methodology Used in the VATSPSUD

  • Discuss sample size, selection and recruitment of the VATSPSUD study.
  • Describe common characteristics of participating twins.
  • Define effortful responding.
  • Describe criteria for interviewers.

Chapter 3     Twinning and Twin Models

  • Discuss the types of multiple births.
  • Define additive genetic factors, shared environmental factors and individual-specific environmental factors.
  • Discuss heritability benchmarks in human population according to Sidebar 3-3.

Chapter 4     Internalizing Disorders

  • Compare internalizing disorders and externalizing disorders.
  • Discuss the genetic influence on major depression.
  • Discuss the findings from major depression studies.
  • Describe a panic disorder.
  • Discuss the various types of phobias and the response of the nervous system.
  • Discuss the variance in risk for phobias according to figure 4.7.

Chapter 5     Externalizing and Substance Use Disorders

  • Compare conduct disorder and adult antisocial behavior
  • Define behavioral disinhibition.
  • Discuss heritability when assessing alcohol abuse.
  • Discuss the “Assessment of Tobacco Use and Nicotine Dependence”  form from Sidebar 5.4.
  • Discuss the prevalence of caffeine use and symptoms of with drawl and toxicity.
  • Discuss the illicit substances and prevalence of misuse.
  • Define predisposition.
  • Describe bulimia.

Chapter 6             Twin Model Assumptions

  • Define equal environment assumption, assertive mating, and random mating.
  • Define childhood treatment, cosocialization, and similitude.
  • Discuss parental approach to raising twins.

Chapter 7             Childhood Experiences and Risk for Psychopathology

  • Compare proximal and distal risk factors.
  • Define coldness, protectiveness, and authoritarianism.
  • List the four major conclusions from the parenting study.
  • Discuss parental loss including hazard ratios.
  • Discuss the effects of death and divorce on age, according to Figure 7.5.
  • Discuss the ratio of childhood sexual abuse in males and females.

Chapter 8     Adult Experiences and Risk for Psychopathology

  • Compare personal and network events.
  • Discuss the four psychological dimensions of life events.
  • List several types of social support.

Chapter 9     Sex Differences

  • Discuss sex differences and major depression.
  • Discuss the subtypes of alcoholism.
  • State genetic effects for cannabis and cocaine in males and females.

Chapter 10  Genetic and Environmental Influences on Stability and Change

  • Compare quantitative change and qualitative change.
  • Discuss shared and unique environments.
  • State the conclusions from studying environmental factors and genetics.
  • Discuss the frequency and quantity differences in drinking in women according to Figure 10.6.

Chapter 11  The Genetics of What? : Comorbidity, General versus Specific Effects, and Risk  Indicators

  • Discuss the comorbidity of alcoholism and depression.
  • Compare the genetic risks of the five phobias.
  • Discuss personality, novelty seeking, and neuroticism.

Chapter 12  Three Extensions of the Twin Model

  • Discuss the CCC model from Kinder et al.,1999d.
  • State the findings for nicotine dependency.
  • Compare reliability and unreliability.

Chapter 13  The Genetics of the Environment

  • Discuss the results of mailed “Stressful Life Events” questionnaires and female-female twins.
  • Discuss the role of genetic factors and stability.
  • Discuss the interpretations of parenting studies.

Chapter 14  Mechanisms for Genetic Control of Exposure to the Environment

  • Discuss the prediction of stressful life events from the measures of neuroticism.
  • List the three implications from the stressful life event study.
  • State the relationship between the risk of stressful life events and cotwin history of alcoholism from Figure 14.3.

Chapter 15  Is the Relation between Environmental Risk Factors and Psychiatric Disorders Causal?     

  • Discuss early drinking and alcoholism.
  • Compare the odds ratio for males and females who began drinking before age 15 from Figure 15.3.
  • Compare causal and noncausal.
  • State the results from the association between childhood sexual abuse and psychiatric disorders.
  • Discuss the three hypothesis between parental loss and alcoholism from Figure 15.7.

Chapter 16  Genetic Control of Sensitivity to the Environment

  • Describe the “addictive model.”
  • List the three results from research on women regarding sexual or physical abuse.
  • Discuss the odds ratio of women who had a history of problem drinking with parenting style.
  • Describe the standard, proportional, and moderated models.

Chapter 17  Integrative Models

  • Discuss low educational attainment, lifetime trauma, low social support and substance misuse in late adolescence.
  • List the six conclusions from the integrative model for major depression in men.

Course Contents

Introduction

I Background

  • The Scientific and Social Context of the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders
  • Methodology Used in the VATSPSUD
  • Twinning and Twin Models

II. Genetic Risk

  • Internalizing Disorders
  • Externalizing and Substance Use Disorders
  • Twin Model Assumptions

III. Environmental Risk

  • Childhood Experiences and Risk for Psychopathology
  • Adult Experiences and Risk for Psychopathology

IV. A Closer Look at Genetic and Environmental Influences

  • Sex Differences
  • Genetic and Environmental Influences on Stability and Change
  • The Genetics of What?: Comorbidity, General versus Specific Effects, and Risk Indicators
  • Three Extensions of the Twin Model

V. Bringing it All Together

  • The Genetics of the Environment
  • Mechanisms for Genetic Control of Exposure to the Environment
  • Is the Relation between Environmental Risk Factors and Psychiatric Disorders Causal?
  • Genetic Control of Sensitivity to the Environment
  • Integrative Models
  • Conclusions