In what the editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry called a “landmark” study, an international team of researchers re-examined data from the large Twin and Offspring Study of Sweden, and discovered environmental factors more readily explained anxiety “inheritance” than did genetics.
The researchers used Structural Equation Modeling to try to parse out and quantify the various effects from genetic and environmental factors that were linking parental anxiety and child anxiety.
“For both anxiety and neuroticism, the models provide support for significant direct environmental transmission from parents to their adolescent offspring,” reported Psychiatric News. “In contrast, there was no evidence of significant genetic transmission.”
The editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry told Psychiatric News, “This study is a landmark, because it is the first to clearly establish the early transmission of anxiety symptoms from parents to children, not through their shared genetic background, but rather from the way in which anxious parents raise their children. Parents who are anxious can now be counseled and educated on ways to minimize the impact of their anxiety on the child’s development.”
Anxious Parents Can Transmit Anxiety to Children, Twin Study Shows (Psychiatric News Alert, April 27, 2015)
Eley, Thalia C., Tom A. McAdams, Fruhling V. Rijsdijk, Paul Lichtenstein, Jurgita Narusyte, David Reiss, Erica L. Spotts, Jody M. Ganiban, and Jenae M. Neiderhiser. “The Intergenerational Transmission of Anxiety: A Children-of-Twins Study.” American Journal of Psychiatry, April 23, 2015, appi.ajp.2015.14070818. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.14070818. (Full text)