Oppositional defiant- and conduct disorder-like problems: neurodevelopmental predictors and genetic background in boys and girls, in a nationwide twin study
Background. Previous research has supported gender-specific aetiological factors in oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD). The aims of this study were to identify gender-specific associations between the behavioural problems–ODD/CD-like problems–and the neurodevelopmental disorders–attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD)–and to investigate underlying genetic effects.
Methods. 17,220 twins aged 9 or 12 were screened using the Autism–Tics, AD/HD and other Comorbidities inventory. The main covariates of ODD- and CD-like problems were investigated, and the relative importance of unique versus shared hereditary and environmental effects was estimated using twin model fitting.
Results. Social interaction problems (one of the ASD subdomains) was the strongest neurodevelopmental covariate of the behavioural problems in both genders, while ADHD-related hyperactivity/impulsiveness in boys and inattention in girls stood out as important covariates of CD-like problems. Genetic effects accounted for 50%–62% of the variance in behavioural problems, except in CD-like problems in girls (26%).
Genetic and environmental effects linked to ADHD and ASD also influenced ODD-like problems in both genders and, to a lesser extent, CD-like problems in boys, but not in girls.
Conclusions. The gender-specific patterns should be considered in the assessment and treatment, especially of CD.