The role of genetic and environmental factors in the covariation between anxiety and anger in childhood

Abstract

Higher levels of anger expression, as well as lower levels of anger control, have been reported for adults with anxiety disorders compared to individuals without anxiety disorders. Different to the research on adults, very few studies examined the relationship between anxiety and anger in childhood. In our study, we investigated 398 Italian twin pairs (74 MZ male, 70 MZ female, 134 same-sex dizygotic-53 male, 81 female-, and 120 unlike-sex dizygotic twin pairs), aged 8–17 (mean 13.06 ± 2.59): (i) the heritability of a childhood anger phenotype; (ii) the association between five anxiety domains and anger; (iii) the role of possible common etiological factors in explaining the observed comorbidity and overlap in the risk between anxiety phenotypes and anger. The study demonstrated that anger, assessed by CBCL items, is heritable in children at a similar rate to prior studies (40%). Our research found low to moderate rate of correlation between anger and anxiety (from 0.10 to 0.19). Finally, the present study found that the majority of etiological influences on anxiety and anger are independent of each other. Data showed that shared environmental influences have some small effects on the phenotypic covariation between the anxiety phenotypes and anger (12%); whereas unique environmental influences have an almost negligible effect (1%). Our analyses did not reveal the effect of genetic effects in explaining the covariation between these phenotypes.

Publication
European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Supplementary material can be found here.