An adoption study of depressive symptoms in middle childhood

Thalia C. Eley, Kirby Deater-Deckard, Eric Fombonne, David W. Fulker, Robert Plomin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Several twin studies of children and adolescents have found significant heritability of depressive symptoms. In contrast, the sole adoption study of biologically related and biologically unrelated adopted siblings found no evidence for genetic influence. The present study attempts to confirm these results in middle childhood using two adoption designs. The sample, from the Colorado Adoption Project, included 180 adopted children (77 with adoptive siblings) and their biological and adoptive mothers, and 227 nonadopted children (93 with biological siblings) and their mothers. Mothers reported their own neuroticism, and children's depressive symptoms were reported by the parents and by the children themselves. For both the sibling adoption and the parent-offspring designs heritability was negligible, shared environment modest, and nonshared environment substantial, irrespective of child gender. Although the power of the sibling data is low, the combined findings from the two designs suggest that genetic effects on depressive symptoms in childhood may be somewhat smaller than previously estimated in twin studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-345
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Adoption study
  • Behavioural genetics
  • Depressive symptoms
  • School children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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