Date of Award

12-1-2019

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

DiLalla, Lisabeth

Abstract

The current study aimed to evaluate multiple longitudinal determinants of externalizing behavior problems in twins/triplets aged 7 to 12 years. Specifically, a prospective longitudinal design was utilized to assess relationships between age 5 sleep problems, age 5 temperament traits, and later externalizing problems. Additionally, heritability of sleep problems was assessed by utilizing the twin method, and genetic contributions of two specific genes – DRD4 and 5-HTTLPR – were evaluated. A total of 93 twins/triplets (40 boys and 53 girls) and their parents participated in the current study, and data were collected through self-report, parent-report, and molecular and behavioral genetic methods. Results suggest that sleep disturbances are significantly heritable, and that neither early sleep problems, temperament traits, nor specific genes significantly predicted follow-up externalizing problems. Post-hoc analyses assessing gene X environment interactions showed that externalizing problems were significantly predicted by the interaction between stressful life events and DRD4 risk, which is consistent with differential susceptibility models. This study has implications for future research as well as clinical practice, including for early screening, prevention, and intervention efforts aimed at decreasing childhood externalizing and sleep problems.

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