Genetic Relations between Competence Scales and DSM-Oriented Scales among Italian Twins

CBCL/6-18 competence scales assess children’s adaptive strengths in terms of involvement in activities, social relationships, and school. Both competence and problems are important for documenting children’s needs for help, for designing interventions to strengthen competencies and/or to reduce problems, and for evaluating outcomes of interventions. However, the competence and problem scales are not merely mirror images of each other, as the types of information requested, the item formats, and the scoring differ markedly between the competence and problem scales. Although children who function well typically have low problem scores and high competence scores, while children who function poorly typically show the reverse pattern, some children have high problem scores but also high competence scores. Other children have low problem and competence scores.

Accordingly, the negative correlations between the competence and problem scales are modest. A team of Italian researchers sought to test the extent to which the negative correlations reflect causal relations (e.g., problems impair competencies or lack of competencies contributes to problems) versus shared genetic liabilities (Pesenti-Gritti, Scaini, D’ippolito, Fagnani, & Battaglia, 2011). The researchers did this by using CBCL/6-18 competence and DSM-oriented scale scores for 398 8-17-year-old Italian twin pairs to test different models for genetic influences. The results revealed common genetic liabilities for low scores on the CBCL/6-18 School scale and high scores on the DSM-oriented Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Problems scale. The results also revealed common genetic liabilities for low scores on the Social scale and high scores on the DSM-oriented Anxiety Problems scale. It was concluded that “specific experiences appear to play a significant role in explaining the variance of all phenotypes under study” but “our results suggest that shared elements of liability can explain the negative correlations between anxiety problems and social competencies, and ADH Problems and academic performances”.

Reference: Pesenti-Gritti, P., Scaini, S., D’ippolito, C., Fanani, C., & Battaglia, M. (2011). A genetically informed study of the covariation between the CBCL/6-18 DSM-oriented problem scales and the competence scales. Behavior Genetics. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10519-010-9420-7