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Child care, socio-economic status and problem behavior: A study of gene-environment interaction in young Dutch twins

The influences of formal child care before age 4 on behavioral problems at 3, 5, and 7 years of age were assessed in 18,932 Dutch twins (3,878 attended formal child care). The effect of formal child care was studied on the average level of problem behavior and as moderator of genetic and non-genetic influences, while taking into account effects of sex and parental socio-economic status (SES). There was a small association between attending formal child care and higher externalizing problems, especially when SES was low. Heritability was lower for formal child care and in lower SES conditions. These effects were largest at age 7 and for externalizing problems. In 7 year-old boys and girls, the difference in heritability between the formal child care group of low SES and the home care group of high SES was 30 % for externalizing and [approximately] 20 % for internalizing problems. The decrease in heritability was explained by a larger influence of the environment, rather than by a decrease in genetic variance. These results support a bioecological model in which heritability is lower in circumstances associated with more problem behavior. (author abstract)
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