The WHO defines interpersonal violence as the “intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against another person, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation”. This includes childhood maltreatment, bullying, intimate partner violence (IPV), and sexual violence. Exposure to these forms of interpersonal violence is an established risk factor for an array of negative mental health outcomes during adolescence and adulthood, including depression, anxiety and self-harm (suicidal and non-suicidal).
Beyond environmental risks, these mental health outcomes are also influenced by genetic effects. One significant genetically informed concept in mental health research is genotype-environment interaction (GxE). This is often interpreted within the Diathesis-Stress framework whereby it is hypothesised that those who have high genetic predisposition to mental health difficulties will be more likely to develop a mental health disorder after exposure to a negative environment, compared to those with lower genetic predisposition.
In this PhD, aetiology of depression, anxiety and self-harm and their relationship with interpersonal violence will be studied through genetically informed designs, using the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), and Colombo Twin and Singleton Study (COTASS) datasets, as well as a third dataset. This will include twin models which utilise MZ twins and DZ twins to make inferences about the influence of genes and environment. Advanced structural equation modelling will be used to include moderators of the genetic and environmental influences. Another way that GxE will be studied is through an interaction between genetic susceptibility (polygenic score) and environmental factors in a linear model.
Dr Helena Zavos
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2-Life Course, Psychology, & Health