A Family-Based Genome Wide Association Study of Externalizing Behaviors

Peter B. Barr, Jessica E. Salvatore, Leah Wetherill, Andrey Anokhin, Grace Chan, Howard J. Edenberg, Samuel Kuperman, Jacquelyn Meyers, John Nurnberger, Bernice Porjesz, Mark Schuckit, Danielle M. Dick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Shared genetic factors contribute to the high degree of comorbidity among externalizing problems (e.g. substance use and antisocial behavior). We leverage this common genetic etiology to identify genetic influences externalizing problems in participants from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (European ancestry = 7568; African ancestry = 3274). We performed a family-based genome-wide association study (GWAS) on externalizing scores derived from criterion counts of five DSM disorders (alcohol dependence, alcohol abuse, illicit drug dependence, illicit drug abuse, and either antisocial personality disorder or conduct disorder). We meta analyzed these results with a similar measure of externalizing in an independent sample, Spit for Science (combined sample N = 15,112). We did not discover any robust genome-wide significant signals. Polygenic scores derived from the ancestry-specific GWAS summary statistics predicted externalizing problems in an independent European ancestry sample, but not in those of African ancestry. However, these PRS were no longer significant after adjusting for multiple testing. Larger samples with deep phenotyping are necessary for the discovery of SNPs related to externalizing problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-183
Number of pages9
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Externalizing
  • GWAS
  • Polygenic Scores
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)

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