Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 18
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Bevan Jones, Rhys Mars, Becky Collishaw, Stephan Potter, Robert Thapar, Ajay Craddock, Nick Thapar, Anita and Zammit, Stanley 2016. Prevalence and correlates of psychotic experiences amongst children of depressed parents. Psychiatry Research, Vol. 243, p. 81.

    Mansur, Rodrigo B. Cunha, Graccielle R. Asevedo, Elson Zugman, André Rizzo, Lucas B. Grassi-Oliveira, Rodrigo Levandowski, Mateus L. Gadelha, Ary Pan, Pedro M. Teixeira, Antônio L. McIntyre, Roger S. Mari, Jair J. Rohde, Luís A. Miguel, Eurípedes C. Bressan, Rodrigo A. and Brietzke, Elisa 2016. Association of serum interleukin-6 with mental health problems in children exposed to perinatal complications and social disadvantage. Psychoneuroendocrinology, Vol. 71, p. 94.

    Jeppesen, Pia Larsen, Janne Tidselbak Clemmensen, Lars Munkholm, Anja Rimvall, Martin Kristian Rask, Charlotte Ulrikka van Os, Jim Petersen, Liselotte and Skovgaard, Anne Mette 2015. The CCC2000 Birth Cohort Study of Register-Based Family History of Mental Disorders and Psychotic Experiences in Offspring. Schizophrenia Bulletin, Vol. 41, Issue. 5, p. 1084.

    Peters, Amy T. Shankman, Stewart A. Deckersbach, Thilo and West, Amy E. 2015. Predictors of first-episode unipolar major depression in individuals with and without sub-threshold depressive symptoms: A prospective, population-based study. Psychiatry Research, Vol. 230, Issue. 2, p. 150.

    Poulton, Richie Moffitt, Terrie E. and Silva, Phil A. 2015. The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study: overview of the first 40 years, with an eye to the future. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, Vol. 50, Issue. 5, p. 679.

    Salum, Giovanni Abrahão Gadelha, Ary Pan, Pedro Mario Moriyama, Tais Silveira Graeff-Martins, Ana Soledade Tamanaha, Ana Carina Alvarenga, Pedro Krieger, Fernanda Valle Fleitlich-Bilyk, Bacy Jackowski, Andrea Sato, João Ricardo Brietzke, Elisa Polanczyk, Guilherme Vanoni Brentani, Helena de Jesus Mari, Jair Do Rosário, Maria Conceição Manfro, Gisele Gus Bressan, Rodrigo Affonseca Mercadante, Marcos Tomanik Miguel, Eurípedes Constantino and Rohde, Luis Augusto 2015. High risk cohort study for psychiatric disorders in childhood: rationale, design, methods and preliminary results. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, Vol. 24, Issue. 1, p. 58.

    Vandeleur, C.L. Rothen, S. Lustenberger, Y. Glaus, J. Castelao, E. and Preisig, M. 2015. Inter-informant agreement and prevalence estimates for mood syndromes: Direct interview vs. family history method. Journal of Affective Disorders, Vol. 171, p. 120.

    Fisher, H. L. McGuffin, P. Boydell, J. Fearon, P. Craig, T. K. Dazzan, P. Morgan, K. Doody, G. A. Jones, P. B. Leff, J. Murray, R. M. and Morgan, C. 2014. Interplay Between Childhood Physical Abuse and Familial Risk in the Onset of Psychotic Disorders. Schizophrenia Bulletin, Vol. 40, Issue. 6, p. 1443.

    Ranganathan, Mohini Sewell, R. Andrew Carbuto, Michelle Elander, Jacqueline Schnakenberg, Ashley Radhakrishnan, Rajiv Pittman, Brian and D’Souza, Deepak Cyril 2014. Effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in individuals with a familial vulnerability to alcoholism. Psychopharmacology, Vol. 231, Issue. 12, p. 2385.

    Belsky, Daniel W Sears, Malcolm R Hancox, Robert J Harrington, HonaLee Houts, Renate Moffitt, Terrie E Sugden, Karen Williams, Benjamin Poulton, Richie and Caspi, Avshalom 2013. Polygenic risk and the development and course of asthma: an analysis of data from a four-decade longitudinal study. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Vol. 1, Issue. 6, p. 453.

    Belsky, Daniel W. Caspi, Avshalom Arseneault, Louise Bleidorn, Wiebke Fonagy, Peter Goodman, Marianne Houts, Renate and Moffitt, Terrie E. 2012. Etiological features of borderline personality related characteristics in a birth cohort of 12-year-old children. Development and Psychopathology, Vol. 24, Issue. 01, p. 251.

    Mars, Becky Collishaw, Stephan Smith, Daniel Thapar, Ajay Potter, Robert Sellers, Ruth Harold, Gordon T. Craddock, Nicholas Rice, Frances and Thapar, Anita 2012. Offspring of parents with recurrent depression: Which features of parent depression index risk for offspring psychopathology?. Journal of Affective Disorders, Vol. 136, Issue. 1-2, p. 44.

    Odgers, Candice L. Caspi, Avshalom Russell, Michael A. Sampson, Robert J. Arseneault, Louise and Moffitt, Terrie E. 2012. Supportive parenting mediates neighborhood socioeconomic disparities in children's antisocial behavior from ages 5 to 12. Development and Psychopathology, Vol. 24, Issue. 03, p. 705.

    Lessov-Schlaggar, Christina N. Wahlgren, Dennis R. Liles, Sandy Jones, Jennifer A. Ji, Ming Hughes, Suzanne C. Swan, Gary E. and Hovell, Melbourne F. 2011. Sensitivity to Secondhand Smoke Exposure Predicts Smoking Susceptibility in 8–13-Year-Old Never Smokers. Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 48, Issue. 3, p. 234.

    Shearer, Dara M. Thomson, W. Murray Caspi, Avshalom Moffitt, Terrie E. Broadbent, Jonathan M. and Poulton, Richie 2011. Inter-generational continuity in periodontal health: findings from the Dunedin Family History Study. Journal of Clinical Periodontology, Vol. 38, Issue. 4, p. 301.

    Campbell, Desmond D. Sham, Pak C. Knight, Jo Wickham, Harvey and Landau, Sabine 2010. Software for generating liability distributions for pedigrees conditional on their observed disease states and covariates. Genetic Epidemiology, Vol. 34, Issue. 2, p. 159.

    Olino, Thomas M. Klein, Daniel N. Lewinsohn, Peter M. Rohde, Paul and Seeley, John R. 2010. Latent trajectory classes of depressive and anxiety disorders from adolescence to adulthood: descriptions of classes and associations with risk factors. Comprehensive Psychiatry, Vol. 51, Issue. 3, p. 224.

    Milne, B.J. Caspi, A. Crump, R. Poulton, R. Rutter, M. Sears, M.R. and Moffitt, T.E. 2009. The validity of the family history screen for assessing family history of mental disorders. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, Vol. 150B, Issue. 1, p. 41.


How should we construct psychiatric family history scores? A comparison of alternative approaches from the Dunedin Family Health History Study

  • B. J. Milne (a1), T. E. Moffitt (a1) (a2), R. Crump (a3), R. Poulton (a3), M. Rutter (a1), M. R. Sears (a4), A. Taylor (a1) and A. Caspi (a1) (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 March 2008

There is increased interest in assessing the family history of psychiatric disorders for both genetic research and public health screening. It is unclear how best to combine family history reports into an overall score. We compare the predictive validity of different family history scores.


Probands from the Dunedin Study (n=981, 51% male) had their family history assessed for nine different conditions. We computed four family history scores for each disorder: (1) a simple dichotomous categorization of whether or not probands had any disordered first-degree relatives; (2) the observed number of disordered first-degree relatives; (3) the proportion of first-degree relatives who are disordered; and (4) Reed's score, which expressed the observed number of disordered first-degree relatives in terms of the number expected given the age and sex of each relative. We compared the strength of association between each family history score and probands' disorder outcome.


Each score produced significant family history associations for all disorders. The scores that took account of the number of disordered relatives within families (i.e. the observed, proportion, and Reed's scores) produced significantly stronger associations than the dichotomous score for conduct disorder, alcohol dependence and smoking. Taking account of family size (i.e. using the proportion or Reed's score) produced stronger family history associations depending on the prevalence of the disorder among family members.


Dichotomous family history scores can be improved upon by considering the number of disordered relatives in a family and the population prevalence of the disorder.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Mr B. Milne, SGDP Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, PO80, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK. (Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

NC Andreasen , J Rice , J Endicott , T Reich , W Coryell (1986). The family history approach to diagnosis. Archives of General Psychiatry 43, 421428.

B Bandelow , C Späth , GA Tichauer , A Broocks , G Hajak , E Rüther (2002). Early traumatic life events, parental attitudes, family history, and birth risk factors in patients with panic disorder. Comprehensive Psychiatry 43, 269278.

B Bandelow , AC Torrente , D Wedekind , A Broocks , G Hajak , E Rüther (2004). Early traumatic life events, parental rearing styles, family history of mental disorders, and birth risk factors in patients with social anxiety disorder. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience 254, 397405.

M Byrne , E Agerbo , PB Mortensen (2002). Family history of psychiatric disorders and age of first contact in schizophrenia: an epidemiology study. British Journal of Psychiatry 181 (Suppl. 43), s19s25.

HF Coelho , PJ Cooper , L Murray (2006). Impact of psychiatric disturbance on identifying psychiatric disorder in relatives: study of mothers and daughters. British Journal of Psychiatry 188, 288289.

HF Coelho , PJ Cooper , L Murray (2007). A family study of co-morbidity between generalized social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder in a non-clinic sample. Journal of Affective Disorders 100, 103113.

NJ Davies , PC Sham , C Gilvarry , PB Jones , RM Murray (1997). Comparison of the family history with the family study method: report from the Camberwell Collaborative Psychosis Study. American Journal of Medical Genetics, Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics 74, 1217.

J Hardt , P Franke (2007). Validity, reliability and objectivity of the family history method in psychiatry: a meta analysis. European Psychiatry 22, 4958.

R Heun , W Maier , H Müller (1997). Subject and informant variables affecting family history diagnoses of depression and dementia. Psychiatry Research 71, 175180.

M Higgins , M Province , G Heiss , J Eckfeldt , RC Ellison , AR Folsom , DC Rao , JM Sprafka , R Williams (1996). NHLBI Family Heart Study: objectives and design. American Journal of Epidemiology 143, 12191228.

KS Kendler , KL Davis , RC Kessler (1997). The familial aggregation of common psychiatric and substance use disorders in the National Co-morbidity Survey: a family history study. British Journal of Psychiatry 170, S41S48.

J Kim-Cohen , A Caspi , TE Moffitt , H Harrington , BJ Milne , R Poulton (2003). Prior juvenile diagnoses in adults with mental disorder: developmental follow-back of a prospective-longitudinal cohort. Archives of General Psychiatry 60, 709717.

TA Kosten , SF Anton , BJ Rounsaville (1992). Ascertaining psychiatric diagnoses with the family history method in a substance abuse population. Journal of Psychiatric Research 26, 135147.

DR Miles , MC Stallings , SE Young , JK Hewitt , TJ Crowley , DW Fulker (1998). A family history and direct interview study of the familial aggregation of substance abuse: the adolescent substance abuse study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 49, 105114.

TE Moffitt , H Harrington , A Caspi , J Kim-Cohen , D Goldberg , AM Gregory , R Poulton (2007). Depression and generalized anxiety disorder: cumulative and sequential co-morbidity in a birth cohort followed prospectively to age 32 years. Archives of General Psychiatry 64, 651660.

H Murad , O Kalter-Leibovici , A Chetrit , LS Freedman (2007). A statistical comparison of different family history scores. Statistics in Medicine 26, 27852798.

H Orvaschel , WD Thompson , A Belanger , BA Prusoff , KK Kidd (1982). Comparison of the family history method to direct interview: factors affecting the diagnosis of depression. Journal of Affective Disorders 4, 4959.

CA Prescott , PF Sullivan , JM Myers , DG Patterson , M Devitt , LJ Halberstadt , D Walsh , KS Kendler (2005). The Irish affected sib pair study of alcohol dependence: study methodology and validation of diagnosis by interview and family history. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 29, 417429.

P Qin , H Xu , TM Laursen , M Vestergaard , PB Mortensen (2005). Risk for schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like psychosis among patients with epilepsy: population based cohort study. British Medical Journal 331, 23.

T Reed , DK Wagener , RP Donahue , LH Kuller (1986). Young adult cholesterol as a predictor of familial ischemic heart disease. Preventive Medicine 15, 292303.

JP Rice , T Reich , K Bucholz , RJ Neuman , R Fishman , N Rochberg , VM Hesselbrock , JJ Nurnberger , MA Schuckit , H Begleiter (1995). Comparison of direct interview and family history diagnoses of alcohol dependence. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 19, 10181023.

LN Robins , HE Helzer , J Croughan , KS Ratcliff (1981). National Institute of Mental Health Diagnostic Interview Schedule: its history, characteristics, and validity. Archives of General Psychiatry 38, 381389.

M-A Roy , D Walsh , KS Kendler (1996). Accuracies and inaccuracies of the family history method: a multivariate approach. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 93, 224234.

MR Sears , JM Greene , AR Willan , DR Taylor , EM Flannery , JO Cowan , GP Herbison , R Poulton (2002). Long-term relationship between breastfeeding and development of atopy and asthma in children and young adults: a longitudinal study. Lancet 360, 901907.

ML Selzer , A Vinokur , L Van Rooijen (1975). A self-administered Short Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (SMAST). Journal of Studies on Alcohol 36, 117126.

JS Silberberg , J Fryer , J Wlodarczyk , R Robertson , K Dear (1999). Comparison of family history measures used to identify high risk of coronary heart disease. Genetic Epidemiology 16, 344355.

HA Skinner (1982). The drug abuse screening test. Addictive Behaviors 7, 363371.

SF Stoltenberg , SA Mudd , FC Blow , EM Hill (1998). Evaluating measures of family history of alcoholism: density vs dichotomy. Addiction 93, 15111520.

PF Sullivan , MC Neale , KS Kendler (2000). Genetic epidemiology of major depression: review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry 157, 15521562.

PF Sullivan , JE Wells , PR Joyce , JA Bushnell , RT Mulder , MA Oakley-Browne (1996). Family history of depression in clinic and community samples. Journal of Affective Disorders 40, 159168.

D Thompson , JS Witte , M Slattery , D Goldgar (2004). Increased power for case–control studies of single nucleotide polymorphisms through incorporation of family history and genetic constraints. Genetic Epidemiology 27, 215224.

WD Thompson , JR Kidd , MM Weissman (1980). A procedure for the efficient collection and processing of pedigree data suitable for genetic analysis. Journal of Psychiatric Research 15, 291303.

WM Turner , HSG Cutter , TG Worobec , TJ O'Farrell , RD Bayog , MT Tsuang (1993). Family history models of alcoholism: age of onset, consequences and dependence. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 54, 164171.

CL Vandeleur , S Rothen , N Jeanpretre , Y Lustenberger , F Gamma , E Ayer , F Ferrero , A Fleischmann , J Besson , F Sisbane , M Preisig (2008). Inter-informant agreement and prevalence estimates for substance use disorders: direct interview versus family history method. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 92, 919.

MM Weissman , P Wickramaratne , P Adams , S Wolk , H Verdeli , M Olfson (2000). Brief screening for family psychiatric history: the family history screen. Archives of General Psychiatry 57, 675682.

RL Williams (2000). A note on robust variance estimation for cluster-correlated data. Biometrics 56, 645646.

PW Yoon , MT Scheuner , KL Peterson-Oehlke , M Gwinn , A Faucett , MJ Khoury (2002). Can family history be used as a tool for public health and preventive medicine? Genetics in Medicine 4, 304310.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *