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Intergenerational Transmission of Risk for Substance Misuse: Examining Multimodal Indicators of Control in a Children of Twins Study
Models of addiction implicate a neurotoxic effect of substance on the brain and related functioning. However, premorbid deviations in key domains prior to substance initiation may index and confer risk for the subsequent development of substance use disorders. We leveraged a children of twins study design to examine premorbid risk for substance misuse, as well as mechanisms of transmission from parent to child. We considered multimodal indicators of control, assessed using behavioral, neuropsychological, and magnetic resonance imaging methods, in a sample of 176 substance-naïve children at high and low parental risk for substance use disorders. Children at high risk were lower on mother-reported behavioral constraint, had higher Stroop interference scores, and had reduced cortical thickness in the frontal lobe, consistent with deviations in control reflecting risk for substance misuse. Comparing children of twin mothers discordant for substance use disorders (both of whom confer genetic liability but differ in whether they provide rearing environments affected by substance misuse) indicated no differences in any indicators of control. Results highlight the importance of premorbid deviations in control for substance misuse, and the key role of genetic influences for familial transmission, rather than effects of parental substance misuse on the rearing environment.