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Open Access Research article

Prediction of 7-year psychopathology from mother-infant joint attention behaviours: a nested case–control study

Clare S Allely1, Paul CD Johnson2, Helen Marwick3, Emma Lidstone1, Eva Kočovská1, Christine Puckering1, Alex McConnachie2, Jean Golding4, Christopher Gillberg1 and Philip Wilson5*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, RHSC Yorkhill, Glasgow G3 8SJ, Scotland

2 Robertson Centre for Biostatistics, Boyd Orr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland

3 National Centre for Autism Studies at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland

4 Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

5 Centre for Rural Health, University of Aberdeen, The Centre for Health Science, Old Perth Road, Inverness IV2 3JH, Scotland

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BMC Pediatrics 2013, 13:147  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-147

Published: 24 September 2013

Abstract

Background

To investigate whether later diagnosis of psychiatric disorder can be predicted from analysis of mother-infant joint attention (JA) behaviours in social-communicative interaction at 12 months.

Method

Using data from a large contemporary birth cohort, we examined 159 videos of a mother-infant interaction for joint attention behaviour when children were aged one year, sampled from within the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort. Fifty-three of the videos involved infants who were later considered to have a psychiatric disorder at seven years and 106 were same aged controls. Psychopathologies included in the case group were disruptive behaviour disorders, oppositional-conduct disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, pervasive development disorder, anxiety and depressive disorders. Psychiatric diagnoses were obtained using the Development and Wellbeing Assessment when the children were seven years old.

Results

None of the three JA behaviours (shared look rate, shared attention rate and shared attention intensity) showed a significant association with the primary outcome of case–control status. Only shared look rate predicted any of the exploratory sub-diagnosis outcomes and was found to be positively associated with later oppositional-conduct disorders (OR [95% CI]: 1.5 [1.0, 2.3]; p = 0.041).

Conclusions

JA behaviours did not, in general, predict later psychopathology. However, shared look was positively associated with later oppositional-conduct disorders. This suggests that some features of JA may be early markers of later psychopathology. Further investigation will be required to determine whether any JA behaviours can be used to screen for families in need of intervention.

Keywords:
Avon longitudinal study of parents and children (ALSPAC), Autism, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Disruptive behaviour disorders, Joint attention behaviours