Heritability, stability, and prevalence of tonic and phasic irritability as indicators of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Little is known about genetic and environmental influences on the components of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD), tonic irritability (i.e., irritable mood) and phasic irritability (i.e., temper outbursts). This study examined prevalence, stability, and heritability of tonic irritability, phasic irritability, and a DMDD proxy (pDMDD) based on DSM-5 criteria. METHODS: pDMDD was derived using data from clinical interviews of parents and their twins (N = 1,431 twin pairs), ages 8-17, participating in Waves 1 and 2 of the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development. Biometrical modeling was used to compare a common pathway model (CPM) and an independent pathway model (IPM), and heritability estimates were obtained for pDMDD using the symptoms of irritable mood (tonic irritability; DMDD Criterion D), intense temper outbursts (phasic irritability; DMDD Criterion A), and frequent temper outbursts (phasic irritability; DMDD Criterion C). RESULTS: Lifetime prevalence of pDMDD was 7.46%. The stability of DMDD symptoms and the pDMDD phenotype across approximately one year were moderate (.30-.69). A CPM was a better fit to the data than an IPM. Phasic irritability loaded strongly onto the pDMDD latent factor (.89-.96) whereas tonic irritability did not (.28). Genetic influences accounted for approximately 59% of the variance in the latent pDMDD phenotype, with the remaining 41% of the variance due to unique environmental effects. The heritability of tonic irritability (54%) was slightly lower than that of frequent and intense temper (components of phasic irritability; 61% and 63%, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: Compared to tonic irritability, phasic irritability appears to be slightly more stable and heritable, as well as a stronger indicator of the latent factor. Furthermore, environmental experiences appear to play a substantial role in the development of irritability and DMDD, and researchers should seek to elucidate these mechanisms in future work.

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Moore, A. A., Lapato, D. M., Brotman, M. A., Leibenluft, E., Aggen, S. H., Hettema, J. M., ... Roberson‐Nay, R.

citation count

  • 1

publication date

  • April 2019