The impact of childhood parental loss on risk for mood, anxiety and substance use disorders in a population-based sample of male twins. Academic Article uri icon


  • Previous studies have identified the relationship between parental loss and psychopathology later in life. However, this relationship varied depending on the kind of loss, the parent involved, and the type of psychopathology. In the present study, we examined the association between parental loss (any loss, death, and separation) during childhood and lifetime risk for seven common psychiatric and substance use disorders in a sample of 2605 male twins from the Virginia population-based twin registry. Using structural equation modeling (SEM), we also examined the extent to which the influence of parental loss contributes to adult psychopathology. Parental separation was associated with a wide range of adult psychopathology, whereas parental death was specifically associated with phobia and alcohol dependence. Maternal and paternal separations were almost equally associated with most forms of psychopathology. SEM suggested that parental loss accounted for about 10% of the variance of adult psychopathology, of which parental separation had the strongest impacts on risk for depression and drug abuse/dependence (11% of the total variance). Our findings suggest that early parental separation has stronger and wider effects on adult psychopathology than parental death.

published proceedings

  • Psychiatry Res

altmetric score

  • 43.78

author list (cited authors)

  • Otowa, T., York, T. P., Gardner, C. O., Kendler, K. S., & Hettema, J. M.

citation count

  • 42

complete list of authors

  • Otowa, Takeshi||York, Timothy P||Gardner, Charles O||Kendler, Kenneth S||Hettema, John M

publication date

  • December 2014