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

Clare S. Allely, Paul C D Johnson, Helen Marwick, Emma Lidstone, Eva Kočovská, Christine Puckering, Alex McConnachie, Jean Golding, , Christopher Gillberg, , Philip Wilson

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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. © 2013 Allely et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147
JournalBMC Pediatrics
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2013


  • avon longitudinal study of parents and children (ALSPAC)
  • autism
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • disruptive behaviour disorders
  • joint attention behaviours


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