Quasi-experimental designs in mental health: Findings from two longitudinal twin differences studies

5 December 2017, 12.30 PM - 3 November 2017, 1.30 PM

Dr Jean-Baptiste Pingault

OS6(Seminar Room), Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol, BS8 2BN

Details: Distinguishing causal from spurious risk factors is challenging. When randomised controlled trials are precluded – either unfeasible or unethical – quasi-experimental designs allow us to better approximate causal estimates than correlational designs. We will briefly present the counterfactual framework for causal inference and its implementation in the twin differences design. Evidence from two empirical examples will then demonstrate how the longitudinal twin differences design can shed a new light on early risk factors for mental health. In the first example, recently published in JAMA Psychiatry, we will investigate how childhood exposure to bullying victimisation affects mental health from childhood to adolescence. In the second example, we will investigate the relationship between birth weight and ADHD symptoms from early childhood to adolescence. We will contrast both sets of findings to illustrate: (i) how findings from quasi-experimental designs can differ from classical observational designs; (ii) longitudinal patterns of risk and resilience; (iii) (clinical) implications; (iv) briefly discuss possible mechanisms through an example we recently published on epigenetics and ADHD. 
Biography: Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pingault (www.jeanbaptistepingault.com) is a Lecturer at the Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology (CEPH), University College London (UCL), as well as a visiting researcher at the Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry centre, King’s College London (KCL). He is currently a MQ Transforming Mental Health Fellow. Prior to his arrival in London with a European Marie Curie Fellowship, he has conducted interdisciplinary research in France, Brazil and Canada. His research aims to tracing causal pathways from early risk factors to the development of mental health difficulties throughout the lifespan. To this end, his laboratory studies the influences of genetic and environmental early risk factors (e.g. bullying victimisation, and family adversity) on a variety of mental health outcomes. This works builds on several disciplines including developmental psychopathology, epidemiological psychiatry and behavioural genetics.


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