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BACKGROUND: Behavioural phenotypes associated with genetic syndromes have been extensively investigated in order to generate rich descriptions of phenomenology, determine the degree of specificity of behaviours for a particular syndrome, and examine potential interactions between genetic predispositions for behaviour and environmental influences. However, relationships between different aspects of behavioural phenotypes have been less frequently researched and although recent interest in potential cognitive phenotypes or endophenotypes has increased, these are frequently studied independently of the behavioural phenotypes. METHOD: Taking Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) as an example, we discuss evidence suggesting specific relationships between apparently distinct aspects of the PWS behavioural phenotype and relate these to specific endophenotypic characteristics. RESULTS: The framework we describe progresses through biological, cognitive, physiological and behavioural levels to develop a pathway from genetic characteristics to behaviour with scope for interaction with the environment at any stage. CONCLUSIONS: We propose this multilevel approach as useful in setting out hypotheses in order to structure research that can more rapidly advance theory.

Original publication




Journal article


J Intellect Disabil Res

Publication Date





493 - 500


Adolescent, Arousal, Brain, Child, Child Behavior Disorders, Child, Preschool, Chromosome Aberrations, Chromosome Deletion, Chromosome Mapping, Chromosomes, Human, Pair 15, Cognition Disorders, Emotions, Female, Fragile X Syndrome, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Genomic Imprinting, Genotype, Humans, Individuality, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Intelligence, Male, Phenotype, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Social Environment, Stereotyped Behavior, Uniparental Disomy