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.