The affected sib/relative pair (ASP/ARP) design is often used with covariates to find genes that can cause a disease in pathways other than through those covariates. However, such "covariates" can themselves have genetic determinants, and the validity of existing methods has so far only been argued under implicit assumptions. We propose an explicit causal formulation of the problem using potential outcomes and principal stratification. The general role of this formulation is to identify and separate the meaning of the different assumptions that can provide valid causal inference in linkage analysis. This separation helps to (a) develop better methods under explicit assumptions, and (b) show the different ways in which these assumptions can fail, which is necessary for developing further specific designs to test these assumptions and confirm or improve the inference. Using this formulation in the specific problem above, we show that, when the "covariate" (e.g., addiction to smoking) also has genetic determinants, then existing methods, including those previously thought as valid, can declare linkage between the disease and marker loci even when no such linkage exists. We also introduce design strategies to address the problem.
Frangakis, Constantine E.; Li, Fan; and Doan, Betty Q., "THE ROLE OF AN EXPLICIT CAUSAL FRAMEWORK IN AFFECTED SIB PAIR DESIGNS WITH COVARIATES " (December 2005). Johns Hopkins University, Dept. of Biostatistics Working Papers. Working Paper 95.