The Limits of Child Effects: Evidence for Genetically Mediated Child Effects on Corporal Punishment but Not on Physical Maltreatment.

Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Developmental Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.21). 11/2004; 40(6):1047-58. DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.40.6.1047
Source: PubMed


Research on child effects has demonstrated that children's difficult and coercive behavior provokes harsh discipline from adults. Using a genetically sensitive design, the authors tested the limits of child effects on adult behavior that ranged from the normative (corporal punishment) to the nonnormative (physical maltreatment). The sample was a 1994-1995 nationally representative birth cohort of 1,116 twins and their families who participated in the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Study. Results showed that environmental factors accounted for most of the variation in corporal punishment and physical maltreatment. However, corporal punishment was genetically mediated in part, and the genetic factors that influenced corporal punishment were largely the same as those that influenced children's antisocial behavior, suggesting a child effect. The authors conclude that risk factors for maltreatment are less likely to reside within the child and more likely to reside in characteristics that differ between families.

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    • "Shared environment accounted for most of the variation in corporal punishment, as well as in and physical maltreatment. However, corporal punishment was partly genetically mediated (which was not the case for physical maltreatment), and the genetic factors that accounted for corporal punishment were largely the same as those that accounted for child antisocial behavior, suggesting " child effects " (Jaffee et al. 2004a). Thus, risk factors for maltreatment are unlikely to reside within the child and more likely to reside in features varying across families; though normative discipline in the form of corporal punishment may partly be a function of child effects or shared genes. "
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    ABSTRACT: Early parenting is rooted in a complex social system where parental characteristics, contextual factors and child characteristics interact over time. A comprehensive study of early parenting should thus consider a variety of factors, including those associated with the infant (so called “child effects”). Understanding such a complex developmental system is a daunting task, and behaviour-genetic studies, because they are designed to test hypotheses regarding gene-environment processes, are very useful in that endeavour. In the past decade, studies using a variety of genetically informative designs, including twin, adoption, step-family and linkage (i.e., molecular) designs, have shed new light on early parenting and the nature of its association with child socio-emotional development. In this chapter, we review this emerging evidence. Specifically, the chapter examines and discusses environmental and genetic influences, as well as their interplay, on infant attachment and various parenting behaviours. Data pointing to “child effects” on parenting behaviours (i.e. gene-environment correlations) are reviewed, as well as evidence of parental influence on child outcomes and its possible mediation through child heritable characteristics. We discuss the significance of these findings for our understanding of the developmental role of early parenting. We conclude with a discussion of methodological concerns, gaps, and future directions regarding behaviour-genetics research in early parenting.
    Gene-Environment Interplay in Interpersonal Relationships Across the Lifespan, Edited by Briana Horwitz, Jenae Neiderhiser, 07/2015: chapter 2: pages 13-55; Springer.
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    • "This tendency is presumably a major source of victim–offender overlap, that is, the well-known tendency for offenders to have higher rates of victimization (e.g., Berg, Stewart, Schreck, & Simons, 2012). It also helps explain why parents are more likely to abuse children who are disobedient than children who are compliant (Jaffee et al., 2004; Reid, Patterson, & Snyder, 2002). Individual differences also affect the response to provocations. "
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    ABSTRACT: The fact that men tend to be more aggressive than women implies that they require less provocation to assault their partners. However, men may require more provocation to overcome normative constraints against harming women. This research examined the implications of these offsetting processes using data from a survey of 13,459 Finnish adolescents in 6th- and 9th-grade classrooms (ages 12–15 years). The youth served as informants regarding their parents' aggressive behavior toward each other. Parents' abusive behavior toward the reporting child was used as an indicator of aggressive tendencies outside the intimate partner relationship. We found the association between child abuse and intimate partner victimization to be stronger among mothers than fathers, which suggests that men require more, not less, provocation to attack their partners. The link between aggression toward partners and abuse of children also was stronger for female offenders. Women's more consistent offending also suggests that aggressive men are inhibited about assaulting their female partners. Overall, findings suggest that inhibitions related to the victim's gender have a stronger effect on heterosexual conflicts than gender differences in the tendency to offend.
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    • "First, in Ge et al.'s (1996) adoption work, birth parent antisocial behaviors (e.g., drug/alcohol use and antisocial personality disorder) were used to characterize children's genetic risk for externalizing problems, in effect restricting the scope of genetic effects to those specifically linked to adult externalizing disorder. Second, twin findings have shown that genetic influences on negative parenting overlap with genetic influences on child externalizing symptoms during adolescence (Narusyte et al., 2008; Neiderhiser, Marceau, & Reiss, 2013; Pike, McGuire, Hetherington, Reiss , & Plomin, 1996) and childhood (Jaffee et al., 2004). In addition, genetic influences on parenting predict children's later behavioral problems, after accounting for variance in children's earlier behavioral problems (Burt, McGue, Krueger , & Iacono, 2005; Larsson et al., 2008; Neiderhiser, Reiss, Hetherington, & Plomin, 1999). "
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    ABSTRACT: Past research has documented pervasive genetic influences on emotional and behavioral disturbance across the life span and on liability to adult psychiatric disorder. Increasingly, interest is turning to mechanisms of gene-environment interplay in attempting to understand the earliest manifestations of genetic risk. We report findings from a prospective adoption study, which aimed to test the role of evocative gene-environment correlation in early development. Included in the study were 561 infants adopted at birth and studied between 9 and 27 months, along with their adoptive parents and birth mothers. Birth mother psychiatric diagnoses and symptoms scales were used as indicators of genetic influence, and multiple self-report measures were used to index adoptive mother parental negativity. We hypothesized that birth mother psychopathology would be associated with greater adoptive parent negativity and that such evocative effects would be amplified under conditions of high adoptive family adversity. The findings suggested that genetic factors associated with birth mother externalizing psychopathology may evoke negative reactions in adoptive mothers in the first year of life, but only when the adoptive family environment is characterized by marital problems. Maternal negativity mediated the effects of genetic risk on child adjustment at 27 months. The results underscore the importance of genetically influenced evocative processes in early development.
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