A Genetically Informed Study of Associations Between Family Functioning and Child Psychosocial Adjustment

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.
Developmental Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.21). 12/2010; 47(3):707-25. DOI: 10.1037/a0021362
Source: PubMed


Research has documented associations between family functioning and offspring psychosocial adjustment, but questions remain regarding whether these associations are partly due to confounding genetic factors and other environmental factors. The current study used a genetically informed approach, the Children of Twins design, to explore the associations between family functioning (family conflict, marital quality, and agreement about parenting) and offspring psychopathology. Participants were 867 twin pairs (388 monozygotic; 479 dizygotic) from the Twin and Offspring Study in Sweden, their spouses, and children (51.7% female; M = 15.75 years). The results suggested associations between exposure to family conflict (assessed by the mother, father, and child) and child adjustment were independent of genetic factors and other environmental factors. However, when family conflict was assessed using only children's reports, the results indicated that genetic factors also influenced these associations. In addition, the analyses indicated that exposure to low marital quality and agreement about parenting was associated with children's internalizing and externalizing problems and that genetic factors also contributed to the associations of marital quality and agreement about parenting with offspring externalizing problems.

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    • "The parent–child relationship is at least bi-directional, as marital quality can also buffer interactions between a specific parent and child (Schermerhorn et al., 2011). However, as a starting point, getting criteria for a Parent–Child Relational Problem (PCRP) is important, as difficulties in this relationship can cause either of the dyad to become symptomatic to the point of developing an individual psychiatric diagnosis. "
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    • "Methods have also been developed to examine experiences shared by siblings. Samples of children of twins and children of siblings have been used to study the relationship between children's psychological adjustment and parental marital instability (e.g., D'Onofrio et al., 2005), marital conflict (Harden et al., 2007), psychopathology (e.g., Singh et al., 2011; Slutske et al., 2008), family functioning (Schermerhorn et al., 2011), and family structure (e.g., Mendle et al., 2009). These are but a few examples of contributions behavior genetic research has made to the field of family psychology, and we encourage researchers to turn their ttention to genetically informed research as a quasi-experimental tool in the correlational study of families. "
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    ABSTRACT: Married adults show better psychological adjustment and physical health than their separated/divorced or never-married counterparts. However, this apparent "marriage benefit" may be due to social selection, social causation, or both processes. Genetically informed research designs offer critical advantages for helping to disentangle selection from causation by controlling for measured and unmeasured genetic and shared environmental selection. Using young-adult twin and sibling pairs from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Harris, 2009), we conducted genetically informed analyses of the association between entry into marriage, cohabitation, or singlehood and multiple indices of psychological and physical health. The relation between physical health and marriage was completely explained by nonrandom selection. For internalizing behaviors, selection did not fully explain the benefits of marriage or cohabitation relative to being single, whereas for externalizing symptoms, marriage predicted benefits over cohabitation. The genetically informed approach provides perhaps the strongest nonexperimental evidence that these observed effects are causal. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
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    • "In absence of specific information on the reasons for discrepancy between mother-and child-reports, we consider this a sensible approach. Moreover, relying exclusively on children's evaluation of family conflict has been shown to increase the confounding effect of genetic factors (Schermerhorn et al., 2011). Before computing composite measures, we imputed missing cases with stochastic regression in SPSS; random error was modeled with regression residuals (see Allison, 2002). "
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