How are parent–child conflict and childhood externalizing symptoms related over time? Results from a genetically informative cross-lagged study

Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, Psychology Building, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.
Development and Psychopathology (Impact Factor: 4.89). 02/2005; 17(1):145-65. DOI: 10.1017/S095457940505008X
Source: PubMed


The present study attempted to determine the direction and etiology of the robust relationship between childhood externalizing (EXT) symptoms and parent-child conflict using a genetically informative longitudinal model and data from the ongoing Minnesota Twin Family Study. Participants consisted of 1,506 same-sex twins assessed at ages 11 and 14, and their parents. The relationship between EXT and parent-child conflict from ages 11 to 14 was examined within a biometrical cross-lagged design. The results revealed three primary findings: first, the stability of conflict and externalizing over time is largely, although not solely, a result of genetic factors. Second, there appears to be a bidirectional relationship between conflict and EXT over time, such that both conflict and EXT at 11 independently predict the other 3 years later. Finally, the results are consistent with the notion that parent-child conflict partially results from parental responses to their child's heritable externalizing behavior, while simultaneously contributing to child externalizing via environmental mechanisms. These results suggest a "downward spiral" of interplay between parent-child conflict and EXT, and offer confirmation of a (partially) environmentally mediated effect of parenting on child behavior.

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Available from: S. Alexandra Burt, Mar 26, 2014
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    • "As children get older, they may become better at masking their psychopathic behaviors; thus, yielding a unique set of results from each informant. The bidirectional effects found in the present study may seem small, but are well in line with what others have reported between antisocial behavior and parenting style (Burt et al., 2005; Larsson et al., 2008). The few previous studies that have investigated parenting style and psychopathic personality have shown that parenting style has an important influence on the development of psychopathic personality, suggesting the importance of parent-driven effects (Gao et al., 2010; Lang et al., 2002; Marshall & Cooke, 1999). "
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies that have explored the relationship between parenting style and children's antisocial behavior have generally found significant bidirectional effects, whereby parenting behaviors influence their child's antisocial outcomes, but a child's behaviors also lead to changes in parenting style. The present study investigated the genetic and environmental underpinnings of the longitudinal relationship between negative parent-to-child affect and psychopathic personality in a sample of 1,562 twins. Using a biometrical cross-lag analysis, bidirectional effects were investigated across two waves of assessment when the twins were ages 9-10 and 14-15, utilizing both caregiver and youth self-reports. Results demonstrated that negative parental affects observed at ages 9-10 influenced the child's later psychopathic personality at ages 14-15, based on both caregiver and youth self-reports. For these 'parent-driven effects', both genetic and non-shared environmental factors were important in the development of later psychopathic personality during adolescence. There were additional 'child-driven effects' such that children's psychopathic personality at ages 9-10 influenced negative parent-to-child affect at ages 14-15, but only within caregiver reports. Thus, children's genetically influenced psychopathic personality seemed to evoke parental negativity at ages 14-15, highlighting the importance of investigating bidirectional effects in parent-child relationships to understand the development of these traits.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2013 · Journal of Criminal Justice
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    • "Research Question 3: How do parental negativity and behavior problems at age 4 influence parental negativity and behavior problems at age 12 (cross-lagged and cross-age stability pathways)? Both phenotypes were moderately stable from ages 4 to 12, and the stability estimates were similar to those reported in previous studies examining similar associations 3 years apart, even though in our study the association was studied 8 years apart (Burt et al., 2005; Larsson et al., 2008; Moberg et al., 2011). The key cross-lag analyses indicate that both child-driven and parent-driven effects independently contribute to the association between parental negativity and behavior problems from ages 4 to 12. Regarding the longitudinal effect size of these effects, behavior problems at age 4 accounted for 1.7% and 2% of parental negativity at age 12 in males and females , respectively (child-driven effects). "
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    ABSTRACT: Little is known about how genetic and environmental factors contribute to the association between parental negativity and behavior problems from early childhood to adolescence. The current study fitted a cross-lagged model in a sample consisting of 4,075 twin pairs to explore (a) the role of genetic and environmental factors in the relationship between parental negativity and behavior problems from age 4 to age 12, (b) whether parent-driven and child-driven processes independently explain the association, and (c) whether there are sex differences in this relationship. Both phenotypes showed substantial genetic influence at both ages. The concurrent overlap between them was mainly accounted for by genetic factors. Causal pathways representing stability of the phenotypes and parent-driven and child-driven effects significantly and independently account for the association. Significant but slight differences were found between males and females for parent-driven effects. These results were highly similar when general cognitive ability was added as a covariate. In summary, the longitudinal association between parental negativity and behavior problems seems to be bidirectional and mainly accounted for by genetic factors. Furthermore, child-driven effects were mainly genetically mediated, and parent-driven effects were a function of both genetic and shared-environmental factors.
    Full-text · Article · May 2013 · Development and Psychopathology
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    • "Influences on the parent–child relationship 419 in decreased estimates for genetic and unique environmental effects and increased estimates for shared environment when compared to estimates based on twin report. Nonetheless, the substantial support for the reliability and predictive utility of adolescent reports on the parent–child relationship (Elkins et al. 1997 ; Metzler et al. 1998 ; Burt et al. 2005) demonstrate the utility of such measures. Second, the present study relied on child reports. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Many psychological traits become increasingly influenced by genetic factors throughout development, including several that might intuitively be seen as purely environmental characteristics. One such trait is the parent-child relationship, which is associated with a variety of socially significant outcomes, including mental health and criminal behavior. Genetic factors have been shown to partially underlie some of these associations, but the changing role of genetic influence over time remains poorly understood. Method: Over 1000 participants in a longitudinal twin study were assessed at three points across adolescence with a self-report measure regarding the levels of warmth and conflict in their relationships with their parents. These reports were analyzed with a biometric growth curve model to identify changes in genetic and environmental influences over time. Results: Genetic influence on the child-reported relationship with parent increased throughout adolescence, while the relationship's quality deteriorated. The increase in genetic influence resulted primarily from a positive association between genetic factors responsible for the initial relationship and those involved in change in the relationship over time. By contrast, environmental factors relating to change were negatively related to those involved in the initial relationship. Conclusions: The increasing genetic influence seems to be due to early genetic influences having greater freedom of expression over time whereas environmental circumstances were decreasingly important to variance in the parent-child relationship. We infer that the parent-child relationship may become increasingly influenced by the particular characteristics of the child (many of which are genetically influenced), gradually displacing the effects of parental or societal ideas of child rearing.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2012 · Psychological Medicine
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