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Early inherited risk for anxiety moderates the association between fathers’ child-centered parenting and early social inhibition

  • R. J. Brooker (a1), K. M. Alto (a2), K. Marceau (a3), R. Najjar (a1), L. D. Leve (a4), J. M. Ganiban (a5), D. S. Shaw (a6), D. Reiss (a7) and J. M. Neiderhiser (a8)...
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.

Abstract

Studies of the role of the early environment in shaping children’s risk for anxiety problems have produced mixed results. It is possible that inconsistencies in previous findings result from a lack of consideration of a putative role for inherited influences moderators on the impact of early experiences. Early inherited influences not only contribute to vulnerabilities for anxiety problems throughout the lifespan, but can also modulate the ways that the early environment impacts child outcomes. In the current study, we tested the effects of child-centered parenting behaviors on putative anxiety risk in young children who differed in levels of inherited vulnerability. We tested this using a parent–offspring adoption design and a sample in which risk for anxiety problems and parenting behaviors were assessed in both mothers and fathers. Inherited influences on anxiety problems were assessed as anxiety symptoms in biological parents. Child-centered parenting was observed in adoptive mothers and fathers when children were 9 months old. Social inhibition, an early temperament marker of anxiety risk, was observed at child ages 9 and 18 months. Inherited influences on anxiety problems moderated the link between paternal child-centered parenting during infancy and social inhibition in toddlerhood. For children whose birth parents reported high levels of anxiety symptoms, greater child-centered parenting in adoptive fathers was related to greater social inhibition 9 months later. For children whose birth parents reported low levels of anxiety symptoms, greater child-centered parenting in adoptive fathers was related to less social inhibition across the same period.

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Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: R. J. Brooker, Department of Psychology, Montana State University, PO Box 173440, Bozeman, MT 59718, USA. (Email rebecca.brooker@montana.edu)

References

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