Multivariate Analysis of Genetic and Environmental Influences on Parenting in Adolescence

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Adolescents whose parents are affectionate, maintain consistent rules, and are knowledgeable about their whereabouts tend to exhibit more adaptive levels of psychological functioning across multiple domains. Behavioral genetic research has documented the sensitivity of parenting to genetically influenced child characteristics and behaviors. Yet, the question of whether the correlations between parenting behaviors are driven by overlapping parent effects, overlapping child effects, or some combination of the two remains open. In a sample of N = 542 twins, ages 13.6 to 20.1 years, from the Texas Twin Project, we evaluated the extent to which adolescents’ genetically influenced traits broadly affect multiple dimensions of parenting (maternal and paternal warmth and control, and parental monitoring). We found that shared environmental factors primarily accounted for the covariation among parental warmth, control, and monitoring. Child-driven genetic effects were primarily detected in parenting variance unique to fathers. These results indicate that adolescents’ family-wide environmental contexts are general across multiple domains of parenting, whereas genetically influenced adolescent-driven effects are specific to particular aspects of parenting and to particular relationships.

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