Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1299–1311 | Cite as

The Etiology of the Association Between Child Antisocial Behavior and Maternal Negativity Varies Across Aggressive and Non-Aggressive Rule-Breaking Forms of Antisocial Behavior

  • Ashlea M. Klahr
  • Kelly L. Klump
  • S. Alexandra Burt


There is a robust association between negative parenting and child antisocial behavior problems. However, the etiology of this association remains unclear. Extant literature has reported strikingly different conclusions across studies, with some highlighting genetic mediation and others highlighting environmental mediation. One possible reason for these discrepancies across studies may be the failure to differentiate between aggressive and non-aggressive (rule-breaking) dimensions of childhood antisocial behavior, given their notably different etiologies and developmental trajectories (Burt 2012). The current study sought to examine the phenotypic and etiologic associations of maternal negativity with aggressive and rule-breaking antisocial behavior, respectively. Participants included 824 mothers and their twin children between the ages of 6 and 10. Our results highlighted clear etiologic distinctions in the associations of aggression and rule-breaking with maternal negativity. Aggression was associated with maternal negativity via both genetic and environmental factors, whereas the association between non-aggressive rule-breaking and maternal negativity was entirely environmental in origin. These findings provide additional support for the presence of meaningful distinctions between aggressive and non-aggressive forms of antisocial behavior, and highlight the complex relationship between parenting and child outcome.


Negative parenting Antisocial behavior Aggression Rule-breaking Gene-environment correlation 



This project was supported by R01-MH081813 from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and by R01-HD066040 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), awarded to Drs. Burt and Klump. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIMH, the NICHD, or the National Institutes of Health. The authors thank all participating twins and their families for making this work possible.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashlea M. Klahr
    • 1
  • Kelly L. Klump
    • 1
  • S. Alexandra Burt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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