The Intergenerational Transmission of Externalizing Behavior: the Importance of a Positive Romantic Partner

  • Shinyoung JeonEmail author
  • Tricia K. Neppl


The current study evaluated the influence of a positive romantic partner on the intergenerational transmission of externalizing behavior across generations. The study included 213 generation one (G1) mothers and their adolescent (generation two; G2) who participated from middle adolescence through adulthood, G2’s romantic partner in adulthood, and the third-generation (G3) child between ages 3–5 years. Two steps were used to identify the role of G2’s romantic partner’s positive behavior on the transmission of externalizing behavior from G2 and G3. First, after controlling for G1 harsh parenting and G2 externalizing at Time 1, both G2 externalizing at Time 2 and G2 harsh parenting at Time 3 were associated with G3 externalizing at Time 3. Second, we found both main and interaction effects of G2 partner’s positive behavior with G2 externalizing behavior at Time 2 and G2 harsh parenting at Time 3 on G3 externalizing behavior at Time 3. Results suggest a positive romantic partner may have an important role in disrupting the negative effects of both G2 externalizing behavior and harsh parenting on their G3 child’s externalizing behavior.


Intergenerational transmission Harsh parenting Externalizing behavior Positive romantic partner 



This research is currently supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (AG043599). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies. Support for earlier years of the study also came from multiple sources, including the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD064687), National Institute of Mental Health (MH00567, MH19734, MH43270, MH59355, MH62989, MH48165, MH051361), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA05347), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD027724, HD051746, HD047573), the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health (MCJ-109572), and the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Adolescent Development Among Youth in High-Risk Settings.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board at Iowa State University.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all parent participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Early Childhood Education InstituteUniversity of Oklahoma-TulsaTulsaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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