The intergenerational transmission of conduct problems
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Drawing on prospective longitudinal data, this paper examines the intergenerational transmission of childhood conduct problems in a sample of 209 parents and their 331 biological offspring studied as part of the Christchurch Health and Developmental Study. The aims were to estimate the association between parental and offspring conduct problems and to examine the extent to which this association could be explained by (a) confounding social/family factors from the parent’s childhood and (b) intervening factors reflecting parental behaviours and family functioning.
The same item set was used to assess childhood conduct problems in parents and offspring. Two approaches to data analysis (generalised estimating equation regression methods and latent variable structural equation modelling) were used to examine possible explanations of the intergenerational continuity in behaviour.
Regression analysis suggested that there was moderate intergenerational continuity (r = 0.23, p < 0.001) between parental and offspring conduct problems. This continuity was not explained by confounding factors but was partially mediated by parenting behaviours, particularly parental over-reactivity. Latent variable modelling designed to take account of non-observed common genetic and environmental factors underlying the continuities in problem behaviours across generations also suggested that parenting behaviour played a role in mediating the intergenerational transmission of conduct problems.
There is clear evidence of intergenerational continuity in conduct problems. In part this association reflects a causal chain process in which parental conduct problems are associated (directly or indirectly) with impaired parenting behaviours that in turn influence risks of conduct problems in offspring.
KeywordsConduct problems Intergenerational transmission Longitudinal studies Parenting
This research has been funded by grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the National Child Health Research Foundation, the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation and the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board.
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