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Parenting and adolescents’ psychological adjustment: Longitudinal moderation by adolescents’ genetic sensitivity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 December 2016

Clare M. Stocker*
University of Denver
April S. Masarik
Boise State University
Keith F. Widaman
University of California, Riverside
Ben T. Reeb
University of California, Davis
Jason D. Boardman
University of Colorado
Andrew Smolen
University of Colorado
Tricia K. Neppl
Iowa State University
Katherine J. Conger
University of California, Davis
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Clare Stocker, Department of Psychology, University of Denver, 2155 Race Street, Denver, CO 80208; E-mail:


We examined whether adolescents’ genetic sensitivity, measured by a polygenic index score, moderated the longitudinal associations between parenting and adolescents’ psychological adjustment. The sample included 323 mothers, fathers, and adolescents (177 female, 146 male; Time 1 [T1] average age = 12.61 years, SD = 0.54 years; Time 2 [T2] average age = 13.59 years, SD = 0.59 years). Parents’ warmth and hostility were rated by trained, independent observers using videotapes of family discussions. Adolescents reported their symptoms of anxiety, depressed mood, and hostility at T1 and T2. The results from autoregressive linear regression models showed that adolescents’ genetic sensitivity moderated associations between observations of both mothers’ and fathers’ T1 parenting and adolescents’ T2 composite maladjustment, depression, anxiety, and hostility. Compared to adolescents with low genetic sensitivity, adolescents with high genetic sensitivity had worse adjustment outcomes when parenting was low on warmth and high on hostility. When parenting was characterized by high warmth and low hostility, adolescents with high genetic sensitivity had better adjustment outcomes than their counterparts with low genetic sensitivity. The results support the differential susceptibility model and highlight the complex ways that genes and environment interact to influence development.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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This research is currently supported by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD064687) and from the National Science Foundation (1327768) and a research project award from the California Agricultural Experiment Station (CA-D-HCE-7709-H, to K.J.C.). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding sources. Support for earlier years of the study also came from multiple sources, including the 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.


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