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Influence of parental depressive symptoms on adopted toddler behaviors: An emerging developmental cascade of genetic and environmental effects

  • Caroline K. Pemberton (a1), Jenae M. Neiderhiser (a1), Leslie D. Leve (a2), Misaki N. Natsuaki (a3), Daniel S. Shaw (a4), David Reiss (a5) and Xiaojia Ge (a6)...


This study examined the developmental cascade of both genetic and environmental influences on toddlers' behavior problems through the longitudinal and multigenerational assessment of psychosocial risk. We used data from the Early Growth and Development Study, a prospective adoption study, to test the intergenerational transmission of risk through the assessment of adoptive mother, adoptive father, and biological parent depressive symptoms on toddler behavior problems. Given that depression is often chronic, we control for across-time continuity and find that in addition to associations between adoptive mother depressive symptoms and toddler externalizing problems, adoptive father depressive symptoms when the child is 9 months of age were associated with toddler problems and associated with maternal depressive symptoms. Findings also indicated that a genetic effect may indirectly influence toddler problems through prenatal pregnancy risk. These findings help to describe how multiple generations are linked through genetic (biological parent), timing (developmental age of the child), and contextual (marital partner) pathways.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Caroline K. Pemberton or Jenae M. Neiderhiser, Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, 228 Moore Building, University Park, PA, 16801; E-mail: or


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