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Interparental conflict, parent psychopathology, hostile parenting, and child antisocial behavior: Examining the role of maternal versus paternal influences using a novel genetically sensitive research design

  • Gordon T. Harold (a1), Kit K. Elam (a1), Gemma Lewis (a2), Frances Rice (a3) and Anita Thapar (a2)...


Past research has linked interparental conflict, parent psychopathology, hostile parenting, and externalizing behavior problems in childhood. However, few studies have examined these relationships while simultaneously allowing the contribution of common genetic factors underlying associations between family- and parent-level variables on child psychopathology to be controlled. Using the attributes of a genetically sensitive in vitro fertilization research design, the present study examined associations among interparental conflict, parents' antisocial behavior problems, parents' anxiety symptoms, and hostile parenting on children's antisocial behavior problems among genetically related and genetically unrelated mother–child and father–child groupings. Path analyses revealed that for genetically related mothers, interparental conflict and maternal antisocial behavior indirectly influenced child antisocial behavior through mother-to-child hostility. For genetically unrelated mothers, effects were apparent only for maternal antisocial behavior on child antisocial behavior through mother-to-child hostility. For both genetically related and genetically unrelated fathers and children, interparental conflict and paternal antisocial behavior influenced child antisocial behavior through father-to-child hostility. Effects of parental anxiety symptoms on child antisocial behavior were apparent only for genetically related mothers and children. Results are discussed with respect to the relative role of passive genotype–environment correlation as a possible confounding factor underlying family process influences on childhood psychopathology.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Gordon T. Harold, School of Psychology, HWB 0/40b, Henry Wellcome Building, University of Leicester, Lancaster Road, Leicester LE1 9HN, UK; E-mail:


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Interparental conflict, parent psychopathology, hostile parenting, and child antisocial behavior: Examining the role of maternal versus paternal influences using a novel genetically sensitive research design

  • Gordon T. Harold (a1), Kit K. Elam (a1), Gemma Lewis (a2), Frances Rice (a3) and Anita Thapar (a2)...


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