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Early inherited risk for anxiety moderates the association between fathers’ child-centered parenting and early social inhibition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 August 2016

R. J. Brooker
Montana State University, Department of Psychology, Bozeman, MT, USA
K. M. Alto
University of Akron, Department of Psychology, Akron, OH, USA
K. Marceau
Brown University, Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Providence, RI, USA
R. Najjar
Montana State University, Department of Psychology, Bozeman, MT, USA
L. D. Leve
University of Oregon, Department of Counseling Psychology and Human Services, Eugene, OR, USA
J. M. Ganiban
George Washington University, Department of Psychology, Washington DC, USA
D. S. Shaw
University of Pittsburgh, Department of Psychology, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
D. Reiss
Yale Child Study Center, New Haven, CT, USA
J. M. Neiderhiser
The Pennsylvania State University, Department of Psychology, University Park, PA, USA


Studies of the role of the early environment in shaping children’s risk for anxiety problems have produced mixed results. It is possible that inconsistencies in previous findings result from a lack of consideration of a putative role for inherited influences moderators on the impact of early experiences. Early inherited influences not only contribute to vulnerabilities for anxiety problems throughout the lifespan, but can also modulate the ways that the early environment impacts child outcomes. In the current study, we tested the effects of child-centered parenting behaviors on putative anxiety risk in young children who differed in levels of inherited vulnerability. We tested this using a parent–offspring adoption design and a sample in which risk for anxiety problems and parenting behaviors were assessed in both mothers and fathers. Inherited influences on anxiety problems were assessed as anxiety symptoms in biological parents. Child-centered parenting was observed in adoptive mothers and fathers when children were 9 months old. Social inhibition, an early temperament marker of anxiety risk, was observed at child ages 9 and 18 months. Inherited influences on anxiety problems moderated the link between paternal child-centered parenting during infancy and social inhibition in toddlerhood. For children whose birth parents reported high levels of anxiety symptoms, greater child-centered parenting in adoptive fathers was related to greater social inhibition 9 months later. For children whose birth parents reported low levels of anxiety symptoms, greater child-centered parenting in adoptive fathers was related to less social inhibition across the same period.

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© Cambridge University Press and the International Society for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease 2016 

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