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Understanding Mechanisms of Genetic Risk for Adolescent Internalizing and Externalizing Problems: The Mediating Role of Parenting and Personality

  • Jinni Su (a1), Sally I-Chun Kuo (a1), Kathleen K. Bucholz (a2), Howard J. Edenberg (a3), John R. Kramer (a4), Marc Schuckit (a5) and Danielle M. Dick (a1) (a6)...


Genetic predispositions play an important role in the development of internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Understanding the mechanisms through which genetic risk unfolds to influence these developmental outcomes is critical for developing prevention and intervention efforts, capturing key elements of Irv's research agenda and scientific legacy. In this study, we examined the role of parenting and personality in mediating the effect of genetic risk on adolescents’ major depressive disorder and conduct disorder symptoms. Longitudinal data were drawn from a sample of 709 European American adolescents and their mothers from the Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism. Results from multivariate path analysis indicated that adolescents’ depressive symptoms genome-wide polygenic scores (DS_GPS) predicted lower parental knowledge, which in turn was associated with more subsequent major depressive disorder and conduct disorder symptoms. Adolescents’ DS_GPS also had indirect effects on these outcomes via personality, with a mediating effect via agreeableness but not via other dimensions of personality. Findings revealed that the pattern of associations was similar across adolescent gender. Our findings emphasize the important role of evocative gene–environment correlation processes and intermediate phenotypes in the pathways of risk from genetic predispositions to complex adolescent outcomes.

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Corresponding author

address for correspondence: Jinni Su, PhD, Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, 23284 VA, USA. E-mail:


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