Illuminating the origins of the intergenerational transmission of psychopathology with a novel genetically informed design

S. Alexandra Burt, D. Angus Clark, Jenae M. Neiderhiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Although it is well known that parental depression is transmitted within families across generations, the etiology of this transmission remains unclear. Our goal was to develop a novel study design capable of explicitly examining the etiologic sources of intergenerational transmission. We specifically leveraged naturally-occurring variations in genetic relatedness between parents and their adolescent children in the 720 families participating in the Nonshared Environment in Adolescent Development (NEAD) study, 58.5% of which included a rearing stepparent (nearly always a stepfather). Results pointed squarely to the environmental transmission of psychopathology between fathers and children. Paternal depression was associated with adolescent depression and adolescent behavior problems (i.e., antisocial behavior, headstrong behavior, and attention problems) regardless of whether or not fathers and their children were genetically related. Moreover, these associations persisted to a subset of blended families in which the father was biologically related to one participating child but not to the other, and appeared to be mediated via father-child conflict. Such findings are not only fully consistent with the environmental transmission of psychopathology across generations, but also add to extant evidence that parent-child conflict is a robust and at least partially environmental predictor of adolescent psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1756-1766
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 30 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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