The pernicious role of stress on intergenerational continuity of psychopathology

Leslie D. Leve, Veronica Oro, Misaki N. Natsuaki, Gordon T. Harold, Jenae M. Neiderhiser, Jody M. Ganiban, Daniel S. Shaw, David S. Degarmo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Development and Psychopathology has been a premier resource for understanding stressful childhood experiences and the intergenerational continuity of psychopathology. Building on that tradition, we examined the unique and joint influences of maternal stress on children's effortful control (age 7) and externalizing behavior (age 11) as transmitted via genetics, the prenatal environment, and the postnatal environment. The sample included N = 561 adopted children and their biological and adoptive parents. Path models identified a direct effect of biological mother life stress on children's effortful control (β = -.08) and an indirect effect of her life stress on child externalizing behavior via effortful control (β =.52), but no main or indirect effects of biological parent psychopathology, prenatal stress, or adoptive mother adverse childhood experiences (ACES). Adoptive mother ACES amplified the association between biological mother life stress and child effortful control (β = -.08), externalizing behavior (β = 1.41), and the indirect effect via effortful control, strengthening associations when adoptive mothers reported average or high ACES during their own childhoods. Results suggest that novel study designs are needed to enhance the understanding of how life stress gets "under the skin"to affect psychopathology in the offspring of adults who have experienced stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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