Abstract: Re-Examining the Association Between Marital Quality and Parent-Child Interactions: Incorporating Genetic Influences (Society for Prevention Research 24th Annual Meeting)

276 Re-Examining the Association Between Marital Quality and Parent-Child Interactions: Incorporating Genetic Influences

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Amanda M. Ramos, BA, Student, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA
Jenae M. Neiderhiser, PhD, Research Professor of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Daniel S. Shaw, PhD, Professor and Chair, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
David Reiss, MD, Clinical Professor, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Misaki Natsuaki, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of California, Riverside, Riverside, CA
Gordon T. Harold, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom
Leslie Leve, PhD, Associate Director of the Prevention Science Institute; Professor of Counseling Psychology and Human Services, Prevention Science Institute, Eugene, OR
During early childhood, parent-child interactions have been shown to be associated with the quality of the marital relationship. These associations are likely due to spillover, when the quality of one family relationship affects the quality of a different family relationship, or compensation, when a parent buffers the child from negative marital quality. Most studies assume that this association is environmental; however, genetically-informed designs have found that there are genetic influences on marital quality and parent-child interactions.  To better understand how family relationships work together, we should consider how genetically influenced characteristics of family members may influence relationships in the family. The current report examines genetic and environmental influences and child effects on parent-child relationships at age 6.  

Using data from the Early Growth and Development Study, a parent-offspring adoption sample (N= 361), we examined how birth mother (BM) temperament, adoptive parent (AP) temperament,  AP marital quality, and adopted child (AC) temperament were associated with negative and positive parent-child interactions at age 6. BM and AP temperament were assessed using self-reports on the Adult Temperament Questionnaire and AP marital quality was assessed using self-reports of hostility and warmth and globally coded observations.  AC temperament was assessed with parent report using the Child Behavior Questionnaire. Finally, parent-child interaction was assessed using microsocial coding of an observed parent-child teaching task.

Preliminary findings indicate that for adoptive mothers there was spillover between marital quality and coercive mother-child interactions (r = .15, p < .01). Adoptive mother’s negative marital quality was also inversely associated with positive father-child interaction (r = -.17, p <.01). For adoptive fathers, reports of negative marital quality were associated with more coercive mother-child interactions. Finally, we found that BM negative affect was positively associated with positive AP marital quality (r = .19, p <.01) and BM effortful control was negatively associated with positive AP marital quality (r = -.15, p <.01), which suggests a child-based genetic influence on AP marital quality. There was not an association between BM temperament and parent-child interactions (r = -.13 - .10, ns).

Additional analyses will examine whether BP temperamental effects on family relationships are buffered by AP temperament (gene x environment interaction) and whether AC temperament moderates the association between marital quality and parent-child interaction. The results suggest that preventions could target behaviors to improve the quality of parent-child interactions by focusing on factors like marital quality and temperament as a potential mechanism.