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J Fam Psychol. 2011 Apr;25(2):282-91. doi: 10.1037/a0022886.

Longitudinal pathways from marital hostility to child anger during toddlerhood: genetic susceptibility and indirect effects via harsh parenting.

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Oregon Social Learning Center, 10 Shelton McMurphey Boulevard, Eugene, OR 97401, USA.


We examined direct and indirect pathways from marital hostility to toddler anger/frustration via harsh parenting and parental depressive symptoms, with an additional focus on the moderating role of genetic influences as inferred from birth parent anger/frustration. Participants were 361 linked triads of birth mothers, adoptive parents, and adopted children who were 9 (T1) and 18 (T2) months old across the study period. Results indicated an indirect effect from T1 marital hostility to T2 toddler anger/frustration via T2 parental harsh discipline. Results also indicated that the association between marital hostility and toddler anger was moderated by birth mother anger/frustration. For children whose birth mothers reported high levels of anger/frustration, adoptive parents' marital hostility at T1 predicted toddler anger/frustration at T2. This relation did not hold for children whose birth mothers reported low levels of anger/frustration. The results suggest that children whose birth mothers report elevated frustration might inherit an emotional lability that makes them more sensitive to the effects of marital hostility.

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