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Dev Psychol. 2014 May;50(5):1543-52. doi: 10.1037/a0035470. Epub 2013 Dec 23.

Adoptive parent hostility and children's peer behavior problems: examining the role of genetically informed child attributes on adoptive parent behavior.

Author information

Department of Psychology, Arizona State University.
Rudd Center for Adoption Research and Practice, School of Psychology, University of Sussex.
Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University.
Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine.
Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh.
Department of Psychology, University of California.
Department of Psychology, University of Leicester.
Prevention Science Institute, University of Oregon.


Socially disruptive behavior during peer interactions in early childhood is detrimental to children's social, emotional, and academic development. Few studies have investigated the developmental underpinnings of children's socially disruptive behavior using genetically sensitive research designs that allow examination of parent-on-child and child-on-parent (evocative genotype-environment correlation [rGE]) effects when examining family process and child outcome associations. Using an adoption-at-birth design, the present study controlled for passive genotype-environment correlation and directly examined evocative rGE while examining the associations between family processes and children's peer behavior. Specifically, the present study examined the evocative effect of genetic influences underlying toddler low social motivation on mother-child and father-child hostility and the subsequent influence of parent hostility on disruptive peer behavior during the preschool period. Participants were 316 linked triads of birth mothers, adoptive parents, and adopted children. Path analysis showed that birth mother low behavioral motivation predicted toddler low social motivation, which predicted both adoptive mother-child and father-child hostility, suggesting the presence of an evocative genotype-environment association. In addition, both mother-child and father-child hostility predicted children's later disruptive peer behavior. Results highlight the importance of considering genetically influenced child attributes on parental hostility that in turn links to later child social behavior. Implications for intervention programs focusing on early family processes and the precursors of disrupted child social development are discussed.

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