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Child Dev. 2016 Jan-Feb;87(1):98-110. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12485.

Epigenetic Patterns Modulate the Connection Between Developmental Dynamics of Parenting and Offspring Psychosocial Adjustment.

Author information

Yale University.
Vavilov Institute of General Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Saint Petersburg State University.
McGill University.
PACE University.
Saint Petersburg State University.
Arizona State University.
Yale University, Saint Petersburg State University.
Moscow State University for Psychology and Education.


This study attempted to establish and quantify the connections between parenting, offspring psychosocial adjustment, and the epigenome. The participants, 35 African American young adults (19 females and 16 males; age = 17-29.5 years), represented a subsample of a 3-wave longitudinal 15-year study on the developmental trajectories of low-income urban mother-offspring dyads. Mothers were assessed on their perceptions of maternal stress at each wave. Offspring were assessed on their perceptions of maternal parenting at each wave and on their adaptive and maladaptive behavior at the last wave. Genome-wide DNA methylation in peripheral T lymphocytes at the third wave was assayed using Methyl Binding Domain(MBD) sequencing. Statistically significant associations were identified between the change in offspring's perception of parenting from middle childhood to adulthood and the DNA methylation in offspring's adult genomes. Specifically, the slope of perceived parental rejection across the 3 time points was related to an increase in methylation, or a potential downregulation, of 565 genes thought to be involved in the control of a broad spectrum of biological functions generally related to cellular signaling. A subset of these epigenetic marks, clustered in 23 genes, some of which participate in the development and functioning of the CNS, were in turn associated with psychosocial adjustment as captured by interpersonal relationships and emotional self-evaluation. This appears to be one of the first investigations of the modulating role of the methylome in associations between developmental dynamics of parenting throughout the formative years of child and adolescent development and psychosocial adjustment in adulthood.

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