ECRP05: Family and genetic influences on children's psychological development

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Psychology


Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.


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Leve LD (2018) Naturalistic Experimental Designs as Tools for Understanding the Role of Genes and the Environment in Prevention Research. in Prevention science : the official journal of the Society for Prevention Research

Description This project investigated the interplay between genetic susceptibility factors and negative family experiences in accounting for children's symptoms of psychopathology (depression, anti-social behaviour, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Molecular genetic and questionnaire data were collected from an existing twin sample and other data sets were used to examine the effects of negative family experiences (inter-parental conflict, negative parenting experiences and maternal depression) and genetic contributions to children's symptoms of depression, antisocial behaviour and ADHD.
Building on evidence highlighting the importance of children's attributions in explaining (mediating) family stress effects on development, the study also examined the link between children's attributions of threat and self-blame stemming from parents' interparental conflict, harsh parenting and children's symptoms of psychopathology.
The effects of inter-parental conflict were mediated by parent-child hostility for child depression and antisocial behaviour. Children's threat attributions mediated associations between inter-parental conflict and child depression whereas self-blaming attributions mediated links between inter-parental conflict and child antisocial behaviour. Associations between parent hostility and child psychopathology were explained by environmental pathways for depression (in girls) and antisocial behaviour but not for ADHD. The link between maternal depression and child depression was also explained by environmental pathways, especially in girls. This suggests that negative family experiences have risk effects on child psychopathology even when inherited factors are taken into account but that effects vary for different types of child symptoms and by gender. Effects of inter-parental conflict, hostile parenting, and children's attributions of threat and self-blame and maternal depression were not moderated by specific gene variants.
Exploitation Route The present project adds to an emerging body of evidence highlighting the significance of family environmental influences on children's psychological development. Findings varied depending on parent and child gender and according to type of psychopathology which needs to be considered in practice. By highlighting mechanisms, such as attribution and/or parenting based processes, intervention programmes may be developed that target risk mechanisms. By employing genetically sensitive designs, greater confidence may be directed toward identifying environmental mechanisms that explain individual differences in children's adaptation to harsh family experiences. Findings from this project contribute directly to intervention-focused initiatives aimed at developing programmes targeting children living with high levels of inter-parental conflict. Practical applications of this research may be employed by practitioners, policy makers and researchers in the areas of social work, family law, child and adolescent psychology and psychiatry, and education.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Healthcare,Other

Description findings from this research have been employed by government agencies (e.g. CAFCASS Cymru) and child and family support based charities (e.g. Barnardos) specifically in relation to assessing and remediating the adverse effects of interparental conflicts and negative parenting practices on children's emotional and behavioural development. Work in this area is ongoing but has been directly facilitated by findings from this research project.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other
Impact Types Societal

Description How inter-parental conflict affects children : theory, research and practice implications 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact Address at Tavistock Centre for couple relationships, London, September 2009

not known
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
Description The nature of nurture : utilizing genetically sensitive research designs to inform family focused practices and policies 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Keynote address 'Gene environment research initiative symposium' Pennsylvania State University, November 2010

not known
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
Description When moms get depressed part two : the environmental influence on kids 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Magazine article published online in 'Red Hot Parenting' magazine commenting on the paper entitled: Investigating environmental links between parent depression and child depressive/anxiety symptoms using an assisted conception design

not known
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011