The intergenerational transmission of externalizing behaviors in adult participants: the mediating role of childhood abuse.

Research paper by Edelyn E Verona, Natalie N Sachs-Ericsson

Indexed on: 06 Jan '06Published on: 06 Jan '06Published in: Journal of consulting and clinical psychology


Childhood abuse was investigated as a potential mediator of the intergenerational transmission of externalizing behaviors (EXT) in adulthood among a large general population sample drawn from the National Comorbidity Survey. Community participants (N = 5,424) underwent diagnostic and psychosocial interviews and reported on their own adult symptoms of antisocial behavior and substance dependence, parental symptoms, and childhood abuse history. Multiple group structural equation modeling revealed that (a) EXT in parents was associated with childhood abuse in offspring, particularly among mother- daughter dyads, (b) abuse had a unique influence on adult EXT in offspring above parental EXT, and (c) abuse accounted for the relationship between parental EXT and offspring EXT in female but not male participants. This article emphasizes the importance of examining different environmental processes which may explain familial transmission of destructive behaviors in men and women and highlights the importance of family interventions that target parental symptoms to ameliorate risk to offspring.