Development and Psychopathology

Regular Articles

Negative emotionality and externalizing problems in toddlerhood: Overreactive parenting as a moderator of genetic influences

Shannon T. Lipscomba1 c1, Leslie D. Levea2, Daniel S. Shawa3, Jenae M. Neiderhisera4, Laura V. Scaramellaa5, Xiaojia Gea6, Rand D. Congera7, John B. Reida2 and David Reissa8

a1 Oregon State University

a2 Oregon Social Learning Center

a3 University of Pittsburgh

a4 Pennsylvania State University

a5 University of New Orleans

a6 University of Minnesota

a7 University of California, Davis

a8 Yale Child Study Center


The current study examines the interplay between parental overreactivity and children's genetic backgrounds as inferred from birth parent characteristics on the development of negative emotionality during infancy, and in turn, to individual differences in externalizing problems in toddlerhood. The sample included 361 families linked through adoption (birth parents and adoptive families). Data were collected when the children were 9, 18, and 27 months old. Results indicated links between individual levels and changes in negative emotionality during infancy and toddlerhood to externalizing problems early in the third year of life. Findings also revealed an interaction between birth mother negative affect and adoptive mother overreactive parenting on children's negative emotionality. This Genotype × Environment interaction predicted externalizing problems indirectly through its association with negative emotionality and revealed stronger effects of genetic risk for children with less overreactive parenting from their mothers. Limitations of this study and directions for future research are discussed.

(Online publication January 31 2012)


This project was supported by Grant R01 HD042608 from NICHD, NIDA, and the Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH), US Public Health Service (PHS; Years 1–5: David Reiss, Principal Investigator [PI]; Years 6–10: Leslie Leve, PI). The writing of this manuscript was partially supported by Grants R01 DA020585 (Jenae Neiderhiser, PI), R01 DA024672 (Leslie Leve, PI), and P30 DA023920 (John Reid, PI) from NIDA, NIH, US PHS. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development or the NIH. The contributions of the late Remi Cadoret, Beverly Fagot, and Xiaojia Ge to this work and the ongoing study are immeasurable.