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Parental criticism and adolescent internalising symptoms: Using a Children-of-Twins design with power calculations to account for genetic influence

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Yasmin Ahmadzadeh, Thalia Eley, Laurie Hannigan, Cathy Creswell, Paul Lichtenstein, Erica L Spotts, Jody Ganiban, Jenae M. Neiderhiser, Fruhling Rijsdijk, Tom A. McAdams

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Accepted/In press11 May 2021
Published10 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This work was supported by a Leverhulme Trust grant awarded to T.E. (RPG‐210). T.E. is part‐funded by a program grant from the UK MRC (MR/V012878/1); NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust; and King’s College London. T.M. and Y.A. were supported by a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society (107706/Z/15/Z) and a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship (220382/Z/20/Z), both awarded to T.M. The TOSS was supported by grant R01MH54610 from NIMH (Cohort 1 PI: DR; Cohort 2 PI: JN). The TCHAD was funded by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (2004‐0383) and Swedish Research Council (2004‐1415). The authors have declared that they have no competing or potential conflicts of interest. Key points Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Authors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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    Uploaded date:16 Aug 2021

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King's Authors


Parental criticism is correlated with internalising symptoms in adolescent offspring. This correlation could in part reflect their genetic relatedness, if the same genes influence behaviours in both parents and offspring. We use a Children-of-Twins design to assess whether parent-reported criticism and offspring internalising symptoms remain associated after controlling for shared genes. To aid interpretation of our results and those of previous Children-of-Twins studies, we examine statistical power for the detection of genetic effects and explore the direction of possible causal effects between generations.
Data were drawn from two Swedish twin samples, comprising 876 adult twin pairs with adolescent offspring and 1,030 adolescent twin pairs with parents. Parent reports of criticism towards their offspring were collected concurrently with parent and offspring reports of adolescent internalising symptoms. Children-of-Twins structural equation models were used to control for genetic influence on the intergenerational association between parental criticism and adolescent internalising.
Parental criticism was associated with adolescent internalising symptoms after controlling for genetic influence. No significant role was found for shared genes influencing phenotypes in both generations, although power analyses suggested that some genetic effects may have gone undetected. Models could not distinguish directionality for nongenetic, causal effects between generations.
Parental criticism may be involved in psychosocial family processes in the context of adolescent internalising. Future studies should seek to identify these processes and provide clarity on the direction of potential causal effects.

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