About Adoptee Rage

Statistics Identify large populations of Adoptees in prisons, mental hospitals and committed suicide.
Fifty years of scientific studies on child adoption resulting in psychological harm to the child and
poor outcomes for a child's future.
Medical and psychological attempts to heal the broken bonds of adoption, promote reunions of biological parents and adult children. The other half of attempting to repair a severed Identity is counselling therapy to rebuild the self.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Inducement Adopted Child


Inducement, as it applies to relationships, is simply defined. With no words required, one person sets up a situation to make another person feel what the first person feels. All of us do it to a greater or lesser extent. One classic example is when we come home from work after a terrible day. While we may say nothing, our actions cause everyone else in the house to feel as angry or upset as we are. It's a very common human experience and certainly not unique to abandoned children. However, abandoned children are experts at setting up a situation to make someone special feel exactly how that child feels.
There is no question that children in foster care whom we place for adoption are filled with negative feelings—the "baggage" we hear so much about. What is the common experience that all children placed for adoption share? Abandonment, or better stated, perceived abandonment. In truth, there are many birth parents who made plans for their children and perhaps even walked away purposefully to insure that their child would have a better life. Yet, as we have learned directly from adoptees, the sense of having been abandoned is central to adoptees' experience.
Abandonment is the most awful experience that any human being can endure. In fact, there are no words in our language to truly describe it. Then too, think when adopted children are abandoned. Abandonment usually happens pre-verbally, at a very young age—timing that adds to the sense that words cannot even adequately describe an abandoned child's painful feelings.
Adults, however, can pretty easily list some of the emotions that perceived abandonment engenders. How does an abandoned person feel? Isolated, guilty, lost, filled with profound sorrow, enraged, worthless, hopeless, helpless, and most of all, crazy. This, too, we learned from adoptees.
Unfortunately, "crazy" makes a great deal of sense if one defines it as feeling that one's inner self is totally out of sync with the outside world. Think of a child moving to a new home: feeling sorrow when everyone else is happy; feeling anxious when everyone is saying, "Don't worry"; feeling lost when everyone else is saying how lucky she is to be there.
Then add intensity. A child who feels abandoned feels intensely alone, intensely angry, intensely sad, intensely mad, and intensely crazy. Intensity is one of the qualities of all inducement. The other quality is that all of the feelings a child shares in this non-verbal way are negative. Anyone working with adoptive parents has surely heard the parents complaining that they are experiencing intensely negative feelings as a result of what their children are doing. In fact, parents who call an agency, a friend, or a therapist, often use the same words that describe an abandoned child's feelings:
"I feel so hopeless."
"I have never felt such rage before."
"I just feel so sad."
"This child is making me crazy."
That is solid proof of inducement. In short, the difference between general inducement and inducement by adopted children is that the feelings the children induce in their parents are specifically the horrible feelings of abandonment, hidden in the children for long periods of time, until they feel safe enough to communicate them. We have long recognized that foster children keep their most negative feelings buried deep inside. If they were to communicate them to their foster parents in the non-verbal way that children most often communicate, it would create a cataclysmic explosion. The children would be removed from the foster home and probably institutionalized.
We know that foster children, understanding that they don't have a permanent family of their own, have developed a thick skin as part of their coping mechanism for surviving in foster care. To maintain that thick skin, all of those negative feelings must be tucked far below the surface.
When What Looks Bad Is Really Good
What makes a child finally open up and start to communicate those horrible deeply buried feelings? We believe that children open up when they feel safe within a forever family. As a result, a child's communication of deeply buried feelings is absolutely a good thing. Communication is certainly part of healthy family life. It is proof that an adoption is a success and that a child has accepted his adoptive parents as real parents, because it is to his real parents that a child will want to communicate and finally start to get rid of that lifetime of negative feelings.
Yet, how does that success often look? Very bad. How does it feel? Very bad. How does the outside world see a child who is acting out her negative feelings? As an out-of-control child; as a child who doesn't want to live there any more; as a member of a family in bad shape.
To summarize, if communication is good, and if a child communicates by acting out, then what looks bad, and feels bad, is really good. What looks like a failing adoption is really a strong and successful adoption.
What then is the purpose of inducement? Is inducement simply a way for children to communicate how they feel to their parents? Not completely. Like all unconsciously motivated behavior, inducement has more than one purpose. Its biggest purpose is to express the child's cry for help to the parents. The children induce terribly painful feelings in the adults—perhaps only some small fraction of what the children feel—and then they sit back (unconsciously) and watch what the parents do with their feelings. If the adult can't handle such terrible feelings without rejecting the child or doing something else negative, then what chance does the child have to handle those same feelings constructively?
Separating the Inducement Message from Behavior
At those critical moments in a placement, when a child has opened up and begun to heal by communicating some horrible feelings (without even being aware of what is happening) and letting a parent feel them, what is the worst thing a parent can do? The worst thing is to blame the child—even though blaming the child is certainly an understandable and instinctive reaction.
Instead, a parent holding a child accountable for his behavior makes the child feel safe. The child is acting out purposefully. The child is deliberately choosing the way in which he acts out, though he is often unconscious of what really motivates him to act out. The parent who understands there is good communication going on will practically deal with the acting out behavior, and respect the message behind the inducement for its tremendous value.
If, as sometimes happens, the adoptive parent, worker, therapist, school, or Child Protective Services uses the child's acting out (the child's inducement-motivated behavior) to decide that the adoption is a failure, they are doing exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time. Not only are they feeding the confusion and feelings of craziness already within the child, they are breaking up a solid family and interrupting the child's healing process.
We must emphasize two points about inducement. First, for a child to act out sufficiently to communicate negative feelings to adoptive parents, he or she may have to do some pretty terrible things. Children are masters at understanding how to push buttons. One family may react terribly to a child hurting a family pet. Another family may react just as strongly to a child eating leftovers from the refrigerator without saving any for anyone else. Children have a strong unconscious sense of how to engender negative feelings in others.
Second, and usually more surprising to the field, inducement is a dynamic that enters an adoptive family even if that family was a child's foster family for a dozen years. It is only when a child believes that he is finally going to be adopted, and will finally have a real family, that the inducement begins. Most children in foster care won't communicate those feelings, and most foster families are not trained, or warned, that becoming your child's adoptive parent changes the entire dynamic in the home.
Family Focus has placed hundreds of older children and teens who absolutely believed their adoptive parents were going to be there for them forever. Upon adoption, the natural next step for those children who finally felt safe was to start to open up and communicate those feelings. As expected, many of those families experienced sometimes terrible acting out because of the child's need to induce negative feelings in the adoptive parent.
Fortunately, our families are forewarned. They are trained to understand that inducement is a good thing that feels bad, an intensity that is almost shocking in its depth. Those families have lots of negative behavior to cope with, and no easy time. The answer for parents who understand and believe in the concept of inducement, though, is never disruption. They hold on and do what all parents must do.
So, what are adoptive parents supposed to do during the inducement stage? There is no magic answer. However, the knowledge that inducement is healthy communication should take a great deal of weight off parents and stop them from worrying that their adoption is failing.
Beyond that, parents must keep parenting and dealing with their children's negative behaviors as other parents would. Negative behaviors warrant appropriate consequences, and positive behavior must be rewarded. Parents' overall responsibility is always to model appropriate responses to both a child's negative behavior and their own negative feelings. The same holds true for the negative feelings that are induced by the child, and recognized by the parents as such. Parents show children how to deal with anger, for example, or sorrow or disappointment by talking about their feelings, and talking about what they are doing about them. It is part of the lifelong parenting job.
Family Focus presents workshops and talks about inducement to help others comprehend its challenge and value. We strongly believe that the more families and workers understand—and see inducement as a healthy adoption dynamic—the more the adoption field, like the children, will thrive.

Transactional Analysis Adoptee's Incomprehension


Transactional Analysis Adoptee's Inability to Comprehend
Adoptive Parents

transactional analysis

Eric Berne's Transactional Analysis - early TA history and theory

Transactional Analysis is one of the most accessible theories of modern psychology. Transactional Analysis was founded by Eric Berne, and the famous 'parent adult child' theory is still being developed today. Transactional Analysis has wide applications in clinical, therapeutic, organizational and personal development, encompassing communications, management, personality, relationships and behaviour. Whether you're in business, a parent, a social worker or interested in personal development, Eric Berne's Transactional Analysis theories, and those of his followers, will enrich your dealings with people, and your understanding of yourself. This section covers the background to Transactional Analysis, and Transactional Analysis underpinning theory. 

roots of transactional analysis

Throughout history, and from all standpoints: philosophy, medical science, religion; people have believed that each man and woman has a multiple nature.
In the early 20th century, Sigmund Freud first established that the human psyche is multi-faceted, and that each of us has warring factions in our subconscious. Since then, new theories continue to be put forward, all concentrating on the essential conviction that each one of us has parts of our personality which surface and affect our behaviour according to different circumstances.
In 1951 Dr Wilder Penfield began a series of scientific experiments. Penfield proved, using conscious human subjects, by touching a part of the brain (the temporal cortex) with a weak electrical probe, that the brain could be caused to 'play back' certain past experiences, and the feelings associated with them. The patients 'replayed' these events and their feelings despite not normally being able to recall them using their conventional memories.
Penfield's experiments went on over several years, and resulted in wide acceptance of the following conclusions:
  • The human brain acts like a tape recorder, and whilst we may 'forget' experiences, the brain still has them recorded.
  • Along with events the brain also records the associated feelings, and both feelings and events stay locked together.
  • It is possible for a person to exist in two states simultaneously (because patients replaying hidden events and feelings could talk about them objectively at the same time).
  • Hidden experiences when replayed are vivid, and affect how we feel at the time of replaying.
  • There is a certain connection between mind and body, i.e. the link between the biological and the psychological, eg a psychological fear of spiders and a biological feeling of nausea.

early transactional analysis theory and model

In the 1950's Eric Berne began to develop his theories of Transactional Analysis. He said that verbal communication, particularly face to face, is at the centre of human social relationships and psychoanalysis.
His starting-point was that when two people encounter each other, one of them will speak to the other. This he called the Transaction Stimulus. The reaction from the other person he called the Transaction Response.
The person sending the Stimulus is called the Agent. The person who responds is called the Respondent.
Transactional Analysis became the method of examining the transaction wherein: 'I do something to you, and you do something back'.
Berne also said that each person is made up of three alter ego states:




These terms have different definitions than in normal language.


This is our ingrained voice of authority, absorbed conditioning, learning and attitudes from when we were young. We were conditioned by our real parents, teachers, older people, next door neighbours, aunts and uncles, Father Christmas and Jack Frost. Our Parent is made up of a huge number of hidden and overt recorded playbacks. Typically embodied by phrases and attitudes starting with 'how to', 'under no circumstances', 'always' and 'never forget', 'don't lie, cheat, steal', etc, etc. Our parent is formed by external events and influences upon us as we grow through early childhood. We can change it, but this is easier said than done.


Our internal reaction and feelings to external events form the 'Child'. This is the seeing, hearing, feeling, and emotional body of data within each of us. When anger or despair dominates reason, the Child is in control. Like our Parent we can change it, but it is no easier.


Our 'Adult' is our ability to think and determine action for ourselves, based on received data. The adult in us begins to form at around ten months old, and is the means by which we keep our Parent and Child under control. If we are to change our Parent or Child we must do so through our adult.
In other words:
  • Parent is our 'Taught' concept of life
  • Adult is our 'Thought' concept of life
  • Child is our 'Felt' concept of life
When we communicate we are doing so from one of our own alter ego states, our Parent, Adult or Child. Our feelings at the time determine which one we use, and at any time something can trigger a shift from one state to another. When we respond, we are also doing this from one of the three states, and it is in the analysis of these stimuli and responses that the essence of Transactional Analysis lies. See the poem by Philip Larkin about how parental conditioning affects children and their behaviour into adulthood. And for an uplifting antidote see the lovely Thich Nhat Hanh quote. These are all excellent illustrations of the effect and implications of parental conditioning in the context of Transactional Analysis.
At the core of Berne's theory is the rule that effective transactions (ie successful communications) must be complementary. They must go back from the receiving ego state to the sending ego state. For example, if the stimulus is Parent to Child, the response must be Child to Parent, or the transaction is 'crossed', and there will be a problem between sender and receiver.
If a crossed transaction occurs, there is an ineffective communication. Worse still either or both parties will be upset. In order for the relationship to continue smoothly the agent or the respondent must rescue the situation with a complementary transaction.
In serious break-downs, there is no chance of immediately resuming a discussion about the original subject matter. Attention is focused on the relationship. The discussion can only continue constructively when and if the relationship is mended.
Here are some simple clues as to the ego state sending the signal. You will be able to see these clearly in others, and in yourself:


Physical - angry or impatient body-language and expressions, finger-pointing, patronising gestures,
Verbal - always, never, for once and for all, judgmental words, critical words, patronising language, posturing language.
N.B. beware of cultural differences in body-language or emphases that appear 'Parental'.


Physical - emotionally sad expressions, despair, temper tantrums, whining voice, rolling eyes, shrugging shoulders, teasing, delight, laughter, speaking behind hand, raising hand to speak, squirming and giggling.
Verbal - baby talk, I wish, I dunno, I want, I'm gonna, I don't care, oh no, not again, things never go right for me, worst day of my life, bigger, biggest, best, many superlatives, words to impress.


Physical - attentive, interested, straight-forward, tilted head, non-threatening and non-threatened.
Verbal - why, what, how, who, where and when, how much, in what way, comparative expressions, reasoned statements, true, false, probably, possibly, I think, I realise, I see, I believe, in my opinion.

And remember, when you are trying to identify ego states: words are only part of the story.
To analyse a transaction you need to see and feel what is being said as well.
  • Only 7% of meaning is in the words spoken.
  • 38% of meaning is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
  • 55% is in facial expression. (source: Albert Mehrabian)
There is no general rule as to the effectiveness of any ego state in any given situation (some people get results by being dictatorial (Parent to Child), or by having temper tantrums, (Child to Parent), but for a balanced approach to life, Adult to Adult is generally recommended.
Transactional Analysis is effectively a language within a language; a language of true meaning, feeling and motive. It can help you in every situation, firstly through being able to understand more clearly what is going on, and secondly, by virtue of this knowledge, we give ourselves choices of what ego states to adopt, which signals to send, and where to send them. This enables us to make the most of all our communications and therefore create, develop and maintain better relationships.

modern transactional analysis theory

Transactional Analysis is a theory which operates as each of the following:
  • a theory of personality
  • a model of communication
  • a study of repetitive patterns of behaviour
Transactional Analysis developed significantly beyond these Berne's early theories, by Berne himself until his death in 1970, and since then by his followers and many current writers and experts. Transactional Analysis has been explored and enhanced in many different ways by these people, including: Ian Stewart and Vann Joines (their book 'TA Today' is widely regarded as a definitive modern interpretation); John Dusay, Aaron and Jacqui Schiff, Robert and Mary Goulding, Pat Crossman, Taibi Kahler, Abe Wagner, Ken Mellor and Eric Sigmund, Richard Erskine and Marityn Zalcman, Muriel James, Pam Levin, Anita Mountain and Julie Hay (specialists in organizational applications), Susannah Temple, Claude Steiner, Franklin Ernst, S Woollams and M Brown, Fanita English, P Clarkson, M M Holloway, Stephen Karpman and others.
Significantly, the original three Parent Adult Child components were sub-divided to form a new seven element model, principally during the 1980's by Wagner, Joines and Mountain. This established Controlling and Nurturing aspects of the Parent mode, each with positive and negative aspects, and the Adapted and Free aspects of the Child mode, again each with positive an negative aspects, which essentially gives us the model to which most TA practitioners refer today:


Parent is now commonly represented as a circle with four quadrants:
Nurturing - Nurturing (positive) and Spoiling (negative).
Controlling - Structuring (positive) and Critical (negative).


Adult remains as a single entity, representing an 'accounting' function or mode, which can draw on the resources of both Parent and Child.


Child is now commonly represented as circle with four quadrants:
Adapted - Co-operative (positive) and Compliant/Resistant (negative).
Free - Spontaneous (positive) and Immature (negative).

Where previously Transactional Analysis suggested that effective communications were complementary (response echoing the path of the stimulus), and better still complementary adult to adult, the modern interpretation suggests that effective communications and relationships are based on complementary transactions to and from positive quadrants, and also, still, adult to adult. Stimulii and responses can come from any (or some) of these seven ego states, to any or some of the respondent's seven ego states.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Psychosocial Development of Adopted Children


The Psychosocial Development of Adopted Children



 This paper develops the earlier work of the author and his colleagues, with the hindsight of a further twenty years of caring for disturbed adopted children. 
It examines the themes of attachment/detachment, trust/distrust, gratitude, obligation and belonging, major difficulty in identity formation, response to obfuscated adoption motivation and high levels of conditioning and control that are the lot of those adopted children who are fortunate to be brought up in a family where they can remain until at least middle adolescence.
An Eriksonian model is used, and the work of Stierlin is drawn upon in understanding psychosocial separation issues of late adolescence.  The thesis is put forward that adoptive children have more difficult and less culturally supported developmental tasks to achieve than those in a moderately functioning biologically related family.  It puts a plea for more education of adoptive parents in these special difficulties, as they also suffer severely as a result of ignorance of these mostly inevitable processes.

By Jeoffrey A. Rickarby FRANZCP 
Erikson’s model of human development is epigenetic.  This is to say that each stage of psychosocial development is built upon the previous stage or stages of development and their outcome.  For example a child who has a significant sense of basic trust, will seek autonomy and test it behaviorally without readily falling into shame and doubt.  Or obversely a child with  poor resolution of shame and doubt issues will have more trouble developing initiative unclouded by excessive guilt.
These earlier developmental stages form a developmental pattern at the same time as the child’s primary school education is beginning the serious years of acquiring literacy and adapting to the whole theme of continuing education.

In an adoptive family the child has nearly always been told he or she is adopted, often long before the conceptual understanding of the word is within his range.  In an adoptive family with a successful marriage with mutual motivation to adopt -  as well as the capacity to grieve their infertility, and assuming the absence of mental illness including alcoholism, the child has adapted to their new parents’ idiosyncrasies sufficiently to have arrived at this stage of development with their own pattern of function.  Note, that for the purposes of this paper, we are talking about those adoptive families still functioning as a family.

To Erikson, Primary School is the time of development where the maturing nervous system and psyche is being shaped by education, nurture and activities.  He sees the time as one where the development is one of industry and the psychosocial alternative is a feeling of inferiority.

In common speech the issue of these years is, “Am I an okay kid?” 
Not only must he or she be ‘okay’ in parent’s eyes, but now the teachers and peer group are becoming more and more important. 

Working at education and development is always to the standards of the family where they are brought up, and the school chosen.  This is one place where the fit between adoptive parents and child does matter.  Biological parents readily recognize their own behaviors and temperament in their children, which might lead to compassion or even over-reaction at elements of themselves they accept.  Adoptive parents are, with good reason, often bewildered.  The child has different abilities and interests than they had, they seem to relate to other children in a manner that is unfamiliar; their spontaneous reactions to shock or frustration seem strange. At this stage the child is being tested hard by his social field.   When he goes home and relates this, he or she needs every bit of validation by mirroring in hearing, “You’re okay.”, that is available.

It is from being an okay child with a sense of self that the adolescent finds his or her identity.   Identity in our culture is an underrated issue for the reason that those who have an identity arising from a greater family background and strong sense of self take it for granted.  They don’t know what it is like to struggle for an identity.  Those who don’t have one, are depressed, lack direction, are distracted by substance abuse, settle for destructive relationships and stop trying.

In the greater family there is nearly always significant contact with other children, most commonly cousins.  Cousins are a common source of information, some of it wrong or distorted.  The material has its origins in the aunts and uncles’ discussions about the circumstances of the adoption, and snippets of gossip or speculation about the original mother and father of the boy or girl.  A child who is not informed derives information readily from other children; cousins are a frequent source; many crises may occur from wrong information, sometimes far-fetched, and even information that is roughly correct.

For an adoptive child one alternative to this is no information whatsoever, a total wall of silence about his or her origins.  Some adoptive parents provide information that is fed to them by agencies to be used at the appropriate age.  Often this is edited, distorted or simply not factual, even the result of communication mistakes.

Anglo-Saxon and European culture has a background of centuries of successful breeding techniques long before it received help from science or the discipline of genetic research.  Every family has its myths of who took after whom, and what the family was noted for in abilities, character and appearance.  It is hard for an adoptive child to “…know what I am really like.”                             Other difficult notions are there for the child, such as “had to give you up for adoption.”, and “we chose you.”   The culture doesn’t help the adoptive family either, because common culture says, “It will be just as if you had your own children.”  The family are let down by not being supported by the culture in which they are supposed to exist as if adoption had had not occurred..  Confusion and insecurity readily occurs, particularly if one of Erikson’s first three stages has left some mistrust, shame, doubt or guilt as a problem for the child.

 There is insecurity on both sides of the adoption.  The child is insecure in not knowing how strong is this bond from adoptive parents – how committed are they to staying with it. And insecure children, despite their relative health, test out the adults of their family.  Sometimes they do it aggressively, other times by adopting the behaviors of a younger care-eliciting child.  When this goes on and on, and the child’s temperament appears strange and unfamiliar, some adoptive parents are tested too much in the same way as a fostering placement is tested and is unable to go on.  Crisis phenomena occur and the more committed families seek help instead of giving up or blaming the child.

Adoptive parents who are insecure about adoption are outwardly distinct from the secure ones. 

The secure ones know quite a lot about children generally and are interested in what the particular child is like and how they will develop.  If this development requires straight answers or testing their origins, they make that possible without giving prejudicial information.  They are able to let the adoptee differentiate into an adult with adult interests and finally develop a good adult/adult relationship with them.  If they are anxious about reunion, it is that the adoptee won’t suffer a major let down or be rejected.  They are usually interested in the biological family and what they do without deprecation.  It is rare to see a mother and an adoptive mother become good friends, and it can’t come about any other way than with real trust, but I have seen it be ultimately good for the adoptee and his family.

The more insecure the adoptive family, however, the more they are worried that the child will leave them, judge them, and not want to know them, the more they will make up myths or stories to make the child think they are better off with them than they would have been otherwise, and the more there are stories that their mother couldn’t keep them or didn’t want them.  The messages to the adopted child about biological parents may be blatant: such as: “You’d have been starving in a humpy outside some little town.”, or subtle and projective,  “Your ‘birth mother’ seems rather brittle don’t you think?” Insecurity is not all or nothing: there are degrees of insecurity, and varieties - reflective of the adoptive family attitudes and preconceptions.   Unfortunately there is no known way of screening out which adoptive families will be insecure, but there is the opportunity to educate them in the hazards and help them with common insecurities.   It is to be remembered that most of the ones we are discussing are in the middle or top group of adoptive families, and not ones who are drunk, drugged, divided or displaced.  They are essentially people who are trying their best and are deserving of our compassion for their own insecurity and distress.

The adoptee’s insecurity is: Am I a good enough kid and grateful enough for you to see me through my development without wanting to get rid of me? - their attachment is essentially anxious.

The adoptive parent’s insecurity is about, “Did I really do well enough to have justified my having somebody else’s child to rare?  How do I keep the deep down guilt feelings quiet?”  An adoptive parent who has open communication with his or her spouse might be asking, “Did we do well enough…?”, and even that sense of them doing it together is of immense value to the adopted child.
Some adoptive parents want school results and trophies on shelf, and, if they just happen without anxiety and pressure, that is fine.  But the adopted child is left with a burden of feelings of how to come to terms with obligation and expectations of gratitude.  The secure adoptive parent can talk openly about this aspect of adoption and express what they themselves are thankful and joyful about.  The insecure adoptive parents want their due.

One aspect of ‘wanting their due’, is control and maintaining the relationship on their own terms through later life.  Stierlin has studied the ‘mission’ that families give to children and that begins to be acted on in a deeper manner when they are in later adolescence.  In many adoptive families it is to be outstanding in some manner, and generally to give the message of what a great family they were brought up in.  If the pressure behind this is not too great and the means to this is flexible, it is restricting, but not too damaging.  If the pressure is great and the means inflexible, then the child is often under unbearable stress.
To prevent age appropriate separation from the family at the age where their peers are becoming adults is another insecurity issue.  The mechanisms seem to be universal in Western Culture.   To do everything for them so they are dependent for living skills is a simple one, more serious is to undermine their sense of their own capacity to cope with adult life and relationships and live by their own decisions (this is a shame and self-doubt theme) and the third is about the triggering of guilt – guilt themes and guilt games are painful, the response often set up in very early life; and, at a deeper level, linked in the adoptee to his or her fear of abandonment that is easily displaced later onto their mother and how they will feel when they meet her.

As I have pointed out in my earlier writings about the selection of adoptive parents, adoption motivation is very strong.  I have already discussed such motivation factors as mutuality and a genuine interest in children as good outcome factors, and indicated that we are not discussing the family broken up by alcohol, or where a difficult marriage was to be temporarily propped up by the advent of a child.  However it is important to remember that strong motivation themes, which may be very different between the couple and indeed their relatives, is a background to the development of an adopted child.  The grandparent who rejects her adopted grandchild in favour of cousins for example, or the child with one parent who was not ‘the adopter’ in the first place, where the issue might be indifference: what difficulties does this make for a child’s understanding of their place in the world?  I mention these issues here, but they are available in more detail from my earlier writings.

In Erikson’s terms, the stages of industry and identity in psychosocial development are a hard time for the adopted child, and, because they are the foundations for the later stages of intimacy and generativity that lead on to the child accepting themselves and their life, they are pivotal in the making of the person and the family of the future.   While there are even echoes of adoption in society all parties to adoption require our compassion and support.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Adoptive Parent Hostility & Adopted Children's Peer behavior Problems, Examining the role of Adoptive Parent's Behavior Caused By Adoptee's-Genetically-Informed Attributes


Adoptive Parent Hostility and Children’s Peer Behavior Problems: 

"Examining the Role of Genetically-Informed Child    Attributes on Adoptive Parent Behavior"


Socially disruptive behavior during peer interactions in early childhood is detrimental to children’s social, emotional, and academic development. Few studies have investigated the developmental underpinnings of children’s socially disruptive behavior using genetically-sensitive research designs that allow examination of parent-on-child and child-on-parent (evocative genotype-environment correlation) effects when examining family process and child outcome associations. Using an adoption-at-birth design, the present study controlled for passive genotype-environment correlation and directly examined evocative genotype-environment correlation (rGE) while examining the associations between family processes and children’s peer behavior. Specifically, the present study examined the evocative effect of genetic influences underlying toddler low social motivation on mother-child and father-child hostility, and the subsequent influence of parent hostility on disruptive peer behavior during the preschool period. Participants were 316 linked triads of birth mothers, adoptive parents, and adopted children. Path analysis showed that birth mother low behavioral motivation predicted toddler low social motivation, which predicted both adoptive mother-child and father-child hostility, suggesting the presence of an evocative genotype-environment association. In addition, both mother-child and father-child hostility predicted children’s later disruptive peer behavior. Results highlight the importance of considering genetically-influenced child attributes on parental hostility that in turn link to later child social behavior. Implications for intervention programs focusing on early family processes and the precursors of disrupted child social development are discussed.
Disruptive peer behavior is characterized by aggressive, defiant, or antisocial behavior that interferes with peer interactions (McWayne, Sekino, Hampton, & Fantuzzo, 2002). In early childhood (three-to-five year olds), this disruptive behavior occurs primarily in the classroom and during peer play and can negatively impact concurrent and future social, emotional, and academic outcomes (Coolahan, Fantuzzo, Mendez, & McDermott, 2000Crick et al., 2006Hampton & Fantuzzo, 2003). Disruptive peer behavior during early childhood can inhibit the development of social competencies necessary for establishing later relationships with peers (Crick et al., 2006), and has been linked to deficits in early learning and motivation (Coolahan et al., 2000Fantazzo & McWayne, 2002), as well as antisocial and criminal behavior in early adulthood (Vitaro, Barker, Brengden, & Tremblay, 2012).
Parenting practices have a significant and well-established impact on early childhood socialization processes, including children’s peer behavior (Belsky, 1984Ladd, 1999). Positive aspects of parenting such as warmth and supportiveness predict both concurrent and later social competence in children between 3 and 5 years of age (Eiden, Colder, Edwards, & Leonard, 2009Lengua, Honorado, & Bush, 2007). Conversely, negative or hostile parenting can have a detrimental effect on children’s social competence and social interaction skills (Brannigan, Gemmell, Pevalin, & Wade, 2002Carson & Parke, 1996). Consistent with social learning theory (Putallaz & Heflin, 1990), when poor social skills are learned through negative parent-child interactions, they may shape children’s social behavior, negatively affecting their reactions in social situations (Russell, Petit, & Mize, 1998). Additionally, mounting evidence suggests that mothers’ vs. fathers’ negative parenting may have differential influences on child social outcomes, with overt hostility in fathers contributing to disruptive peer behavior (Cabrera & Mitchell, 2009Carson & Parke, 1996Casas et al., 2006Webster-Stratton & Hammond, 1999), and a lack of warmth and support in mothers contributing to less prosocial child behavior (Cabrera, Fagan, Wight, & Schadler, 2011Dumas, LaFreniere, & Serketich, 1995Lengua et al., 2007).
Aspects of toddler temperament, such as low social motivation, have also been associated with concurrent and later disruptive peer behavior (Fantuzzo, Bulotsky-Shearer, Fusco, & McWayne, 2005Zeller, Vannatta, Schafer, & Noll, 2003). Low social motivation is characterized by a preference for solitary play and inattention to social interactions (Asendorpf, 1990Coplan, Prakesh, O’Neil, & Armer, 2004). Additionally, genetic influences have been found for low social motivation (Silberg et al., 2005), and inattention in social situations (e.g., Saudino, 2005Sherman, Iacono, & McGue, 1997), indicating possible parent-to-child transmission. Thus, there is evidence that low social motivation is linked to the development of disruptive peer behavior and that this linkage may be due, in part, to genetic influences inherited from one’s biological parents.
In biologically-related families, associations between parent and child characteristics may be the result of shared environmental influences and/or shared genetic influences. These shared genetic influences may also affect the child’s rearing environment. When there is an association between a person’s genotype and environment, this is referred to as genotype-environment correlation (rGE). Because the majority of studies examining the role of parenting on the development of peer behavior have typically focused on biologically-related families, it is impossible to unambiguously disentangle whether such parent-child associations are due to genetic or environmental influences.
The present study addresses this gap by examining disruptive peer behavior using a sample of children adopted at birth and their adoptive parents and birth mothers. A cascading set of influences will be examined, beginning with (1) the influence of birth mother low behavioral motivation on toddler low social motivation; (2) associations between toddler low social motivation and adoptive mother-child and father-child hostility; and (3) associations between adoptive parenting hostility and subsequent disruptive peer behavior.

Temperamental Factors Associated With Disruptive Peer Behavior

Many child characteristics have been observed as developmental correlates of disruptive peer behavior, including the temperamental traits of social inattention and low motivation to engage in social situations (Bulotsky-Shearer, Fantuzzo, & McDermott, 2010Fantuzzo, Sekino, & Cohen, 2004Mendez, Fantuzzo, & Cicchetti, 2002Olson, Bates, Sandy, & Lanthier, 2000). A growing body of research has examined behavior that is characteristic of low social motivation such as solitary play and socially inattentive behavior in childhood (Asendorpf, 1990Coplan et al., 2004Coplan & Weeks, 2010Rubin & Asendorpf, 1993). Low social motivation-based behavior has been identified as conceptually distinct from shyness (Coplan et al., 2004), and social avoidance (Coplan & Weeks, 2010). Theoretically, this behavioral profile is thought to be underpinned by low social approach motivation, where children lack intrinsic motivation to engage in social activities (Coplan et al., 2004). Additionally, research has shown that there is a significant genetic component to low social motivation in early childhood (Silberg et al., 2005).
A related construct in adults is the biologically-based behavioral approach system (BAS) which is proposed to account for individual differences in behavioral motivation in adults (Carver & White, 1994Corr, 2004Gray & McNaughton, 2000). The BAS is related to incentive and approach behavior such as reward-seeking, impulsivity, and extraversion (Gray & McNaughton, 2000), and has shown to have a significant genetic influence (Takahashi et al., 2007). Individuals with high levels of BAS exhibit greater extraversion and sensitivity to reward, whereas those with low levels of BAS experience low motivation to engage in rewarding situations. BAS scores have been found to be associated with behavioral motivation (Jackson & Smillie, 2004). Low BAS scores have been related to low motivation, and clinically low levels of BAS have been associated with a severe lack of motivation and depression (Takahashi, Ozaki, Roberts, & Ando, 2012). Additionally, low BAS scores are associated with low motivation to engage in social interactions (Kimbrel, Mitchell, & Nelson- Gray, 2010) and inattentive social behavior (Hundt, Kimbrel, Mitchell, & Nelson-Gray, 2008Kimbrel et al., 2010).
Collectively this research indicates that low behavioral approach in adults and children is indicative of low behavioral and social motivation. Given evidence of genetic influences and common theoretical underpinnings for both low behavioral motivation in adults and low social motivation in children, a common genetic influence may be indicated in biologically-related parents and children. Whereas parents may affect child behavior through shared genetic influences, children’s social behavior may also be a product of the family environment via parenting and parental responses to child behavior (Patterson, 1982).

The Influence of Hostile Parenting on Social Behavior

Parenting during early childhood has been shown to have a significant impact on social development such as social competence (Lengua et al., 2007) and cooperation and social engagement (Landry, Smith, Swank, & Guttentag, 2008). Parenting that is harsh, negative, or hostile is particularly detrimental for children’s social outcomes; hostility and unsupportiveness in the parent-child relationship are associated with less social competence and more social aggression in early to middle childhood (Brannigan et al., 2002Carson & Parke, 1996Chang, Schwartz, Dodge, & McBride-Chang, 2003). This is consistent with social learning theory, where children exposed to hostile parent-child exchanges learn maladaptive social responses (Russell et al., 1998). Consequently, children may interpret and respond disruptively in peer contexts based on prior negative experiences with parents.
Previous research on hostile parenting has primarily focused on the mother-child relationship in studying parent-to-child influences. Recent evidence indicates that the father-child relationship also has specific influences on children’s emotional and behavioral development, specifically in relation to hostility in the parent-child relationship (Harold, Elam, Lewis, Rice, & Thapar, 2012Lamb, 2004Stover et al., 2012). For example, harsh and controlling paternal behavior was found to negatively predict child social competence (Cabrera & Mitchell, 2009) and social restraint in the classroom (Feldman & Wentzel, 1990). Fathers’ harsh, negative, and controlling authoritarian parenting has also been associated with poor social development (Kelley et al., 1998) and child relational aggression (Carson & Parke, 1996Casas et al., 2006), leading to subsequent future peer rejection (Crick et al., 2006). Whereas some research has evidenced a link between mother’s controlling behavior and social aggression (Casas et al., 2006), less warmth, sensitivity, and supportive behavior have typically been found to negatively affect child social competence and prosocial behavior (Cabrera et al., 2011Dumas et al., 1995Lengua et al., 2007). Thus, although both mother-child and father-child hostility adversely affect social development in early childhood, fathers’ hostile parenting, in particular, may make stronger contributions to children’s disruptive social behavior.

The Confound of Genotype-Environment Correlation

Low behavioral motivation, low social motivation, and inattention have been shown to be moderately heritable in both adults and children (Goldsmith, Buss, & Lemery, 1997Saviouk et al., 2011Sherman et al., 1997Silberg et al., 2005Takahashi et al., 2007), indicating possible parent-to-child transmission of these characteristics in biologically-related parents and children. Such parent characteristics (i.e., low behavioral motivation) may therefore influence child characteristics (i.e., low social motivation) through shared genetic influences. Additionally, associations between hostile parenting and children’s social behavior may be due to shared genetic influences. It is not possible to unambiguously disentangle whether parent-to-child influences are a result of shared genetic effects (i.e., genotype), postnatal environmental influences (i.e., parenting), or both, in studies of biologically-related families because these effects are confounded (see Harold et al., 2010). As biologically-related parents and children share genes, associations between parent and child traits may also result from this overlap. It is also possible that a child’s genotype may be related to their rearing environment, as studies have found evidence of genetic influences on parenting behaviors (see Horwitz & Neiderhiser, 2011 for a review). When a child’s genotype is systematically related to their environment, this is known as genotype-environment correlation (rGE; Plomin, DeFries, Knopik, & Neiderhiser, 2013Plomin, DeFries, & Loehlin 1977). Two primary types of rGE are described in the literature. First, passive rGE is present when the child’s genes are correlated with their environment. For example, passive rGE occurs when parenting behavior is correlated with the parents’ genes that the child inherits (e.g., temperamentally dysregulated parents may parent more harshly than parents with other temperament profiles). Second, evocative rGE occurs when a child’s genetically-influenced characteristics evoke a systematic response from the environment (e.g., child behavior may evoke more hostile parenting).
Passive and evocative rGE have been highlighted in past research using the twin design (Horwitz & Neiderhiser, 2011), and a variation thereof known as the children-of-twins (CoT) design (D’Onofrio, 2005). Some studies suggest that passive rGE is not an evident component underlying associations between features of the rearing environment (e.g., parenting behavior) and children’s developmental outcomes (Caspi et al., 2004). However, evidence of passive rGE cannot be ruled out in most genetically informed studies, specifically in relation to links between parenting behavior and child adjustment. Examination of evocative rGE has been facilitated by longitudinal designs where genetically-influenced twin behaviors predict later parenting. Using this design, evocative effects have been found between toddlers’ difficult temperament and behavior on mothers’ hostile parenting (Forget-Dubois et al., 2007).
A handful of genetically-informed studies have examined measures of peer relationships. Peer difficulties at ages 5 to 7 were found to be influenced by genetic and nonshared environmental influences (Boivin et al., 2012). This pattern of influences has also been found for peer delinquency (Beaver et al., 2009Bullock, Deater-Deckard, & Leve, 2006Iervolino et al., 2002), and peer interaction (Pike & Atzaba-Poria, 2003) during late childhood and adolescence. The few studies examining peer behavior in early childhood have evidenced genetic influences on prosocial behavior (Knafo & Plomin, 2006) and social competence (Roisman & Fraley, 2012). In general, there is less evidence of shared environmental influences on peer relationships than for parent-child relationships, although both show genetic and nonshared environmental influences.
Given the presence of both genetic and environmental contributions to parenting and peer interactions, as well as to child behavior, the associations among child behavior and parenting, and parenting and peer behavior, may be due to genetic factors, environmental factors, or a combination of the two (including rGE). Utilizing research designs that permit separation of passive rGE from family relationship and child outcome associations and that permit examination of evocative rGE has significant implications for understanding associations between patterns of family interaction and child development. We offer a study design that accommodates this unique opportunity.

The Present Study

The present study examined the influence of birth mother low behavioral motivation on toddler low social motivation and the potential evocative influence this child behavior may have on adoptive mother-child hostility and father-child hostility toward their toddler. Additionally, the present study examined the influence of adoptive mother-child and father-child hostility as predictors of disruptive peer behavior during early childhood, as reported by adoptive mothers and fathers (see Figure 1). In order to address the potential confounding role of shared method variance as a result of reliance on mother- and-father reported parenting practices and children’s disruptive peer behavior, additional analyses were conducted. Specifically, separate mother-child and father-child models were estimated to remediate the potential confounding role of shared method variance and to affirm the pattern of results reported. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the interplay between specific parent-based family interaction patterns and child disruptive peer behavior, allowing the confound of passive rGE to be controlled, while also permitting simultaneous examination of child-on-parent effects stemming from child genetically-influenced risk behaviors (evocative rGE) on both mother-child and father-child relationships.

Toddler low social motivation

When the children were 27-months of age, adoptive mothers and fathers each completed 5 items from the Maternal Perception Questionnaire (Olsen, Bates, & Bayles, 1982), comprising the unresponsiveness to parent subscale. Adoptive parents responded to statements assessing how unresponsive they perceived their child to be on a 7-point scale ranging from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’, with higher scores indicating greater disengagement and low social motivation towards parents. Items from the scale included “My child prefers playing by him/herself rather than with me”, “My child doesn’t come to me as often as often as I would like”, “I often find it hard to get my child’s attention”.
Also at 27-months of age, adoptive mothers and fathers individually participated in a 3-minute free play task with their child in the families’ home. The free play session was later rated by independent coders for a number of qualities of parent and child interaction. Three of the items were selected to reflect toddler low social motivation. They included “How often did the child become involved in his/her own play without reference to the parent’s play?”, “How often did the child and parent engage in parallel play?”, and “How often did the child engage in solitary pretend play?”, which were rated by coders on a 5-point scale ranging from ‘never’ to ‘almost all the time’ (Pears & Ayers, 2000). Items were scored for low levels of child engagement and low levels of responsiveness to the parent. Reliabilities were calculated on 15% of the sample using weighted percent agreement by assigning weights to the reliability coder and calibrator answers. Each differing set of answers was assigned a percentage of how far they varied from absolute agreement, with the weights assigned determined by the range of the scale. An average was then taken of the weights to arrive at a weighted percent agreement with values for the three items ranging from .80 to .94. The 5 parent-rated questionnaire items and the 3 coder-rated items from the free play task were standardized and combined to form composite measures of child low social motivation relative to both mother and father. The resulting mother and father measures were found to have adequate internal consistency, respectively (α = .63, α = .66), and to be moderately correlated (r = .36), and were combined into a single measure of child low social motivation.

Adoptive parent-child hostility

Adoptive mothers and fathers completed the Iowa Family Interaction Rating Scales (Melby et al., 1993) about their parenting behaviors at child age 27-months. Parents reported on their own hostile behaviors toward their child on a 7-point scale ranging from ‘never’ to ‘always’ with high scores indicating greater hostility. The 5-item hostility subscale included items such as “how often did you get angry at him/her”, “how often did you criticize him/her”, and “how often did you argue with him/her when you disagreed about something.” Internal consistency estimates were good for mothers and fathers, respectively (α = .72, α = .66).

Child disruptive peer behavior

Adoptive mothers and fathers completed the Penn Interactive Peer Play Scale (McWayne et al., 2002) at child age 4.5 years. Parents reported on children’s peer play behaviors on a 4-point scale ranging from ‘never’ to ‘always’ with high scores indicating greater occurrence of social or antisocial behavior. The 11-item disruption subscale included items such as “starts fights and arguments”, “disrupts the play of others”, and “rejects the play ideas of others.” Internal consistency estimates were good for mothers and fathers, respectively (α = .80, α = .77).

Control variables

A composite measure of prenatal influences was used which assessed birth mothers pregnancy complications, neonatal complications, exposure to environmental toxins, and use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. This measure of prenatal influences was not found to be associated with any variable in the current study. To further control for any possible prenatal influences, this measure was residualized out of the birth mother low behavioral motivation variable, ensuring any association between birth mother low behavioral motivation and toddler low social motivation was not due to variance associated with prenatal influences. In addition, adoptive parent reports of child peer disruption partialed out the effect of adoption openness (contact between adoptive and birth parents). Adoption openness was not found to be associated with any variable in the current study.

Statistical Analyses

Path analysis using structural equation modeling (SEM; Muthén, & Muthén, 2007) was used to conduct all primary statistical analysis. All relevant statistical assumptions inherent to the application of SEM (e.g., multivariate normalcy) were examined and affirmed a priori. Correlations between primary theoretical constructs were initially examined. Following this, path analysis was used to examine the associations linking birth mother low behavioral motivation to mother-child and father-child hostility via toddler low social motivation, and the subsequent influence of hostility on disruptive peer behavior. Model tests were conducted using Mplus 5.2 (Muthén & Muthén, 2007). There was an available sample of 316 cases. Within this sample, the Little’s test of missing data indicated that the data were missing completely at random (MCAR), X2 (84) = 82.62, p = .52 with the following proportion of missingness for each variable: birth mother low behavioral motivation: 12%, toddler low social motivation: 19%, mother-child hostility: 10%, father-child hostility: 12%, mother report of child disruptive peer behavior: 23%, father report of child disruptive peer behavior: 30%. Multiple imputation with data augmentation was used to generate values for missing data across relevant theoretical variables within the proposed model using NORM 2.03 (Schafer, 1997), regarded as the most robust method for multiple imputation (Allison, 2001).


Correlational Analysis

Intercorrelations, means, and standard deviations for the sample are located in Table 1. Significant associations were found supporting the proposed theoretical model. Birth mother low behavioral motivation was significantly related to toddler low social motivation, as well as to mother-child hostility. Toddler low social motivation was significantly related to mother- and father-child hostility. Mother- and father-child hostility were significantly related to mother’s and father’s report of disruptive peer behavior.

Full Theoretical Model

As an initial step, the direct influence of birth mother low behavioral motivation on adoptive mother- and father-child hostility was tested. Birth mother low behavioral motivation was found to be significantly associated with greater mother-child hostility (B = .07, SE B = .03, β = .16, p = .007), with both mother- and father-child hostility predicting greater mother and father reports of disruptive peer behavior within rater (B = .32, SE B = .12, β = .21, p = .007 and B = .41, SE B = .10, β = .29, p < .001), and father-child hostility predicting greater mother-reported disruptive peer behavior (B = .22, SE B = .10, β = .14, p = .03). Following these initial tests, the full proposed theoretical model was examined with results presented in Figure 1. Birth mother low behavioral motivation was found to significantly predict toddler low social motivation (B= .21, SE B = .08, β = .17, p = .01), which in turn significantly predicted mother- and father-child hostility (B = .06, SE B = .02, β = .16, p =.005 and B = .08, SE B = .02, β = .22, p = .01). A significant direct association from birth mother low behavioral motivation to mother-child hostility was also found (B = .06, SE B = .03, β = .14, p = .03). Mother- and father-child hostility were found to respectively predict mother and father reports of disruptive peer behavior within rater (B = .31, SE B = .11, β = .20, p = .008 and B = .40, SE B = .11, β = .28, p < .001), with father-child hostility also predicting mother reported disruptive peer behavior (B = .21, SE B = .10, β = .13, p = .04).
Because initial tests did not indicate a significant association between birth mother low behavioral motivation and father-child hostility, that portion of the model did not meet the criteria that Baron and Kenny (1986) describe as necessary to define a mediational pathway. However, an independent variable can have an indirect effect on a dependent variable even if the two variables are not correlated, if the independent variable influences a third, intervening variable, which in turn affects the dependent variable (MacKinnon, Krull, & Lockwood, 2000MacKinnon et al., 2002). If the independent and dependent variables are each related to the proposed intervening variable, the significance of the indirect association between the independent and dependent variables can then be assessed statistically. We examined whether birth mother low behavioral motivation had an indirect effect on mother-and father-child hostility through the intervening variable of toddler low social motivation, using procedures outlined by Sobel (1982) to test the significance of all indirect effects. Significant indirect effects were found from birth mother low behavioral motivation and greater within rater mother- and father-child hostility via toddler low social motivation (B = .01, SE B = .01, β =.03, p = .04 and B = .02, SE B = .01, β =.04, p = .03) as well as between toddler low social motivation and mother and father reports of disruptive peer behavior via within rater reports of mother- and father-child hostility (B = .02, SE B = .01, β =.03, p = .04 and B = .02, SE B= .01, β =.06, p = .02). A marginally significant indirect effect was also found between toddler low social motivation and mother reports of disruptive peer behavior via father-child hostility (B = .02, SE B = .01, β =.03, p = .06). A good fit between the data and model was suggested by fit indices (χ2 (2) = 0.31, RMSEA = .00, CFI = 1.00, TLI = 1.06, SRMR = .008).


The present study utilized an adoption design to examine the evocative association between genetic influences on toddler low social motivation and mother-child and father-child hostility, and the subsequent relation with child disruptive peer behavior at age 4.5. Both the correlational and model results indicated a significant association between birth mother low behavioral motivation and toddler low social motivation, which in turn was related to both adoptive mother- and father-child hostility. This process suggests evocative rGE where a genetic liability for low behavioral motivation manifested as toddler low social motivation evokes greater hostility in both the mother-child and father-child relationships. Mother-child hostility predicted mother-report of later disruptive peer behavior in the child, whereas father-child hostility predicted both father- and mother-report of disruptive peer behavior in the child. Given the absence of genetic relatedness between adoptive parents and their adopted child, passive rGE cannot explain the association between mother and father hostility and disruptive peer behavior. As mother and father hostility were examined separately, a distinct influence of father-child hostility appeared to confer greater risk for disruptive peer behavior. This study advances the investigation of evocative rGE and environmental mediation by examining both in the context of the same study where these processes can be detected and distinguished given the absence of genetic relatedness.
Whereas previous twin (Burt, McGue, Krueger, & Iacono, 2005Narusyte et al., 2011Pike, McGuire, Hetherington, Reiss, & Plomin, 1996) and adoption (O’Connor et al., 1998) studies have suggested evocative rGE between antisocial-type behaviors and negative parenting practices in adolescence, little research has focused on temperamental aspects of child behavior in early childhood, where evocative rGE has also been evidenced (Boivin et al., 2005Forget-Dubois et al., 2007). The present study advances this area of research by first illustrating a significant association between birth mother low behavioral motivation and toddler low social motivation, suggesting that this temperamental behavior is genetically informed. Evidence of evocative rGE was suggested where toddler low social motivation predicted greater mother-child and father-child hostility. This pattern of effects was strengthened by the presence of indirect effects from birth mother low behavioral motivation to both mother- and father-child hostility operating via toddler low social motivation. These results suggest that a genetic liability for low social motivation early in life elicits hostile parenting from both mothers and fathers. This finding is noteworthy, as little research has previously examined these constructs (Boivin et al., 2005Forget-Dubois et al., 2007), especially with regard to the relative effects of mother and father parenting practices considered in the same context. Additionally, this evocative relation appears to be relatively equivalent on both mother and father hostility, possibly indicating that both mothers and fathers are similarly responsive in a hostile manner to difficult aspects of their child’s temperament. Also, the presence of a remaining direct path from birth mother low behavioral motivation to mother-child hostility in the final model indicates that some other unmeasured variable may still mediate this evocative relationship (e.g., toddler internalizing symptoms). Compared to father-child hostility, genetically-influenced aspects of low child social motivation may be more likely to evoke hostile parenting in mothers.
Findings from the present study also examined the subsequent effect of parental hostility on later disruptive peer behavior. Past research has illustrated the unique influences of mother-child hostility and father-child hostility on child social outcomes, suggesting that where fathers’ parenting toward the child is harsh, hostile, and overt, it may be more detrimental to children’s social behavior (Cabrera & Mitchell, 2009Kelley et al., 1998). The present pattern of results fits with prior research; both mother-child and father-child hostility predicted their own report of disruptive peer behavior. Father-child hostility also predicted mothers’ report of disruptive peer behavior. This may indicate that father-child hostility in the family context is more salient in child socialization, and when present confers a greater risk for later aggressive-type behaviors, including those occurring in social settings. Further, similar to past genetically sensitive studies, the current use of an adoption sample controlled for passive rGE, removing this as a potential mechanism underlying the association between hostility in the mother-child and father-child relationship and disruptive peer behavior. Thus, it can be concluded with greater confidence that transmission linking parent-child hostility to disruptive peer behavior is explained by the environmental salience of negative parenting.
The most notable advance of the present study over past research is the examination of evocative rGE between toddler low social motivation on parent-child hostility while also controlling for passive rGE, in the longitudinal interplay between hostile parenting and disruptive peer behavior. This is especially relevant given that the present age range, 2 to 4 years of age, appears to be a period across which both evocative and passive rGE may occur as during middle childhood children still spend the majority of their time out of school with their parents. In non-genetically sensitive studies, disruptive behavior in early childhood predicts negative parent-child responses (Combs-Ronto et al., 2009), and greater vulnerability to the effects of negative parenting (Kiff et al., 2011). This is supported by research indicating the presence of evocative rGE effects between infants’ and toddlers’ difficult behavior and parent’s hostile-reactive behavior (Boivin et al., 2005Forget-Dubois et al., 2007). When temperamental problems are present in early childhood, such as these, they appear to evoke negative parenting. When considered collectively, this suggests a ‘cascading’ effect (i.e., Scaramella & Leve, 2004) where risk for child behavioral dysfunction in childhood originates early in life and negative parenting practices arising in response to temperamental difficulty subsequently contribute to child disorder later in life (Kiff et al., 2011Trentacosta & Shaw, 2008). The present study advances previous research by testing both processes within the same longitudinal design, illustrating that children’s genetic propensities early in life that manifest as undesirable behaviors (low social motivation) can elicit hostile parenting and through (likely) environmental routes affect later child development (disruptive peer behavior).

Limitations and Recommendations for Future Research

Whereas the ability to examine evocative rGE between toddler low social motivation and hostile parenting served as a primary strength of the present study, toddler low social motivation only partially mediated the influences from birth mother low behavioral motivation to mother-child hostility. This indicates that an unmeasured aspect of the child may further mediate this relationship. Another limitation in the present examination of evocative rGE was that toddler low social motivation and parent-child hostility were measured at the same time of assessment. This limits the ability to draw inference between these constructs, which would be strengthened by longitudinal separation (Rutter, 2007). However, the direction of effects observed in the present study fits with the pattern of evocative effects observed in past research in both genetically sensitive longitudinal studies (Boivin et al., 2005Forget-Dubois et al., 2007), and meta-analysis of normative samples (Kiff et al., 2011). An additional limitation was that the proportion of variance explained in disruptive peer behavior was small, indicating significant influence of other unmeasured variables on disruptive peer behavior. Despite this limitation, the measurement of parenting and child outcome in the present study were longitudinally separated, allowing for a more confident assumption that parent hostility predicted disruptive peer behavior. Future research is needed where each parent and child construct are separated longitudinally to further assure this pattern of effects. Finally, the present study relied on adoptive parent report of both adoptive parent and child behavior. This limitation was partially addressed by using a cross-rater approach including mother and father report of both hostility and disruptive peer behavior, which allowed examination of the relative effects of mothers and fathers. However, shared method variance may be a factor in confounding the pattern of associations noted between parent-reported family interaction patterns and children’s disruptive peer behavior, such that noted associations are amplified by the presence of shared method variance. In order to address this concern, we partitioned our proposed theoretical model and ran separate mother-child and father-child models (using opposite-parent report of child disruptive peer behavior). Results were replicated with no substantial differences to the pattern of results reported for the full theoretical model.1
Despite these limitations, the present study illustrates the unique opportunity that an adoption design confers in the parallel examination of evocative rGE and environmental mediation. Further, this study facilitated investigation of these mechanisms within the context of family processes (parenting) in a longitudinal design. As a result, the study advances important objectives in the study of child development by identifying associations that are not confounded by shared genetic influences. This is especially relevant as social skills and positive social interactions are vital for the promotion of child resilience in the face of genetic and environmental risks (Rutter, 2012). This underscores the importance and relevance of the present study in identifying aspects of mother’s and father’s parenting that impinge on social development applicable to prevention and intervention programs.
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