The polygenic and reactive nature of observed parenting

Jana Runze, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Charlotte A.M. Cecil, Marinus H. van IJzendoorn*, Irene Pappa

*Corresponding author for this work

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In Wertz et al. (2019), parents' polygenic scores of educational attainment (PGS-EA) predicted parental sensitive responses to the child's needs for support, as observed in a dyadic task (i.e., observed sensitivity). We aimed to replicate and expand these findings by combining longitudinal data, child genotype data and several polygenic scores in the Generation R Study. Mother–child dyads participated in two developmental periods, toddlerhood (14 months old; n = 648) and early childhood (3–4 years old, n = 613). Higher maternal PGS-EA scores predicted higher observed sensitivity in toddlerhood (b = 0.12, 95% CI 0.03, 0.20) and early childhood (b = 0.16, 95% CI 0.08, 0.24). Child PGS-EA was significantly associated with maternal sensitivity in early childhood (b = 0.11, 95% CI 0.02, 0.21), and the effect of maternal PGS-EA was no longer significant when correcting for child PGS-EA. A latent factor of PGSs based on educational attainment, intelligence (IQ) and income showed similar results. These polygenic scores might be associated with maternal cognitive and behavioral skills that help shape parenting. Maternal PGSs predicted observed sensitivity over and above the maternal phenotypes, showing an additional role for PGSs in parenting research. In conclusion, we replicated the central finding of Wertz et al. (2019) that parental PGS-EA partially explains parental sensitivity. Our findings may be consistent with evocative gene–environment correlation (rGE), emphasizing the dynamic nature of parenting behavior across time, although further research using family trios is needed to adequately test this hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12874
Number of pages12
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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© 2023 The Authors. Genes, Brain and Behavior published by International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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