Parental discipline and affection and children's prosocial behavior: genetic and environmental links

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2006 Jan;90(1):147-164. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.90.1.147.


The authors investigated genetic and environmental contributions to the relationships between children's (N=9,319 twin pairs) prosocial behavior and parental positivity and negativity toward them. Children's prosocial behavior was rated by parents at ages 3, 4, and 7 and by teachers at age 7. At each age, parents described their feelings and discipline toward each twin. Parental positivity was indexed by positive feelings and positive, non-coercive discipline, and parental negativity was indexed by negative feelings and coercive, punitive discipline. Genetics and the environment both contributed to individual differences in prosocial behavior and in parenting. At all ages, parental positivity correlated positively, and parental negativity correlated negatively with prosocial behavior. Genetic factors largely mediated the negative correlation between prosocial behavior and parental negativity. Shared environmental effects contributed mainly to the positive relationship between prosocial behavior and parental positivity. This pattern was found both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. The findings point to the importance of children's characteristics and of the parent-child relationship in family processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Genetics*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting*
  • Parents*
  • Phenotype
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment*
  • Twins