Background: To study the intergenerational transmission of externalizing behaviors.
Methods: Participants came from a community-based random sample of residents in two upstate New York counties (N = 548). Data were collected from mothers at mean age 40 and from their children from adolescence (mean age = 14, SD = 2.8) to early midlife (mean age = 43, SD = 2.8) at seven time points. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to study the psychosocial factors as related to externalizing behaviors in early midlife.
Results: First, maternal externalizing behaviors were indirectly associated with the offspring's externalizing behaviors through the offspring's substance use in adolescence, the offspring's partner's smoking patterns, and the offspring's marital conflict. Second, maternal cigarette smoking was indirectly associated with the offspring's externalizing behaviors through the offspring's substance use in adolescence, the offspring's partner's cigarette smoking, and the offspring's marital conflict. Third, maternal marital conflict had an indirect effect on the offspring's externalizing behaviors, mediated by offspring marital conflict.
Conclusions: The finding that externalizing behaviors can be transmitted from parent to child informs the need for family-based interventions that are appropriate to adolescents.
Keywords: Externalizing behaviors; intergenerational transmission; longitudinal study; marital conflict; substance use.