Effects of Parenting and Community Violence on Aggression-Related Social Goals: a Monozygotic Twin Differences Study
Community violence exposure and harsh parenting have been linked to maladaptive outcomes, possibly via their effects on social cognition. The Social Information Processing (SIP) model has been used to study distinct socio-cognitive processes, demonstrating links between community violence exposure, harsh parenting, and maladaptive SIP. Though much of this research assumes these associations are causal, genetic confounds have made this assumption difficult to rigorously test. Comparisons of discordant monozygotic (MZ) twins provide one empirical test of possible causality, as differences between MZ twins must be environmental in origin. The present study examined effects of parenting and community violence exposure on SIP - specifically aggressive and avoidant social goals - in a sample of 426 MZ twin dyads (N = 852 twins, 48% female). Phenotypically, we found that lower positive parenting and greater harsh parenting were associated with greater endorsement of dominance and revenge goals. We also found that indirect and direct community violence exposure was associated with greater endorsement of avoidance goals. Using an MZ difference design, we found that the relationships between lower levels of positive parenting and endorsement of dominance and revenge goals were due, in part, to environmental processes. Moreover, the relationships between the impact of indirect and direct community violence exposure and avoidance goals, as well as between the impact of indirect community violence exposure and revenge goals, appeared to be due to non-shared environmental processes. Our results establish social and contextual experiences as important environmental influences on children’s social goals, which may increase risk for later psychopathology.
KeywordsSocial goals Community violence Parenting Monozygotic twin differences
This work was supported by the following: R01-MH081813 from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), R01-HD066040 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). M.K. Peckins was supported by an NICHD T32 Fellowship in Developmental Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan (2T32HD007109-36) R. Waller was supported by a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) T32 Fellowship in the Addiction Center, Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan (2T32AA007477-24A1). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIMH, the NICHD, the NIAAA, or the National Institutes of Health.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All study procedures were approved by the Michigan State University Institutional Review Board.
Informed consent and assent were obtained from all parents and children, respectively.
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