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Disentangling genetic and environmental influences on early language development: The interplay of genetic propensity for negative emotionality and surgency, and parenting behavior effects on early language skills in an adoption study.

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Parenting and children's temperament are important influences on language development. However, temperament may reflect prior parenting, and parenting effects may reflect genes common to parents and children. In 561 U.S. adoptees (57% male) and their birth and rearing parents (70% and 92% White, 13% and 4% African American, and 7% and 2% Latinx, respectively), this study demonstrated how genetic propensity for temperament affects language development, and how this relates to parenting. Genetic propensity for negative emotionality inversely predicted language at 27 months (β = -.15) and evoked greater maternal warmth (β = .12), whereas propensity for surgency positively predicted language at 4.5 years (β = .20), especially when warmth was low. Parental warmth (β = .15) and sensitivity (β = .19) further contributed to language development, controlling for common gene effects.


Publication status: Published

Funder: National Institutes of Health; doi:

Funder: U.S. Public Health Service; doi:


Child, Humans, Male, Female, Parenting, Parents, Temperament, Cognition, Adoption

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Child Dev

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Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01 HD042608)
National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH092118)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA020585, R01 DA035062)
NIH Office of the Director (UH3OD023389)