A longitudinal study was conducted to investigate the role of maladaptive parental behavior in the association between parent and offspring psychiatric disorder.
Psychosocial and psychiatric interviews were administered to a representative community sample of 593 biological parents and their offspring from 2 counties in the state of New York in 1975, 1983, 1985 to 1986, and 1991 to 1993. In 1975, the offspring were a mean age of 6 years. Maladaptive parental behavior was assessed in 1975, 1983, and 1985 to 1986. Parent and offspring psychiatric symptoms were assessed in 1983, 1985 to 1986, and 1991 to 1993.
Maladaptive parental behavior substantially mediated a significant association between parental and offspring psychiatric symptoms. Parents with psychiatric disorders had higher levels of maladaptive behavior in the household than did parents without psychiatric disorders. Maladaptive parental behavior, in turn, was associated with increased offspring risk for psychiatric disorders during adolescence and early adulthood. Most of the youths that experienced high levels of maladaptive parental behavior during childhood had psychiatric disorders during adolescence or early adulthood, whether or not their parents had psychiatric disorders. In contrast, the offspring of parents with psychiatric disorders were not at increased risk for psychiatric disorders unless there was a history of maladaptive parental behavior.
Maladaptive parental behavior is associated with increased risk for the development of psychiatric disorders among the offspring of parents with and without psychiatric disorders. Maladaptive parental behavior appears to be an important mediator of the association between parental and offspring psychiatric symptoms.