Family legacy

Kevin Lewis

September 19, 2017

The Intergenerational Effects of Education on Delinquency
Aaron Chalfin & Monica Deza
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming


Children of less educated parents are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior. One explanation for this is that better educated parents are inherently more likely to raise children in ways that are less conducive to criminal participation. Alternatively, additional parental education may change parents’ behavior in ways that reduces their children’s propensity to commit crime. Using data from the NLSY79 and variation induced by changes in compulsory schooling laws in the United States, we find that an increase in parental education reduces delinquent behavior among the children of those exposed to compulsory schooling laws. This research is the first to uncover evidence of an intergenerational effect of education on crime in the United States. We conclude that previous analyses of compulsory schooling laws − and investments in education more generally − appreciably underestimate the full benefits of investments in education.

The Influence of Family Structure on Delinquent Behavior
Cashen Boccio & Kevin Beaver
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, forthcoming


Previous research has linked changes in family structure (especially parental divorce) with involvement in juvenile delinquency. Comparatively less research has attempted to examine the long-term impact of shifts in family structure on delinquent and criminal involvement. The current study addresses this gap in the literature by examining the influence of changes in family structure during adolescence on delinquent involvement both cross sectionally and longitudinally. Our findings revealed a small and only temporary association between changes in family structure and adolescent delinquency. We discuss the implications of these results for future research.

Parents’ Spatial Language Mediates a Sex Difference in Preschoolers’ Spatial Language Use
Shannon Pruden & Susan Levine
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Do boys produce more terms than girls to describe the spatial world — that is, dimensional adjectives (e.g., big, little, tall, short), shape terms (e.g., circle, square), and words describing spatial features and properties (e.g., bent, curvy, edge)? If a sex difference in children’s spatial-language use exists, is it related to the spatial language that parents use when interacting with children? We longitudinally tracked the development of spatial-language production in children between the ages of 14 and 46 months in a diverse sample of 58 parent-child dyads interacting in their homes. Boys produced and heard more of these three categories of spatial words, which we call “what” spatial types (i.e., unique “what” spatial words), but not more of all other word types, than girls. Mediation analysis revealed that sex differences in children’s spatial talk at 34 to 46 months of age were fully mediated by parents’ earlier spatial-language use, when children were 14 to 26 months old, time points at which there was no sex difference in children’s spatial-language use.

A Longitudinal Study of Families Formed Through Reproductive Donation: Parent-Adolescent Relationships and Adolescent Adjustment at Age 14
Susan Golombok et al.
Developmental Psychology, forthcoming


The aim of the 6th phase of this longitudinal study was to establish whether children born through assisted reproduction involving reproductive donation were at risk for psychological problems following the transition to adolescence at age 14 and, if so, to examine the nature of these problems and the mechanisms involved. Eighty-seven families formed through reproductive donation, including 32 donor insemination families, 27 egg donation families, and 28 surrogacy families, were compared with 54 natural conception families. Standardized interviews, questionnaires, and observational assessments of the quality of parent-adolescent relationships and adolescent adjustment were administered to mothers, adolescents, and teachers. The mothers in surrogacy families showed less negative parenting and reported greater acceptance of their adolescent children and fewer problems in family relationships as a whole compared with gamete donation mothers. In addition, less positive relationships were found between mothers and adolescents in egg donation families than in donor insemination families as rated by both mothers and adolescents. There were no differences between family types for the adolescents themselves in terms of adjustment problems, psychological well-being, and self-esteem. Longitudinal analyses showed no differences between family types in negative parenting from age 7 to age 14, and a weaker association between negative parenting and adjustment difficulties for gamete donation than natural conception and surrogacy families. The findings suggest that the absence of a genetic link between mothers and their children is associated with less positive mother-adolescent relationships whereas the absence of a gestational link does not have an adverse effect.

Mothers want extraversion over conscientiousness or intelligence for their children
Rachel Latham & Sophie von Stumm
Personality and Individual Differences, 1 December 2017, Pages 262-265


Intelligence and conscientiousness are key predictors of all important life outcomes, such as socioeconomic success, marital status, health and longevity. It is unclear, however, if and to what extent lay people appreciate these dimensions of individual differences. Here, 142 mothers of 0–12 month old infants were asked to select from each of the Big Five personality traits the facets that they most liked their child to have. Afterwards, mothers rank-ordered the facets they had selected and ‘intelligence’ from most to least important for their child to have. Less than 10% of mothers rated intelligence and the conscientiousness facet as most important. By contrast, 51% rated the extraversion facet as most important, followed by 20% of mothers who favoured the agreeableness facet. Our results suggest that mothers preferred extraversion over intelligence and conscientiousness, despite their strong, empirically demonstrated predictive validity for important life outcomes.

Time Off After Childbirth and Mothers’ Risk of Depression, Parenting Stress, and Parenting Practices
Richard Petts
Journal of Family Issues, forthcoming


There has been increased interest in U.S. parental leave policies, but relatively few studies have focused on how such policies may influence mothers’ well-being and parenting. This study addresses this gap by using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to examine factors that predict the amount of time mothers take off work following childbirth and whether length of time off is associated with mothers’ risk of depression, parenting stress, and parenting practices. Results suggest that the majority of disadvantaged mothers take 3 months or less off from work after childbirth. Results also suggest that taking a month or less off work is associated with increased parenting stress, an increased risk of depression, and an increased likelihood of spanking relative to mothers who took more time off. Results also suggest that longer periods of time off are associated with more frequent engagement in developmental activities with the child.

Income and the Mental Health of Canadian Mothers: Evidence from the Universal Child Care Benefit
Angela Daley
SSM - Population Health, December 2017, Pages 674-683


The Universal Child Care Benefit, introduced in 2006, was an income transfer for Canadian families with young children. I exploit this exogenous increase in income to answer the following questions: (1) Is there a relationship between income and mental health among Canadian mothers? (2) Is it corroborated by other measures of well-being (i.e. stress, life satisfaction)? (3) Is the effect different for lone mothers compared to those in two-parent families? I answer these questions using a difference-in-differences model and microdata from the Canadian Community Health Survey, 2003 to 2008. The estimating sample includes 26,886 mothers, 6,273 of whom are lone parents. I find the income transfer improved mental health and life satisfaction regardless of family structure, albeit not necessarily for a given individual. Rather, average scores were higher for mothers with young children after implementation of the Universal Child Care Benefit. For example, they were more likely to report ‘excellent’ mental health and less likely to be in each of the other categories. The transfer also reduced stress among lone mothers with young children. Specifically, they were less likely to be ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely’ stressed on a daily basis, and more likely to be ‘not at all’ or ‘not very’ stressed. I argue that assumptions of the model are plausible and show that results are consistent across several robustness checks.

Prenatal programming of postnatal plasticity for externalizing behavior: Testing an integrated developmental model of genetic and temperamental sensitivity to the environment
Irene Tung et al.
Developmental Psychobiology, forthcoming


Although both gene- and temperament-environment interactions contribute to the development of youth externalizing problems, it is unclear how these factors jointly affect environmental sensitivity over time. In a 7-year longitudinal study of 232 children (aged 5–10) with and without ADHD, we employed moderated mediation to test a developmentally sensitive mechanistic model of genetic and temperamental sensitivity to prenatal and postnatal environmental factors. Birth weight, a global measure of the prenatal environment, moderated predictions of child negative emotionality from a composite of dopaminergic polymorphisms (i.e., DRD4 and DAT1), such that birth weight inversely predicted negative emotionality only for children with genetic plasticity. Negative emotionality, in turn, predicted externalizing behavior 4–5 years later, beyond genetic and postnatal parenting effects. Finally, birth weight moderated the indirect effect of dopaminergic genotypes on externalizing problems through negative emotionality, partially supporting a prenatal programming model. We discuss theoretical and empirical implications for models of environmental sensitivity.

A model explaining the matrilateral bias in alloparental investment
Gretchen Perry & Martin Daly
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 29 August 2017, Pages 9290–9295


Maternal grandmothers invest more in childcare than paternal grandmothers. This bias is large where the expression of preferences is unconstrained by residential and lineage norms, and is detectable even where marriage removes women from their natal families. We maintain that the standard evolutionary explanation, paternity uncertainty, is incomplete, and present an expanded model incorporating effects of alloparents on the mother as well as on her children. Alloparenting lightens a mother’s load and increases her residual nepotistic value: her expected fitness from later investments in personal reproduction and in her natal relatives. The mother’s mother derives fitness from all such investments, whereas her mother-in-law gains only from further investment in children sired by her son, and thus has less incentive to assist the mother even if paternity is certain. This logic extends to kin other than grandmothers. We generate several hypotheses for future research.

Genomic Imprinting Is Implicated in the Psychology of Music
Samuel Mehr et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Why do people sing to babies? Human infants are relatively altricial and need their parents’ attention to survive. Infant-directed song may constitute a signal of that attention. In Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS), a rare disorder of genomic imprinting, genes from chromosome 15q11–q13 that are typically paternally expressed are unexpressed, which results in exaggeration of traits that reduce offspring’s investment demands on the mother. PWS may thus be associated with a distinctive musical phenotype. We report unusual responses to music in people with PWS. Subjects with PWS (N = 39) moved more during music listening, exhibited greater reductions in heart rate in response to music listening, and displayed a specific deficit in pitch-discrimination ability relative to typically developing adults and children (N = 589). Paternally expressed genes from 15q11–q13, which are unexpressed in PWS, may thus increase demands for music and enhance perceptual sensitivity to music. These results implicate genomic imprinting in the psychology of music, informing theories of music’s evolutionary history.

The Longitudinal Effects of Early Language Intervention on Children's Problem Behaviors
Philip Curtis et al.
Child Development, forthcoming


Researchers examined whether a parent-implemented language intervention improved problem behaviors 1 year after intervention. Ninety-seven children with language delays (mean age at 12-month follow-up = 48.22 months) were randomized to receive Enhanced Milieu Teaching (EMT) language intervention or business as usual treatment. Twelve months after the intervention ended, children in the EMT intervention condition displayed lower rates of parent-reported externalizing, internalizing, and total problem behaviors. A mediation analysis revealed that the relation between EMT and problem behaviors was partially mediated by child rate of communication for both internalizing and total problem behaviors. A developmental framework is proposed to explain the impact of EMT on problem behaviors, and future lines of research are discussed.

Truancy in the United States: Examining temporal trends and correlates by race, age, and gender
Brandy Maynard et al.
Children and Youth Services Review, October 2017, Pages 188-196

Method: This paper examined trends in truancy rates between 2002 and 2014 and correlates of truancy across racial/ethnic groups. Variables of interest included sociodemographic factors (e.g., age, gender, socio-economic background), behavioral factors (e.g., substance use, violence), and psychosocial factors (e.g., academic engagement, grades, parental control). Using data from a large sample of adolescents (n = 209,393; 12–17 years) we estimated truancy prevalence rates and examined trends and correlates via regression analyses.

Results: Truancy rates remained constant between 2002 (10.8%) and 2014 (11.1%). Rates were highest among older youth, females, and Hispanic youth. For all racial/ethnic groups, truancy was significantly correlated with alcohol and marijuana use, fighting, the propensity to take risks, and lower academic engagement and school grades. Other factors were differentially associated with racial/ethnic groups. This divergence in risk patterns for different racial/ethnic groups points to some heterogeneity among truant youth.

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