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

Rachael W Cheung, Chloe Austerberry, Pasco Fearon, Marianna E Hayiou-Thomas, Leslie D Leve, Daniel S Shaw, Jody M Ganiban, Misaki N Natsuaki, Jenae M Neiderhieser, David Reiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalChild Development
Early online date10 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Nov 2023

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© 2023 The Authors. Child Development published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Research in Child Development.

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