An association has been found between receipt of harsh parenting in childhood and adult health problems. However, this research has been principally retrospective, has treated children as passive recipients of parental behavior, and has overlooked individual differences in youth responsivity to harsh parenting. In a 10-year multiple-wave prospective study of African American families, we addressed these issues by focusing on the influence of polymorphisms in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR), variants of which appear to buffer or amplify responses to environmental stress. The participants were 303 youths, with a mean age of 11.2 at the first assessment, and their parents, all of whom were genotyped for variations in the rs53576 (A/G) polymorphism. Teachers rated preadolescent (ages 11 to 13) emotionally intense and distractible temperaments, and adolescents (ages 15 and 16) reported receipt of harsh parenting. Allostatic load was assessed during young adulthood (ages 20 and 21). Difficult preadolescent temperament forecast elevated receipt of harsh parenting in adolescence, and adolescents who experienced harsh parenting evinced high allostatic load during young adulthood. However, these associations emerged only among children and parents who carried A alleles of the OXTR genotype. The results suggest the oxytocin system operates along with temperament and parenting to forecast young adults' allostatic load.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health