Get access

Marital Conflict and Conduct Problems in Children of Twins


  • Data collection was funded by grants from the William T. Grant Foundation, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (Grant # AA07535 and AA000264), and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression. Initial results were presented at the 2005 SRCD Conference in Atlanta, GA. The authors thank the staff of the Genetic Epidemiology Unit and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research for the data collection, particularly Alison Mackenzie for coordination, as well as the twins and their children for their cooperation. In addition, we thank Bengt and Linda Muthén for helping with the analyses, and Jane Mendle for reviewing and editing previous drafts of this paper.

concerning this article should be addressed to K. Paige Harden, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Box 400400, Charlottesville, VA 22902. Electronic mail may be sent to


The Children-of-Twins design was used to test whether associations between marital conflict frequency and conduct problems can be replicated within the children of discordant twin pairs. A sample of 2,051 children (age 14–39 years) of 1,045 twins was used to estimate the genetic and environmental influences on marital conflict and determine whether genetic or environmental selection processes underlie the observed association between marital conflict and conduct problems. Results indicate that genetic and nonshared environmental factors influence the risk of marital conflict. Furthermore, genetic influences mediated the association between marital conflict frequency and conduct problems. These results highlight the need for quasiexperimental designs in investigations of intergenerational associations.