• Child conduct problems;
  • GxE;
  • maternal directiveness or control;
  • maternal warmth


Prior studies exploring gene–environment interactions (GxE) in the development of youth conduct problems (CP) have focused almost exclusively on single-risk experiences, despite research indicating that the presence of other risk factors and or the absence of protective factors can accentuate the influence of a given risk factor on CP. The goal of the current study was to fill this gap in the literature, evaluating whether risky and protective aspects of parenting might combine to jointly moderate the etiology of CP.


The sample consisted of 500 child twin pairs from the Michigan State University Twin Registry (MSUTR). Child CP was assessed using multiple informant reports. Maternal warmth and directiveness were assessed via videotaped dyadic interactions between mothers and each of their twins.


Biometric GxE analyses revealed that directiveness and warmth did appear to jointly moderate the etiology of CP. In particular, shared environmental influences were accentuated by colder, less directive or ‘less engaged’ mothering, whereas genetic influences were strongest when the child was experiencing warmer, more directive or ‘more authoritative’ mothering.


Such findings serve to highlight the synergistic effects of risky and protective experiences on child outcomes. They also provide additional empirical support for the bioecological form of GxE, which postulates that, in some cases, genetic influences may be most strongly expressed in the presence of low-risk environments.