Gene–environment correlations in parental emotional warmth and intolerance: genome-wide analysis over two generations of the Young Finns Study

Henrik Dobewall, Kateryna Savelieva, Ilkka Seppälä, Ariel Knafo-Noam, Christian Hakulinen, Marko Elovainio, Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen, Laura Pulkki-Råback, Olli T. Raitakari, Terho Lehtimäki, Mirka Hintsanen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Genomic analysis of the child might offer new potential to illuminate human parenting. We examined whether offspring (G2) genome-wide genotype variation (SNPs) is associated with their mother's (G1) emotional warmth and intolerance, indicating a gene–environment correlation. If this association is stronger than between G2′s genes and their emotional warmth and intolerance toward their own children, then this would indicate the presence of an evocative gene–environment correlation. To further understand how G1 mother's parenting has been evoked by genetically influenced characteristics of the child (G2), we examined whether child (G2) temperament partially accounted for the association between offspring genes and parental responses. Methods: Participants were from the Young Finns Study. G1 mothers (N = 2,349; mean age 39 years) self-reported the emotional warmth and intolerance toward G2 in 1980 when the participants were from 3 to 18 years old. G2 participants answered the same parenting scales in 2007/2012 (N = 1,378; mean age = 38 years in 2007; 59% female) when their children were on average 11 years old. Offspring temperament traits were self-reported in 1992 (G2 age range 15–30 years). Estimation of the phenotypic variance explained by the SNPs of G2 was done by genome-wide complex trait analysis with restricted maximum likelihood (GCTA-GREML). Results: Results showed that the SNPs of a child (G2) explained 22.6% of the phenotypic variance of maternal intolerance (G1; p-value =.039). G2 temperament trait negative emotionality explained only 2.4% points of this association. G2 genes did not explain G1 emotional warmth or G2′s own emotional warmth and intolerance. However, further analyses of a combined measure of both G1 parenting scales found genetic effects. Parent or child gender did not moderate the observed associations. Conclusions: Presented genome-wide evidence is pointing to the important role a child plays in affecting and shaping his/her family environment, though the underlying mechanisms remain unclear.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)277-285
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Young Finns Study has been financially supported by the Academy of Finland: grants 258578 (M.H.), 265869 (Mind), 286284, 134309 (Eye), 126925, 121584, 124282, 129378 (Salve), 117787 (Gendi), and 41071 (Skidi); the Social Insurance Institution of Finland; Competitive State Research Financing of the Expert Responsibility area of Kuopio, Tampere and Turku University Hospitals (grant X51001); Juho Vainio Foundation; Paavo Nurmi Foundation; Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research; Finnish Cultural Foundation; Tampere Tuberculosis Foundation; Emil Aaltonen Foundation; Yrjo€ Jahnsson Foundation; Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation (T.L. and L.P.-R.), Diabetes Research Foundation of Finnish Diabetes Association; and EU Horizon 2020 (grant 755320 for TAXINOMISIS). This study was further supported by a European Research Council starting grant 240994 (A.K.-N.). The authors would like to thank Alfredo Ortega-Alonso, Kadri Haljas, and Markus Jokela for their valuable comments on a previous version of this paper. The authors have declared that they have no competing or potential conflicts of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.


  • Parenting
  • child development
  • children's’ genome-wide genotype variation
  • evocative gene–environment correlation
  • molecular genetics
  • temperament


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