General psychopathology, parenting, and social dynamics as genetic and environmental influences on the development of co-occurring behavior problems across early childhood

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Beekman III, Charles Richard
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 24, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Jenae Marie Neiderhiser, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jenae Marie Neiderhiser, Committee Chair
  • Kristin Buss, Committee Member
  • Ginger A Moore, Committee Member
  • Eric Loken, Committee Member
  • behavior problems
  • genetic influences
  • environmental influences
  • general psychopathology
  • social dynamics
  • parenting
Our understanding of how genes and environments work together to influence the development of co-occurring internalizing and externalizing behavior problems in young children can be strengthened with a focus on co-occurrence both within and across genetic and environmental risk mechanisms themselves. To that end, this dissertation uses four studies situated within a biopsychosocial conceptual framework to trace how comorbidity in parental psychopathology and facets of parenting interact to influence the development of internalizing and externalizing behavior problems in young children. The first three studies use a prospective adoption design to tease apart genetic and environmental influences on problem behavior at multiple points in development. Study I tests competing models of psychopathology in birth mothers to account for comorbidity and provide an index of genetic risk for general psychopathology that is used in subsequent studies. Study II investigates how general psychopathology transmitted from birth mothers (a genetic risk) and overreactive parenting (an environmental risk) interact to predict the presence of behavior problems in toddlers. Study III tests for links between general psychopathology and overreactive parenting and trajectories of development of internalizing, externalizing, and co-occurring behavior problems from toddlerhood to middle childhood. Study IV hones in on social influences using dynamic network analysis to link child temperament, social dynamics during peer play, and behavior problems at school entry.