Parent personality traits and problem behavior in adolescence: The mediating role of adolescent personality

Publication Name

Journal of Adolescence


Introduction: Parental personality traits are predicted to influence offspring outcomes through parenting behavior and offspring personality traits. This study explored whether mother and father personality traits relate to offspring behavior problems in mid-late adolescence. Method: In total, 3089 Australian adolescents (1576 boys, 1513 girls; Mage = 16.46 ± 0.50 years) and their parents completed questionnaires assessing personality, conduct problems, emotional and social functioning, antisocial and criminal behavior, cigarette smoking and drug use, at a single time-point. Results: After controlling for sociodemographic factors, results showed that problem behaviors in adolescence were most consistently related to mothers' scores on neuroticism and conscientiousness, and fathers' scores on neuroticism. Father personality traits were most important for antisocial and criminal behavior, whereas mother personality traits were most important for social and emotional functioning. Moderation analysis showed that associations between fathers' personality traits and some adolescent outcomes (cigarette smoking and drug use) were stronger for adolescent boys than for adolescent girls. Mediation models further demonstrated that adolescent personality traits mediated associations between parent personality and adolescent outcomes in almost all cases. Indirect effects expressed as a percentage showed that between 1.4% and 33.3% of the variance in the association between parent personality and adolescent outcomes was shared with the corresponding adolescent personality trait. Conclusions: Overall, the findings of this study provide evidence that traits inherited (directly or indirectly) from parents might have an important role in shaping problem behavior in adolescence.

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