Internalising and Externalising in Parents and Offspring: The Impact of Sex and Early Life Adversity
The aim of this study was to investigate associations between maternal and paternal externalising, experiences of early life adversity (ELA), internalising and externalising in adult offspring, and the role of sex. Using data collected in wave three of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) we utilised structural equation modelling to test a hypothesised moderated mediation model associating maternal and paternal externalising, and internalising and externalising in offspring, mediated by early life adversities and moderated by sex. Our study included a total of n=26,728 participants which were randomly split into two groups and analysed separately to test whether it was possible to replicate our own results. No direct association was demonstrated between maternal externalising or paternal externalising and internalising or externalising in offspring; experiences of ELA were associated only with internalising in offspring, but not with externalising; ELA was associated with maternal externalising and paternal externalising in females only. The relationship between paternal externalising and internalising in male offspring was mediated by ELA, as was the relationship between maternal externalising and internalising in male offspring. The relationship between parental externalising and internalising in females however was not mediated by ELA. Results did not provide support for the study’s hypotheses.