Toddler risk and protective characteristics: Common and unique genetic and environmental influences

Gianna Rea-Sandin, Sierra Clifford, Carlos Valiente, Kathryn Lemery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The goal of this study was to disentangle the common and unique genetic and environmental influences on social–emotional competence, problem behavior, physiological dysregulation, and negative emotionality (NE) in toddlers. The sample consisted of 243 twin pairs (mean age =31.94 months) rated by primary caregivers (>95% mothers) on the Children's Behavior Questionnaire and the Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment. A multivariate Cholesky Decomposition revealed three shared environmental factors, with one set of environmental influences common to competence, problem behavior, and physiological dysregulation, a second common to problem behavior and physiological dysregulation, and a third common to physiological dysregulation and NE. Also, there were two additive genetic factors, with one explaining variance in competence, NE, and a small amount of variance in problem behavior, and a second explaining variance in problem behavior and NE. Given the common shared environmental factors across outcomes, these results suggest that toddlerhood could be a particularly important time to intervene, as interventions could simultaneously improve competencies and reduce problem behaviors. This study also highlights the need for genetically informed research to examine the etiology of multiple outcomes and address overlap.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-498
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2019


  • behavior problems
  • competencies
  • genetic
  • toddler
  • twin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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