The recurrence of social, behavioral, and health problems in successive generations of families is a prevalent theme in both the scientific and popular literatures. This review discusses recent conceptual models and findings from longitudinal studies concerning the intergenerational transfer of psychosocial risk, including intergenerational continuity, and the processes whereby a generation of parents may place their offspring at elevated risk for social, behavioral, and health problems. Key findings include the mediational effects of parenting and environmental factors in the transfer of risk. In both girls and boys, childhood aggression and antisocial behavior appear to predict long-term trajectories that place offspring at risk. Sequelae of childhood aggression that may threaten the well-being of offspring include school failure, adolescent risk-taking behavior, early and single parenthood, and family poverty. These childhood and adolescent behavioral styles also predict harsh, aggressive, neglectful, and unstimulating parenting behavior toward offspring. Buffering factors within at-risk families include maternal educational attainment and constructive parenting practices (e.g., emotional warmth, consistent disciplinary practices, and cognitive scaffolding). These findings highlight the potential application and relevance of intergenerational studies for social, educational, and health policy.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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