Out of Control: Examining the Association Between Family Conflict and Self-Control in Adolescence in a Genetically Sensitive Design

Yayouk E. Willems*, Eveline L. de Zeeuw, Catharina E.M. van Beijsterveldt, Dorret I. Boomsma, Meike Bartels, Catrin Finkenauer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

306 Downloads (Pure)


OBJECTIVE: Family conflict is associated with low self-control in adolescence. Thus far research about the direction of this association is inconclusive. In this study, we sort out whether this association reflects a causal effect or whether it is explained by a common underlying cause, including genetic factors.

METHOD: In twin data, we fitted a series of causal models, and compared models for the association of family conflict and self-control including reciprocal causation, unidirectional causation from family conflict to low self-control, unidirectional causation from low self-control to family conflict, and common genetic susceptibility. We included data of a large sample of twins aged 14 (N=9,173), all enrolled in the Netherlands Twin Register.

RESULTS: The results suggested a unidirectional pathway model where family conflict leads to low self-control in adolescence, with genetic factors also playing a role in explaining the association.

CONCLUSION: Adolescents experiencing family conflict are at risk to show hampered self-control capacities, with family conflict being a robust predictor of low self-control through common genetic factors but also through direct causal influences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-262
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date13 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


This work was supported by the following grants: Database Twin Register [Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) 575-25-006]; Spinozapremie (NWO/SPI 56-464-14192); a Twin-Family Database for Behavior Genetics and Genomics Studies (NWO 480-04-004); BBMRI –NL: Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (NWO 184.021.007); Genetics of Mental Illness: European Research Council (ERC-230374); Genetic and Family Influences on Adolescent Psychopathology and Wellness (NWO 463-06-001); a Twin-Sib Study of Adolescent Wellness (NWO-VENI 451-04-034); Genetic Influences on Stability and Change in Psychopathology From Childhood to Young Adulthood (NWO/ZonMW 91210020); Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute (former EMGO+); Neuroscience Amsterdam Research Institute (former NCA); Developmental Study of Attention Problems in Young Twins (NIMH RO1 MH58799-03); Determinants of Adolescent Exercise Behavior (NIH 1R01DK092127-01); Netherlands Twin Registry Repository: Researching the Interplay Between Genome and Environment (NWO-large investment 480-15-001/674); Consortium on Individual Development (CID), which is funded through the gravitation program of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO 0240-001-003); ACTION funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013, grant no. 602768); and the Research Talent Fund (NWO 406-15-132). Disclosure: Drs. de Zeeuw, van Beijsterveldt, Boomsma, Bartels, and Finkenauer, and Ms. Willems have reported no biomedical financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.

FundersFunder number
Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute
Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure184.021.007
Genetics of Mental Illness: European Research Council463-06-001, NWO-VENI 451-04-034, NWO/ZonMW 91210020, ERC-230374
National Institutes of Health1R01DK092127-01
National Institute of Mental HealthRO1 MH58799-03, R01MH058799
Seventh Framework Programme602768, 406-15-132
Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek0240-001-003
Seventh Framework Programme
Amsterdam Neuroscience


    • environment
    • family conflict
    • genetics
    • self-control
    • twins

    Cohort Studies

    • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


    Dive into the research topics of 'Out of Control: Examining the Association Between Family Conflict and Self-Control in Adolescence in a Genetically Sensitive Design'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this