Maternal Error-Related Negativity Relations with Offspring Error-Related Negativity and Negative Parenting Styles: A Novel Model of Internalizing Psychopathology Risk

  • Author Footnotes
    1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
    Jennifer H. Suor
    Address correspondence concerning this article to Jennifer H. Suor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1601 W. Taylor Street, Chicago, IL, 60608, USA; Phone: (312) 355- 3871.
    1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
    Alison E. Calentino
    1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
    Author Footnotes
    2 Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
    Maria Granros
    1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
    2 Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
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  • Katie L. Burkhouse
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
    2 Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
Published:October 21, 2021DOI:



      Enhanced error-related negativity (ERN), an event-related potential (ERP) component reflecting neural sensitivity to errors and threat, has been theorized to represent an endophenotype of internalizing psychopathologies (IPs). We tested whether intergenerational transmission of ERN patterns may confer risk for internalizing symptoms. We examined associations among maternal and offspring ERN, and offspring internalizing symptoms. Given the role of parenting in IP risk, we also explored how maternal negative parenting styles related to maternal ERN and offspring internalizing symptoms.


      Participants included 117 biological mother-child dyads (ages 9-16 years, 70.9% female). Seventy-two mothers had a history of major depression (32 with lifetime anxiety) and 45 had no history of psychiatric illness. Dyads completed psychiatric interviews, parenting questionnaires, and a flanker task to elicit the ERN while electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded.


      Path analyses revealed that maternal ERN was significantly associated with enhanced offspring ERN and greater negative parenting styles. Enhanced offspring ERN and maternal negative parenting styles were significantly related to greater internalizing symptoms in offspring. Maternal ERN had a significant indirect effect on offspring internalizing symptoms through offspring ERN and maternal negative parenting styles, above the effects of self-reported maternal internalizing symptoms. Maternal IP history did not moderate pathways.


      Study findings suggest enhanced maternal ERN is indirectly associated with greater offspring internalizing symptoms through its relations to offspring ERN and negative parenting styles. Future longitudinal work is needed to evaluate the temporal timing and directionality of these tested pathways and their clinical implications for the prevention of IPs.
      The UIC Institutional Review Board approved study procedures prior to data collection. Informed consent and assent was obtained from mothers and their offspring after study procedures were explained to them.


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