Genetic and environmental bases of childhood antisocial behavior: a multi-informant twin study

J Abnorm Psychol. 2007 May;116(2):219-35. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.116.2.219.


Genetic and environmental influences on childhood antisocial and aggressive behavior (ASB) during childhood were examined in 9- to 10-year-old twins, using a multi-informant approach. The sample (605 families of twins or triplets) was socioeconomically and ethnically diverse, representative of the culturally diverse urban population in Southern California. Measures of ASB included symptom counts for conduct disorder, ratings of aggression, delinquency, and psychopathic traits obtained through child self-reports, teacher, and caregiver ratings. Multivariate analysis revealed a common ASB factor across informants that was strongly heritable (heritability was .96), highlighting the importance of a broad, general measure obtained from multiple sources as a plausible construct for future investigations of specific genetic mechanisms in ASB. The best fitting multivariate model required informant-specific genetic, environmental, and rater effects for variation in observed ASB measures. The results suggest that parents, children, and teachers have only a partly "shared view" and that the additional factors that influence the "rater-specific" view of the child's antisocial behavior vary for different informants. This is the first study to demonstrate strong heritable effects on ASB in ethnically and economically diverse samples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / genetics*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Child
  • Conduct Disorder / diagnosis
  • Conduct Disorder / genetics
  • Conduct Disorder / psychology
  • Diseases in Twins / diagnosis
  • Diseases in Twins / genetics*
  • Diseases in Twins / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Personality Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment*
  • South Carolina
  • Triplets / genetics
  • Triplets / psychology
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics
  • Twins, Dizygotic / psychology
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics
  • Twins, Monozygotic / psychology