Multivariate behavior genetic analyses of aggressive behavior subtypes

Behav Genet. 2010 Sep;40(5):603-17. doi: 10.1007/s10519-010-9363-z. Epub 2010 Apr 30.


This study examined the genetic and environmental architecture underlying aggressive behavior measured by the Life History of Aggression Questionnaire (LHA; Coccaro et al. 1997a). Following preliminary phenotypic factor analysis procedures, multivariate behavioral genetics models were fit to responses from 2,925 adult twins from the PennTwins cohort on five LHA items assessing lifetime frequency of temper tantrums, indirect aggression, verbal aggression, fighting, and physical assault. The best-fitting model was a 2-factor common pathway model, indicating that these five aggressive behaviors are underpinned by two distinct etiological factors with different genetic and nonshared environmental influences. Although there was evidence of significant sex differences, the structure of the two factors appeared to be quite similar in males and females, where General Aggression and Physical Aggression factors emerged. Heritability of these factors ranged from .37 to .57, and nonshared environmental effects ranged from .43 to .63. The results of this study highlight the heterogeneous nature of the aggression construct and the need to consider differences in genetic and environmental influences on individual aggressive behaviors in a multivariate context.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / classification*
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pennsylvania
  • Social Environment
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / psychology
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics*
  • Twins, Monozygotic / psychology