Heritability of aggression and irritability: a twin study of the Buss-Durkee aggression scales in adult male subjects

Biol Psychiatry. 1997 Feb 1;41(3):273-84. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(96)00257-0.


To determine the degree of genetic and environmental influences on assessments of aggression and irritability in male subjects, the "Motor Aggression" subscales of the Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory (BDHI) were mailed to 1208 male twins in the Vietnam Era Twin Registry. Data from monozygotic 182 and 118 dizygotic twin pairs were available and were analyzed using model-fitting procedures. Three of the four BDHI subscales demonstrated significant heritability of a nonadditive nature: 40% for Indirect Assault, 37% for Irritability, and 28% for Verbal Assault. Additive genetic variance accounted for 47% of the individual differences for Direct Assault. Nonshared, but not shared, environmental influences contributed to explaining the variance in the model, with estimates ranging from 53% (Direct Assault) to 72% (Verbal Assault). Because some of these BDHI scales have been shown to correlate with indices of central serotonin function, it is possible that impulsive aggression, as reflected by these scales, is heritable in men.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Hostility
  • Humans
  • Irritable Mood / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Personality Inventory*
  • Serotonin / physiology


  • Serotonin