Original Research

Behavior Genetics

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 3-18

First online:

Heritability, Assortative Mating and Gender Differences in Violent Crime: Results from a Total Population Sample Using Twin, Adoption, and Sibling Models

  • Thomas FrisellAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska InstituteCentre for Violence Prevention, Karolinska Institute Email author 
  • , Yudi PawitanAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institute
  • , Niklas LångströmAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska InstituteCentre for Violence Prevention, Karolinska Institute
  • , Paul LichtensteinAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institute

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Abstract

Research addressing genetic and environmental determinants to antisocial behaviour suggests substantial variability across studies. Likewise, evidence for etiologic gender differences is mixed, and estimates might be biased due to assortative mating. We used longitudinal Swedish total population registers to estimate the heritability of objectively measured violent offending (convictions) in classic twin (N = 36,877 pairs), adoptee-parent (N = 5,068 pairs), adoptee-sibling (N = 10,610 pairs), and sibling designs (N = 1,521,066 pairs). Type and degree of assortative mating were calculated from comparisons between spouses of siblings and half-siblings, and across consecutive spouses. Heritability estimates for the liability of violent offending agreed with previously reported heritability for self-reported antisocial behaviour. While the sibling model yielded estimates similar to the twin model (A ≈ 55%, C ≈ 13%), adoptee-models appeared to underestimate familial effects (A ≈ 20–30%, C ≈ 0%). Assortative mating was moderate to strong (r spouse = 0.4), appeared to result from both phenotypic assortment and social homogamy, but had only minor effect on variance components. Finally, we found significant gender differences in the etiology of violent crime.

Keywords

Antisocial behavior Violent crime Heritability GLMM Probit link Assortative mating Twin Adoption Sibling