Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 237–256 | Cite as

Heritability of hostility-related emotions, attitudes, and behaviors

  • David S. Cates
  • B. Kent Houston
  • Christine R. Vavak
  • Michael H. Crawford
  • Meredith Uttley


Hostility-related variables have been categorized as to kinds of emotions, attitudes, and behaviors. Relatively few studies have explored whether genetic factors contribute to individual differences in these variables. Moreover, the majority of this research has involved male subjects. The present study utilized the twin method to evaluate the influence of genetic factors on hostility-related emotions, namely, trait anger and irritability, hostility-related attitudes, namely cynical hostility and suspiciousness, and hostility-related behaviors, namely, physical, verbal, and indirect aggression in adult women. Responses on the measure of trait anger showed evidence of significant heritability. However, evidence for a genetic component to responses on the irritability scale was less clear. There was no support for the notion of a genetic component to the measure of suspiciousness, and the evidence of a genetic contribution for cynical hostility was not significant. It was expected that due to environmental influences for women, only certain forms of aggression would show genetic variance, namely, verbal and indirect as opposed to physical forms. The results were generally congruent with these expectations.

Key words

heritability hostility anger cynicism aggression 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barefoot, J. C., Siegler, I. C., Nowlin, J. B., Peterson, B. L., Haney, T. L., and Williams, R. B. (1987). Suspiciousness, health, and mortality: A follow-up study of 500 older adults.Psychosom Med. 49: 450–457.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bouchard, T. J., Jr., Lykken, D. T., McGue, M., Segal, N. L., and Tellegen, A. (1990). Sources of human psychological differences: The Minnesota study of twins reared apart.Science 250: 223–228.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Buss, A. H. (1961).The Psychology of Aggression, Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  4. Buss, A. H., and Durkee, A. (1957). An inventory for assessing different kinds of hostility.J. Consult. Psychol. 21: 343–349.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Buss, A. H., and Plomin, R. (1975).A Temperament Theory of Personality Development, Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  6. Buss, A. H., and Plomin, R. (1984).Temperament: Early Developing Personality Traits, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.Google Scholar
  7. Carmelli, D., Rosenman, R. H., and Swan, G. E. (1988). The Cook and Medley Ho Scale: A heritability analysis in adult male twins.Psychosom. Med. 50: 165–174.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Carmelli, D., Swan, G. E., and Rosenman, R. H. (1990). The heritability of the Cook and Medley Hostility Scale revisited.J. Soc. Behav. Person, 5: 107–116.Google Scholar
  9. Chesney, M. A., and Rosenman, R. H. (1985).Anger and Hostility in Cardiovascular and Behavioral Disorders, Hemisphere, New York.Google Scholar
  10. Christian, J. C. (1979). A review of basic methodology for the analysis of quantitative twin data.Acta Genet. Med. Gemello. (Roma) 28: 35–40.Google Scholar
  11. Christian, J. C., Rang, K. W., and Norton, J. A. (1974). Choice of an estimate of genetic variance from twin data.Am. J. Hum. Genet. 26: 154–161.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Cohen, D. J., Dibble, E., Grawe, J. M., and Pollin, W. Q. (1973). Separating identical from fraternal twins.Arch. Gen. Psych. 29: 465–469.Google Scholar
  13. Cook, W. W., and Medley, D. M. (1954). Proposed hostility and pharisaic-virtue scales for the MMPI.J. Appl. Psychol. 38: 414–418.Google Scholar
  14. Dembroski, T. M., and Costa, P. T. (1987). Coronary prone behavior: Components of the Type A pattern and hostility.J. Personal. 55: 211–235.Google Scholar
  15. Diamond, E. L. (1982). The role of anger and hostility in essential hypertension and coronary heart disease.Psychol. Bull. 92: 410–433.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Falconer, D. S. (1960).Introduction to Quantitative Genetics, Ronald Press, New York.Google Scholar
  17. Falconer, D. S. (1981).Introduction to Quantitative Genetics, 2nd ed., Longman, London.Google Scholar
  18. Horn, J. M., Plomin, R., and Rosenman, R. (1976). Heritability of personality traits in adult male twins.Behav. Genet 6: 17–30.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Houston, B. K., and Vavak, C. R. (1991). Cynical hostility: Developmental factors, psychosocial correlates, and health behaviors.Health Psychol. 10: 9–17.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Institute for Personality and Ability Testing (1970).Norms for the 16PF Forms A and B, Author, Champaign, IL.Google Scholar
  21. Institute for Personality and Ability Testing (1986).Administrator's Manual for the 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire, Author, Champaign, IL.Google Scholar
  22. Jablon, S., Neel, J. V., Gershowitz, H., and Atkinson, G. F. (1967). The NAS-NRC twin panel: Methods of construction of the panel, zygosily diagnosis, and proposed use.Am. J. Hum Genet. 19: 133–161.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Jinks, J. L., and Fulker, D. W. (1970). A comparison of the biometrical genetical, MAVA, and classical approaches to the analysis of human behavior.Psychol. Bull. 73: 311–349.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Kasriel, J., and Eaves, L. (1976). The zygosity of twins: Further evidence on the agreement between diagnosis by blood groups and written questionnaires.J. Biosoc. Sci. 8: 263–266.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Loehlin, J. C. (1989). Partitioning environmental and genetic contributions to behavioral development.Am. Psychol. 44: 1285–1292.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Loehlin, J. C., Willerman, L., and Horn, J. M. (1988). Human behavior genetics.Annu. Rev. Psychol. 39: 101–103.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Lykken, D. T., Tellegan, A., and DuRubeis, R. (1978). Volunteer bias in twin research: The rule of two-thirds.Soc. Biol. 25: 1–9.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Maccoby, E. E., and Jacklin, C. N. (1974).The Psychology of Sex Differences, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.Google Scholar
  29. Maccoby, E. E., and Jacklin, C. N. (1980). Sex differences in aggression: A rejoinder and reprise.Child Dev. 51: 964–980.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Magnus, P., Berg, K., and Nance, W. E. (1983). Predicting zygosity in Norwegian twin pairs born 1915–1960.Clin. Genet. 24: 103–112.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Martin, N. G., and Martin, P. G. (1975). The inheritance of scholastic abilities in a sample of twins. I. Ascertainment of the sample and diagnosis of zygosity.Ann. Hum. Genet. 39: 213–218.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Matthews, K. A., Roseman, R. H., Dembroski, T. M., Harris, E. L., and MacDougall, J. M. (1984). Familial resemblance in components of the Type A behavior pattern: A reanalysis of the California Type A twin study.Psychosom. Med. 46: 512–522.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Ostfeld, A. M., Lebovits, B. Z., Shekelle, R. B., and Paul, O. (1964). A prospective study of the relationship between personality and coronary heart disease.J. Chron. Dis. 17: 265–276.Google Scholar
  34. Pedersen, N. L., Lichtenstein, P., Plomin, R., DeFaire, U., McClearn, G. E., and Matthews, K. A. (1989). Genetic and environmental influences for Type A-like measures and related traits: A study of twins reared apart and twins reared together.Psychosom. Med. 51: 428–440.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Plomin, R. (1986).Development, Genetics, and Psychology, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.Google Scholar
  36. Plomin, R. (1990). The role of inheritance in behavior.Science 248: 183–188.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Plomin, R., Willerman, L., and Loehlin, J. C. (1976). Resemblance in appearance and the equal environments assumption in twin studies of personality traits.Behav. Genet. 6: 43–52.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Plomin, R., DeFries, J. C., and Loehlin, J. C. (1977). Genotype-environment interaction and correlation in the analysis of human behavior.Psychol. Bull. 84: 309–322.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Plomin, R., DeFries, J. C., and Fulker, D. W. (1988).Nature and Nurture during Infancy and Early Childhood, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  40. Rahe, R. R., Hervig, L., and Rosenman, R. H. (1978). Heritability of Type A behavior.Psychosom. Med. 40: 478–486.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Reiss, D., Plomin, R., and Hetherington, E. M. (1991). Genetics and psychiatry: An unheralded window on the environment.Am. J. Psych. 148: 283–291.Google Scholar
  42. Rose, R. J. (1988). Genetic and environmental variance in content dimensions of the MMPI.J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 55: 302–311.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Rushton, J. P., Fulker, D. W., Neale, M. C., Nias, D. K. B., and Eysenck, H. J. (1986). Altruism and aggression: The heritability of individual differences.J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 50: 1192–1198.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Sarna, S., Kaprio, J., Sistonen, P., and Koskenvuo, M. (1978). Diagnosis of twin zygosity by mailed questionnaire.Hum. Hered. 28: 241–254.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Scarr, S. (1966). Genetic factors in activity motivation.Child Dev. 37: 663–673.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Scarr, S., and Carter-Saltzman, L. (1979). Twin method: Defense of a critical assumption.Behav. Genet. 9: 527–542.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Scarr, S., and McCartney, K. (1983). How people make their own environments: A theory of genotype-environment effects.Child Dev. 54: 424–435.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Shekelle, R. B., Gayle, M., Ostfeld, A. M., and Paul, O. (1983). Hostility, risk of coronary heart disease, and mortality.Psychosom. Med. 45: 109–114.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Siegman, A. W., Dembroski, T. M., and Ringel, N. (1987). Components of hostility and the severity of coronary artery disease.Psychosom. Med. 49: 127–135.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Smith, T. W. (1992). Hostility and health: Current status of a psychosomatic hypothesis.Health Psychol. 11: 139–150.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Smith, T. W., and Frohm, K. D. (1985). What's so unhealthy about hostility? Construct validity and psychosocial correlates of the Cook and Medley Ho scale.Health Psychol. 4: 503–520.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Smith, T. W., McGonigle, M., Turner, C. W., Ford, M. H., and Slattery, M. L. (1991). Cynical hostility in adult male twins.Psychosom. Med. 53: 684–692.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Spielberger, C. D., Jacobs, G., Russell, S., and Crane, R. S. (1983). Assessment of anger: The state-trait anger scale. In Butcher, J. N., and Spielberger, C. D. (eds.),Advances in Personality Assessment, Vol. 2, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 159–187.Google Scholar
  54. Tellegen, A., Lykken, D. T., Bouchard, T. J., Wilcox, K. J., Segal, N. L., and Rich, S. (1988). Personality similarity in twins reared aparl and together.J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 54: 1031–1039.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • David S. Cates
    • 1
  • B. Kent Houston
    • 1
  • Christine R. Vavak
    • 1
  • Michael H. Crawford
    • 2
  • Meredith Uttley
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Fraser Hall 426University of KansasLawrence
  2. 2.Midwest Twin Register, Laboratory of Biological AnthropologyUniversity of KansasLawrence

Personalised recommendations