Behavior Genetics

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 603–617 | Cite as

Multivariate Behavior Genetic Analyses of Aggressive Behavior Subtypes

  • Michelle T. Yeh
  • Emil F. Coccaro
  • Kristen C. Jacobson
Original Research


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.


Aggressive behavior subtypes Multivariate behavioral genetics Genetic factor structure Heritability Sex differences 



This study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Grant R01 MH063262 to Emil F. Coccaro and an NIMH Mentored Scientist Career Development Award K01 MH068484 to Kristen C. Jacobson. We wish to thank Crystal Cole, Jing (Sam) Pan, Bing Chen, and the rest of the Clinical Neuroscience and Psychopharmacology Research Unit at the University of Chicago for their assistance in data collection and scoring. We are also grateful to the twins in the PennTwins Cohort for participating in this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle T. Yeh
    • 1
  • Emil F. Coccaro
    • 1
  • Kristen C. Jacobson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral NeuroscienceUniversity of Chicago, CNPRUChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, L-466DUniversity of Chicago, CNPRUChicagoUSA

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