Behavior Genetics

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 629–640 | Cite as

The Genetic and Environmental Etiology of Antisocial Behavior from Childhood to Emerging Adulthood

  • Catherine Tuvblad
  • Jurgita Narusyte
  • Martin Grann
  • Jerzy Sarnecki
  • Paul Lichtenstein
Original Research


Previous research suggests that both genetic and environmental influences are important for antisocial behavior across the life span, even though the prevalence and incidence of antisocial behavior varies considerably across ages. However, little is known of how genetic and environmental effects influence the development of antisocial behavior. A total of 2,600 male and female twins from the population-based Swedish Twin Registry were included in the present study. Antisocial behavior was measured on four occasions, when twins were 8–9, 13–14, 16–17, and 19–20 years old. Longitudinal analyses of the data were conducted using structural equation modeling. The stability of antisocial behavior over time was explained by a common latent persistent antisocial behavior factor. A common genetic influence accounted for 67% of the total variance in this latent factor, the shared environment explained 26%, and the remaining 7% was due to the non-shared environment. Significant age-specific shared environmental factors were found at ages 13–14 years, suggesting that common experiences (e.g., peers) are important for antisocial behavior at this age. Results from this study show that genetic as well as shared environmental influences are important in antisocial behavior that persists from childhood to emerging adulthood.


Antisocial behavior Persistent Longitudinal Twin Childhood Adulthood 



This study was funded by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (project 2004-0383) and the Swedish Research Council (2004-1415).


  1. Achenbach TM (1991) Manual for the child behavior checklist/4–18 and 1991 profile. University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry, Burlington, VTGoogle Scholar
  2. Achenbach TM, Rescorla LA (2000) Manual for ASEBA school-age forms & profiles. University of Vermont, Research Center for Children, Youth, & Families, Burlington, VTGoogle Scholar
  3. Achenbach TM, McConaughy SH, Howell CT (1987) Child/adolescent behavioral and emotional problems: implications of cross-informant correlations for situational specificity. Psychol Bull 101(2):213–232PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arseneault L, Moffitt TE, Caspi A, Taylor A, Rijsdijk FV, Jaffee SR et al (2003) Strong genetic effects on cross-situational antisocial behaviour among 5-year-old children according to mothers, teachers, examiner-observers, and twins’ self-reports. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 44(6):832–848PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baker LA, Mack W, Moffitt TE, Mednick S (1989) Sex differences in property crime in a Danish adoption cohort. Behav Genet 19(3):355–370PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bartels M, van den Oord EJ, Hudziak JJ, Rietveld MJ, van Beijsterveldt CE, Boomsma DI (2004) Genetic and environmental mechanisms underlying stability and change in problem behaviors at ages 3, 7, 10, and 12. Dev Psychol 40(5):852–867PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burt SA, McGue M, Carter LA, Iacono WG (2007) The different origins of stability and change in antisocial personality disorder symptoms. Psychol Med 37(1):27–38PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cloninger CR, Gottesman I (1987) Genetic and environmental factors in antisocial behavior disorders. In: Mednick S, Moffitt TE, Stack SA (eds) The causes of crime: new biological approaches. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 96–100Google Scholar
  9. DiLalla LF, Gottesman I (1989) Heterogeneity of causes for delinquency and criminality: lifespan perspectives. Dev Psychopathol 1:339–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Farrington DP, Loeber R (2000) Epidemiology of juvenile violence. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin North Am 9:733–748Google Scholar
  11. Farrington DP, Barnes GC, Lambert S (1996) The concentration of offending in families. Legal Criminol Psychol 1:47–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Frisell T, Lichtenstein P, Låneström N (2011) Violent crime runs in families: a total population study of 12.5 million individuals. Psychol Med 41(1):97–105PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Heath AC, Madden PA, Martin NG (1998) Assessing the effects of cooperation bias and attrition in behavioral genetic research using data-weighting. Behav Genet 28(6):415–427PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jacobson KC, Prescott CA, Kendler KS (2002) Sex differences in the genetic and environmental influences on the development of antisocial behavior. Dev Psychopathol 14(2):395–416PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Junger-Tas J, Terlouw G-J, Klein MW (1994) Delinquent behavior among young people in the western world. Kugler, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  16. Kendler KS, Neale MC, Kessler RC, Heath AC, Eaves LJ (1993) A test of the equal-environment assumption in twin studies of psychiatric illness. Behav Genet 23(1):21–27PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Krueger RF, Moffitt TE, Caspi A, Bleske A, Silva PA (1998) Assortative mating for antisocial behavior: developmental and methodological implications. Behav Genet 28(3):173–186PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lahey BB, Moffitt TE, Caspi A (eds) (2003) Causes of conduct disorder and juvenile delinquency. Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Lichtenstein P, De faire U, Floderus B, Svartengren M, Svedberg P, Pedersen NL (2002) The Swedish twin registry: a unique resource for clinical, epidemiological and genetic studies. J Intern Med 252(3):184–205PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lichtenstein P, Tuvblad C, Larsson H, Carlstrom E (2007) The Swedish twin study of child and adolescent development: the TCHAD-study. Twin Res Hum Genet 10(1):67–73PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lyons MJ, True WR, Eisen SA, Goldberg J, Meyer JM, Faraone SV et al (1995) Differential heritability of adult and juvenile antisocial traits. Arch Gen Psychiatry 52(11):906–915PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Maes HH, Neale MC, Kendler KS, Hewitt JK, Silberg JL, Foley DL et al (1998) Assortative mating for major psychiatric diagnoses in two population-based samples. Psychol Med 28(6):1389–1401PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Maes HH, Silberg JL, Neale MC, Eaves LJ (2007) Genetic and cultural transmission of antisocial behavior: an extended twin parent model. Twin Res Hum Genet 10(1):136–150PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McArdle JJ, Goldsmith HH (1990) Alternative common factor models for multivariate biometric analyses. Behav Genet 20(5):569–608PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Moffitt TE (1993) Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: a developmental taxonomy. Psychol Rev 100(4):674–701PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moffitt TE, Silva PA, Lynam DR, Henry B (1994) Self-reported delinquency at age 18: New Zealand’s Dunedin multidisciplinary health and development study. In: Junger-Tas J, Terlouw G-J, Klein MW (eds) Delinquent behavior among young people in the western world. Kugler Publications, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  27. Moffitt TE, Caspi A, Rutter M, Silva PA (2001) Sex differences in antisocial behaviour: conduct disorder, delinquency and violence in the Dunedin longitudinal study. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Narusyte J, Andershed AK, Neiderhiser JM, Lichtenstein P (2007) Aggression as a mediator of genetic contributions to the association between negative parent-child relationships and adolescent antisocial behavior. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 16(2):128–137PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Neale MC, Cardon LR (1992) Methodology for genetic studies of twins and families. Kluwer Academic Publisher, Dordrecht, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  30. Neale MC, Boker SM, Xie G, Maes HH (2006) Mx: statistical modelling, 7th edn. Department of Psychiatry, Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, VAGoogle Scholar
  31. Rhee SH, Waldman ID (2002) Genetic and environmental influences on antisocial behavior: a meta-analysis of twin and adoption studies. Psychol Bull 128(3):490–529PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ring J (1999) Hem och skola, kamrater och brott [Home and school, peers and delinquency]. Kriminologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  33. Sampson RJ, Raudenbush SW, Earls F (1997) Neighborhoods and violent crime: a multilevel study of collective efficacy. Science 277(5328):918–924PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Silberg JL, Rutter M, Tracy K, Maes HH, Eaves L (2007) Etiological heterogeneity in the development of antisocial behavior: the Virginia twin study of adolescent behavioral development and the young adult follow-up. Psychol Med 37(8):1193–1202PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Slutske WS, Heath AC, Dinwiddie SH, Madden PA, Bucholz KK, Dunne MP et al (1997) Modeling genetic and environmental influences in the etiology of conduct disorder: a study of 2,682 adult twin pairs. J Abnorm Psychol 106(2):266–279PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Taylor A (2004) The consequences of selective participation on behavioral-genetic findings: evidence from simulated and real data. Twin Res 7(5):485–504PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Taylor J, Iacono WG, McGue M (2000a) Evidence for a genetic etiology of early-onset delinquency. J Abnorm Psychol 109(4):634–643PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Taylor J, McGue M, Iacono WG (2000b) Sex differences, assortative mating, and cultural transmission effects on adolescent delinquency: a twin family study. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 41(4):433–440PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tuvblad C, Eley TC, Lichtenstein P (2005) The development of antisocial behaviour from childhood to adolescence. A longitudinal twin study. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 14(4):216–225PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tuvblad C, Grann M, Lichtenstein P (2006) Heritability for adolescent antisocial behavior differs with socioeconomic status: gene-environment interaction. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 47(7):734–743PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. van Beijsterveldt CE, Bartels M, Hudziak JJ, Boomsma DI (2003) Causes of stability of aggression from early childhood to adolescence: a longitudinal genetic analysis in Dutch twins. Behav Genet 33(5):591–605PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. van der Valk JC, van den Oord EJ, Verhulst FC, Boomsma DI (2003) Genetic and environmental contributions to stability and change in children’s internalizing and externalizing problems. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 42(10):1212–1220PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Youngstrom E, Loeber R, Stouthamer-Loeber M (2000) Patterns and correlates of agreement between parent, teacher, and male adolescent ratings of externalizing and internalizing problems. J Consult Clin Psychol 68(6):1038–1050PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Tuvblad
    • 1
  • Jurgita Narusyte
    • 2
    • 5
  • Martin Grann
    • 3
  • Jerzy Sarnecki
    • 4
  • Paul Lichtenstein
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Centre for Violence Prevention, Department of Medical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  4. 4.Department of CriminologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  5. 5.Division of Insurance Medicine, Department of Clinical NeuroscienceKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden

Personalised recommendations