Behavior Genetics

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 191–201 | Cite as

Genetic Innovation and Stability in Externalizing Problem Behavior Across Development: A Multi-Informant Twin Study

  • M. WichersEmail author
  • C. Gardner
  • H. H. Maes
  • P. Lichtenstein
  • H. Larsson
  • K. S. Kendler
Original Research


The use of cross-informant ratings in previous longitudinal studies on externalizing behavior may have obscured the presence of continuity of genetic risk. The current study included latent factors representing the latent estimates of externalizing behavior based on both parent and self-report which eliminated rater-specific effects from these latent estimates. Symptoms of externalizing behavior of 1,480 Swedish twin pairs were obtained at ages 8–9, 13–14, 16–17 and 19–20 both by parent and self-report. Mx modeling was used to estimate additive genetic, shared and specific environmental influences. Genetic continuity was found over the entire developmental period as well as additional sources of genetic influence emerging around early and late adolescence. New unique environmental effects (E) on externalizing behavior arose early in adolescence. The results support both the presence of genetic continuity and change in externalizing behavior during adolescence due to newly emerging genetic and environmental risk factors.


Twins Heritability Externalizing behavior Adolescence Latent modeling 



This research was supported by ∞the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (project 2004-0383), the Swedish Research Council (2004-1415) and the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (VENI Grant no. 916.76.147) (to Dr Wichers).

Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Wichers
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. Gardner
    • 2
    • 3
  • H. H. Maes
    • 2
    • 3
  • P. Lichtenstein
    • 4
  • H. Larsson
    • 4
    • 5
  • K. S. Kendler
    • 2
    • 3
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychologySouth Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, EURON, Maastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Virginia Institute of Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryMedical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  4. 4.Department of Medical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  5. 5.Center for Neurodevelopmental DisordersKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  6. 6.Department of Human and Molecular GeneticsMedical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA

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