Behavior Genetics

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 680–692 | Cite as

Genetic and Environmental Contributions to Associations between Infant Fussy Temperament and Antisocial Behavior in Childhood and Adolescence

  • Jackson A. GoodnightEmail author
  • Kelly L. Donahue
  • Irwin D. Waldman
  • Carol A. Van Hulle
  • Paul J. Rathouz
  • Benjamin B. Lahey
  • Brian M. D’Onofrio
Original Research


Previous research suggests that fussy temperament in infancy predicts risk for later antisocial behavior (ASB) in childhood and adolescence. It remains unclear, however, to what extent infant fussiness is related to later ASB through causal processes or if they both reflect the same family risk factors for ASB. The current study used two approaches, the comparison of siblings and bivariate biometric modeling, to reduce familial confounding and examine genetic and environmental influences on associations between fussiness in the first 2 years of life and ASB in childhood and late adolescence. Analyses were conducted on data from a prospective cohort (9237 at 4–9 years and 7034 at 14–17 years) who are the offspring of a nationally representative sample of US women. In the full sample, fussiness predicted both child and adolescent ASB to small but significant extents, controlling for a wide range of measured child and family-level covariates. When siblings who differed in their fussiness were compared, fussiness predicted ASB in childhood, but not ASB during adolescence. Furthermore, results from a bivariate Cholesky model suggested that even the association of fussiness with childhood ASB found when comparing siblings is attributable to familial factors. That is, although families with infants who are higher in fussiness also tend to have children and adolescents who engage in greater ASB, the hypothesis that infant fussiness has an environmentally mediated impact on the development of future ASB was not strongly supported.


Conduct problems Temperament Delinquency Sibling comparison Quasiexperimental Irritability Fussiness 



The work was supported by a Grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01 HD061384).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Jackson A. Goodnight, Kelly L. Donahue, Irwin D. Waldman, Carol A. Van Hulle, Paul J. Rathouz, Benjamin B. Lahey and Brian M. D’Onofrio declare no conflicts of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from participants of the NLSY and CNLSY at the time of data collection. The current study was reviewed and approved by institutional review boards at the University of Dayton, Indiana University, and the University of Chicago.


  1. Achenbach TM (1978) The child behavior profile: I. Boys aged 6–11. J Consult Clin Psychol 46:478–488CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker P, Mott FL (1989) A guide and resource document for the national longitudinal survey of youth 1986 child data. Center for Human Resource Research, The Ohio State University, ColumbusGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnes JC, Wright JP, Boutwell BB, Schwartz JA, Connolly EJ, Nedelec JL, Beaver KM (2014) Demonstrating the validity of twin research in criminology. Criminology 52:588–626CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bates JE (1989) Applications of temperament concepts. In: Kohnstamm GA, Bates JE, Rothbart MK (eds) Temperament in childhood. Wiley, Chichester, pp 321–355Google Scholar
  5. Bates JE, Maslin CA, Frankel KA (1985) Attachment security, mother-child interaction, and temperament as predictors of behavior problem ratings at age 3 years. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev 50:167–193CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown TA (2006) Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research. The Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Chase-Lansdale PL, Mott FL, Brooks-Gunn J, Phillips DA (1991) Children of the national longitudinal survey of youth: a unique research opportunity. Dev Psychol 27:918–931CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clark LA, Watson D, Mineka S (1994) Temperament, personality, and the mood and anxiety disorders. J Abnorm Psychol 103:103–116CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. D’Onofrio BM, Lahey BB, Turkheimer E, Lichtenstein P (2013) Critical need for family-based, quasi-experimental designs in integrating genetic and social science research. Am J Public Health 103:S46–S55CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. D’Onofrio BM, Van Hulle CA, Waldman ID, Rodgers JL, Harden KP, Rathouz PJ, Lahey BB (2008) Smoking during pregnancy and offspring externalizing problems: an exploration of genetic and environmental confounds. Dev Psychopathol 20:139–164PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  11. Elliott DS, Huizinga D (1983) Social class and delinquent behavior in a national youth panel. Criminology 21:149–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Furr RM, Bacharach VR (2008) Psychometrics: an introduction. Sage Publications, Inc, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  13. Gilliom M, Shaw DS (2004) Codevelopment of externalizing and internalizing problems in early childhood. Dev Psychopathol 16(2):313–333CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Gjone H, Stevenson J (1997) A longitudinal twin study of temperament and behavior problems: common genetic or environmental influences? J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 36(10):1448–1456CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Goldsmith HH, Lemery KS, Buss KA, Campos JJ (1999) Genetic analyses of focal aspects of infant temperament. Dev Psychol 35(4):972CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Goldsmith HH, Van Hulle CA, Arneson CL, Schreiber JE, Gernsbacher MA (2006) A population-based twin study of parentally reported tactile and auditory defensiveness in young children. J Abnorm Child Psychol 34:378–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Greene WH (2003) Econometric analysis, 5th edn. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  18. Keiley MK, Lofthouse N, Bates JE, Dodge KA, Pettit GS (2003) Differential risks of covarying and pure components in mother and teacher reports of externalizing and internalizing behavior across ages 5–14. J Abnorm Child Psychol 31:267–283CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Lahey BB, D’Onofrio BM (2010) All in the family: comparing siblings to test causal hypotheses regarding environmental influences on behavior. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 19:319–323CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. Lahey BB, Van Hulle CA, D’Onofrio BM, Rodgers JL, Waldman ID (2008a) Is parental knowledge of their adolescent offspring’s whereabouts and peer associations spuriously associated with offspring delinquency. J Abnorm Child Psychol 36:807–823CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Lahey BB, Van Hulle CA, Keenan K, Rathouz PJ, D’Onofrio BM, Rodgers JL, Waldman ID (2008b) Temperament and parenting during the first year of life predict future child conduct problems. J Abnorm Child Psychol 36:1139–1158CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Lahey BB, Van Hulle CA, Waldman ID, Rodgers JL, D’Onofrio BM, Pedlow S et al (2006) Testing descriptive hypotheses regarding sex differences in the development of conduct problems and delinquency. J Abnorm Child Psychol 34:737–755CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Morris AS, Silk JS, Steinberg L, Sessa FM, Avenevoli S, Essex MJ (2002) Temperamental vulnerability and negative parenting as interacting of child adjustment. J Marriage Fam 64:461–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Muthén LK, Muthén BO (1998–2010) Mplus user’s guide, 6th edn. Muthén and Muthén, Los AngelesGoogle Scholar
  25. Neale MC, Cardon LRD (1992) Methodology for genetic studies of twins and families. Kluwer Academic Press, DordrechtCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Neuhaus JM, McCulloch CE (2006) Separating between- and within-cluster covariate effects by using conditional and partitioning methods. J Roy Stat Soc 68:859–872CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Odgers CL, Caspi A, Broadbent JM, Dickson N, Hancox RJ, Harrington H, Poulton R, Sears M, Thomson WM, Moffitt TE (2007) Prediction of differential adult health burden by conduct problem subtypes in males. Arch Gen Psychiatry 64:476–484CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Olson SL, Bates JE, Sandy JM, Lanthier R (2000) Early developmental precursors of externalizing behavior in middle childhood and adolescence. J Abnorm Child Psychol 28:119–133CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Patterson GR, Reid JB, Dishion TJ (1992) A social learning approach. IV. Antisocial boys, EugeneGoogle Scholar
  30. Peterson JL, Zill N (1986) Marital disruption, parent-child relationships, and behavior problems in children. J Marriage Fam 48:295–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Plomin R, DeFries JC, McClearn GE (1980) Behavioral genetics: a primer. WH Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. Pulkkinen L, Lyyra A, Kokko K (2009) Life success of males on nonoffender, adolescence-limited, persistent, and adult-onset antisocial pathways: Follow-up from age 8 to 42. Aggress Behav 35:117–135CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Reid JB, Patterson GR, Snyder J (2002) Antisocial behavior in children and adolescents: a developmental analysis and model for intervention. American Psychological Association, Washington, DCCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rhee SH, Waldman ID (2002) Genetic and environmental influences on antisocial behavior: a meta-analysis of twin and adoption studies. Psychol Bull 128:490–529CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Rodgers JL, Cleveland H, van den Oord E, Rowe D (2000) Resolving the debate over birth order, family size, and intelligence. Am Psychol 55:599–612CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Rodgers JL, Rowe DC, Buster M (1999) Nature, nurture and first sexual intercourse in the USA: fitting behavioural genetic models to NLSY kinship data. J Biosoc Sci 31:29–41CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Rothbart MK (1981) Measurement of temperament in infancy. Child Dev 52:569–578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rothbart MK, Ahadi SA, Hershey KL (1994a) Temperament and social behavior in childhood. Merrill-Palmer Quart 40:21–39Google Scholar
  39. Rothbart MK, Derryberry D, Posner MI (1994b) A psychobiological approach to the development of temperament. In: Bates JE, Wachs TD (eds) Temperament: individual differences at the interface of biology and behavior. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, pp 83–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rothbart MK, Bates JE (1998) Temperament. In: Damon W, Eisenberg N (eds) Handbook of child psychology, vol 3, 5th edn. Wiley, New York, pp 105–176Google Scholar
  41. Rutter M (2007) Proceeding from observed correlation to causal inference: the use of natural experiments. Perspect Psychol Sci 2:377–395CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Satorra A, Bentler PM (2001) A scaled difference Chi square test statistic for moment structure analysis. Psychometrika 66:507–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schmitz S, Fulker DW, Plomin R, Zahn-Waxler C, Emde RN, DeFries JC (1999) Temperament and problem behaviour during early childhood. Int J Behav Dev 23(2):333–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Singh AL, Waldman ID (2010) The etiology of associations between negative emotionality and childhood externalizing disorders. J Abnorm Psychol 119:376CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Snyder J, McEachern A, Schrepferman L, Just C, Jenkins M, Roberts S, Lofgree A (2010) Contribution of peer deviancy training to the early development of conduct problems: mediators and moderators. Behav Ther 41:317–328CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Teerikangas OM, Aronen ET, Martin RP, Huttunen MO (1998) Effects of infant temperament and early intervention on the psychiatric symptoms of adolescents. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 37:1070–1076CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Turkheimer E, Harden KP (2014) Behavior genetic research methods: testing quasi-causal hypotheses using multivariate twin data. In: Reis H, Judd C (eds) Handbook of research methods in personality and social psychology, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 159–187Google Scholar
  48. Van Hulle CA, Waldman ID, D’Onofrio BM, Rodgers JL, Rathouz PJ, Lahey BB (2009) Developmental structure of genetic influences on antisocial behavior across childhood and adolescence. J Abnorm Psychol 118:711CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jackson A. Goodnight
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kelly L. Donahue
    • 2
  • Irwin D. Waldman
    • 3
  • Carol A. Van Hulle
    • 4
  • Paul J. Rathouz
    • 5
  • Benjamin B. Lahey
    • 6
  • Brian M. D’Onofrio
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of DaytonDaytonUSA
  2. 2.Indiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA
  3. 3.Emory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  5. 5.University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public HealthMadisonUSA
  6. 6.University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  7. 7.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations