Socialization, Selection, or Both? The Role of Gene–Environment Interplay in the Association Between Exposure to Antisocial Peers and Delinquency

  • Joseph A. Schwartz
  • Starr J. Solomon
  • Bradon A. Valgardson
Original Paper



To better explain the near-universal association between peer and self-reported delinquency, three frameworks have been offered and have received varying degrees of support: (1) socialization or the social transmission of norms, attitudes, and behaviors among group members; (2) selection or the congregation of youth with similar traits and predispositions; and (3) enhancement or a combination of socialization and selection processes.


Making use of sibling pairs and peer network data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, the current study compares all three frameworks using modified bivariate Cholesky models to simultaneously examine gene-environment correlations (rGE) and interactions (G × E).


Findings revealed that peer deviance (as reported by peers themselves) moderated underlying influences on delinquency such that genetic influences decreased and environmental influences increased as peer deviance increased. While previous studies have reported additional patterns of moderation (e.g., increases in both genetic and environmental influences), such studies have relied on subjective measures of peer behavior, more restrictive measures of delinquency, and samples comprised of young children.


The results revealed preliminary evidence in favor of the selection hypothesis, but the overall patterns of moderation stemming from the examined G × E fall in line more closely with the enhancement hypothesis of peer influence.


Peers Delinquency Developmental theory Gene–environment interplay 



The authors would like to thank JC Barnes, Jon Brauer, and Jukka Savolainen for thoughtful comments on previous drafts of this study. We would also like to thank Laura Dugan and the three anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and comments, as they have certainly strengthened the study. The content of this article is the authors’ sole responsibility and any errors or omissions are solely ours. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from Grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 38 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph A. Schwartz
    • 1
  • Starr J. Solomon
    • 1
  • Bradon A. Valgardson
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of Nebraska at OmahaOmahaUSA

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