European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 216–225 | Cite as

The development of antisocial behaviour from childhood to adolescence

A longitudinal twin study
  • Catherine TuvbladEmail author
  • Thalia C. Eley
  • Paul Lichtenstein


Recent theory proposes that aggressive and nonaggressive antisocial behaviour (ASB) represent different pathways toward delinquency. It has also been suggested that Aggressive ASB is heritable, whereas nonaggressive ASB is more influenced by shared environment.

The twin study of child and adolescent development is a Swedish population-based study of 1,480 twin pairs. The present study included 1,226 twin pairs. We used the parental-reported Aggression and Delinquency scales from the CBCL measured at age 8–9. Delinquent behaviour was measured through self-report at age 16–17. We explored how genetic and environmental effects influence the relationships between aspects of ASB in childhood and adolescent delinquency using structural equations modelling.

For girls we found that the relationship between Aggressive Behaviour and Self-Reported Delinquency was explained by genetic influences. The correlation between Delinquent Behaviour and Self-Reported Delinquency was due to continuity of genetic influences. For boys, there was no significant mediation between Aggressive Behaviour and Self-Reported Delinquency, but there were significant shared environmental effects on the relationship between Delinquent Behaviour and Self-Reported Delinquency.

Our results suggest that there are sex differences in the development of ASB. The hypothesis that the aggressive pathway is genetically mediated was supported in girls, whereas the hypothesis that the nonaggressive pathway is environmentally dependent was supported in boys.

Key words

genetics twins CBCL aggression delinquency 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    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
  2. 2.
    Moffitt TE (1993) Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: a developmental taxonomy. Psychol Rev 100:674–701CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Loeber R, Hay D (1997) Key issues in the development of aggression and violence from childhood to early adulthood. Annu Rev Psychol 48:371–410CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Achenbach TM (1991) Manual for the Child Behavior Checklist/4–18 and 1991 Profile. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont Department of PsychiatryGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Stanger C, Achenbach TM, Verhulst FC (1997) Accelerated longitudinal comparisons of aggressive versus delinquent syndromes. Dev Psychopathol 9:43–58CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Tolan PH, Gorman-Smith D (1998) Development of serious and violent offending careers. In: Loeber R, Farrington DP (eds) Serious and violent juvenile offenders. Risk factors and successful interventions. SAGE Publications, pp 68–85Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ghodesian-Carpey J, Baker LA (1987) Genetic and environmental influences on aggression in 4- to 7-year-old twins. Aggressive Behavior 13:173–186Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Hudziak JJ, van Beijsterveldt CEM, Bartels M, Rietveld MJH, Rettew DC, Derks EM, Boomsma D (2003) Individual differences in aggression: Genetic analyses by age, gender, and informant in 3-, 7-, and 10-year-old Dutch twins. Behav Gen 33:575–589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Edelbrock C, Rende R, Plomin R, Thompson LA (1995) A twin study of competence and problem behavior in childhood and early adolescence. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 36:775–785PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Eley TC, Lichtenstein P, Stevenson J (1999) Sex differences in the etiology of aggressive and nonaggressive antisocial behavior: results from two twin studies. Child Dev 70:155–168CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Bartels M, Hudziak JJ, van den Oord EJCG, van Beijsterveldt CEM, Rietveld MJH, Boomsma D (2003) Co-occurrence of aggressive behavior and rule-breaking behavior at age 12:multi-rater analyses. Behav Gen 33:607–621CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    van Beijsterveldt CEM, Bartels M, Hudziak JJ, Boomsma D (2003) Causes of stability of aggression from early childhood to adolescence: A longitudinal genetic analysis in Dutch twins. Behav Gen 33:591–605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Eley TC, Lichtenstein P, Moffitt TE (2003) A longitudinal behavioral genetic analysis of the etiology of aggressive and non-aggressive antisocial behavior. Dev Psychopathol 15:383–402CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Hindelang MJ, Hirschi T, Weis JG (1981) Measuring delinquency. Sage Publishers, Beverly Hills, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Klein MW (1989) Cross-national research in self-reported crime and delinquency. Kluwer, Dordrecht, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Rowe DC (1983) Biometrical genetic models of self-reported delinquent behavior: a twin study. Behav Gen 13:473–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Taylor J, McGue M, Iacono WG (2000) Sex differences, assortative mating, and cultural transmission effects on adolescent delinquency: a twin family study. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 41:433–440CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Junger-Tas J, Terlouw G-J, Klein MW (1994) Delinquent Behavior Among Young People in the Western World. Kugler Publications, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Rutter M, Giller H, Hagell A (1998) Antisocial Behavior by Young People. Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Lichtenstein P, Defaire 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 252:1–22CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Lichtenstein P, Svartengren M (1997) Genes, environments, and sex: factors of importance in atopic diseases in 7–9-year-old Swedish twins. Allergy 52:1079–1086PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Ring J (1999) Hem och skola, kamrater och brott (Home and school, peers and delinquency). Akademitryck, Edsbruk, SwedenGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Klein MW (1995) The American street gang: its nature,prevalence and control. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Neale MC, Cardon LR (1992) Methodology for genetic studies of twins and families. Kluwer Academic Publications, Dordrecht, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    SAS (1997) SAS/STAT software: changes and enhancements through release 8.2. SAS Institute Inc, Cary, NCGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Neale MC, Martin NG (1989) The effects of age, sex, and genotype on self-report drunkenness following a challenge dose of alcohol. Behav Gen 19:63–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Martin N, Boomsma D, Machin G (1997) A twin-pronged attack on complex traits. Nat Gen 17:387–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Neale MC (1997) Mx: Statistical modeling. Department of Psychiatry, Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, VAGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Statistic Sweden (1995) Reports on statistical co-ordination 1982, Swedish socio-economic classification. Statistic Sweden, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Lyons MJ, True WR, Eisen SA, Goldberg J, Meyer JM, Faraone SV, Eaves LJ, Tsuang MT (1995) Differential heritability of adult and juvenile antisocial traits. Arch Gen Psychiatry 52:906–915PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Taylor J, Iacono WG, McGue M (2000) Evidence for a genetic etiology of early-onset delinquency. J Abnorm Psychol 109:634–643CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Silverthorn P, Frick PJ (1999) Development pathways to antisocial behavior: The delayed-onset pathway in girls. Dev Psychopathol 11:101–126CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Miles DR, Carey G (1997) Genetic and environmental architecture of human aggression. J Pers Soc Psychol 72:207–217CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Achenbach TM, McConaughy ST, Howell CT (1987) Child/adolescent behavioral and emotional problems: implications of cross-informant correlations for situational specificity. Psychol Bull 101:213–232CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Bartels M, Hudziak JJ, Boomsma D, Rietveld MJH, van Beijsterveldt TCEM, van den Oord EJCG (2003) A study of parent rating of internalizing and externalizing problem behavior in 12-year-old twins. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 42:1351–1359CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Caspi A, McClay J, Moffitt TE, Mill J, Martin J, Craig IW, Taylor A, Poulton R (2002) Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children. Science 297:851–854CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Foley DL, Eaves L, Wormley B, Silberg J, Maes H, Kuhn J, Riley B (2004) Childhood adversity, monoamine oxidase a genotype, and risk for conduct disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry 61:738–744CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Little RJ, Rubin DB (1987) Statistical analysis with missing data. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Tuvblad
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thalia C. Eley
    • 2
  • Paul Lichtenstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research CentreInstitute of Psychiatry King’s CollegeLondonUK

Personalised recommendations