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Toward the Dark Side: Temperament, Personality, and Genetics Related to Antisocial Behaviors

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Part of the Advances in Behavior Genetics book series (AIBG)


Antisocial behaviors include aggressive, rule-breaking, deviant, or violent behaviors. They may first manifest in youth and often follow different developmental trajectories. For some individuals, these behaviors peak in adolescence and decrease throughout development. For others, these behaviors become increasingly more significant and lead to later violence or criminality (e.g., conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder). Most researchers initially implicated poor parenting and adverse environments as the primary causes of these behaviors. More recently, researchers have identified the importance of including genetics and personality in understanding the etiology of antisocial behaviors. In youth, callous/unemotional (CU) traits have demonstrated a significant relationship with future antisocial behaviors. In addition, individuals with Dark Triad personality traits of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and subclinical psychopathology are more likely to engage in bullying, cyberbullying, and criminality. Several personality factors associated with criminality (e.g., impulsivity, psychopathy) have genetic components. Specifically, the dopaminergic system and various dopamine candidate genes may be related to these personality traits. Preliminary research on gene-environment correlations (rGE) may shed some light on the relationship between genetic and environmental influences, although these assumptions remain challenging to test empirically. In contrast, several researchers have found interactions between genes and environment (GxE), such that certain environmental stressors (e.g., harsh interactions, poverty) may impact the phenotypic presentation of genetic vulnerabilities. The current chapter overviews the personality traits associated with antisocial behaviors, as well as the genetic and environmental underpinnings of these traits.


  • Antisocial behavior
  • Rule-breaking
  • Delinquency
  • Temperament
  • Criminality
  • Aggression
  • Personality
  • Bullying
  • Behavior genetics
  • Dark Triad

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Correspondence to Lisabeth Fisher DiLalla .

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DiLalla, L.F., Diaz, E., Jamnik, M.R. (2020). Toward the Dark Side: Temperament, Personality, and Genetics Related to Antisocial Behaviors. In: Saudino, K.J., Ganiban, J.M. (eds) Behavior Genetics of Temperament and Personality. Advances in Behavior Genetics. Springer, New York, NY.

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