Causes of stability of aggression from early childhood to adolescence: A longitudinal genetic analysis in Dutch twins

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This study investigated the contribution of genetic and environmental influences on the stability of aggressive behavior from early childhood to adolescence. Two developmental models, the simplex model and the common factor model, were tested to study the underlying processes of stability and change. Measures of aggressive behavior (AGG) were obtained from maternal CBCL data as part of a large ongoing longitudinal study of the Netherlands Twin Registers (NTR) and included data from 6488 three-year-old twin pairs, 5475 seven-year-old twin pairs, 2983 ten-year-old twin pairs, and 1509 twelve-year-old twin pairs. AGG showed moderate to high stability during childhood. The stability coefficients ranged from 0.41 to 0.77 across varying intervals. Averaged across boys and girls, genetic factors accounted for approximately 65% of the total stability. Longitudinal genetic analysis indicated a simplex model for genetic effects, which suggests a dynamic development process consisting of transmission of existing genetic effects interacting with new genetic influences. This is especially true at age 7, when the influence of new genetic factors was large. Shared environmental factors accounted for approximately 25% of phenotypic stability, and it seemed that a stable set of the same shared environmental factors underlay the development of AGG. Nonshared environmental factors, when important, are age specific. Sex-specific differences for stability were identified. For boys, genetic influences were greater, whereas for girls shared environmental factors were more important. These data support the idea that both genetic and environmental influences play a role in the stability of AGG from age 3 to 12.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-605
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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