Genetic and environmental influences on conduct and antisocial personality problems in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood

Laura W Wesseldijk, Meike Bartels, Jacqueline M Vink, Catharina E M van Beijsterveldt, Lannie Ligthart, Dorret I Boomsma, Christel M Middeldorp

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Conduct problems in children and adolescents can predict antisocial personality disorder and related problems, such as crime and conviction. We sought an explanation for such predictions by performing a genetic longitudinal analysis. We estimated the effects of genetic, shared environmental, and unique environmental factors on variation in conduct problems measured at childhood and adolescence and antisocial personality problems measured at adulthood and on the covariation across ages. We also tested whether these estimates differed by sex. Longitudinal data were collected in the Netherlands Twin Register over a period of 27 years. Age appropriate and comparable measures of conduct and antisocial personality problems, assessed with the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment, were available for 9783 9-10-year-old, 6839 13-18-year-old, and 7909 19-65-year-old twin pairs, respectively; 5114 twins have two or more assessments. At all ages, men scored higher than women. There were no sex differences in the estimates of the genetic and environmental influences. During childhood, genetic and environmental factors shared by children in families explained 43 and 44% of the variance of conduct problems, with the remaining variance due to unique environment. During adolescence and adulthood, genetic and unique environmental factors equally explained the variation. Longitudinal correlations across age varied between 0.20 and 0.38 and were mainly due to stable genetic factors. We conclude that shared environment is mainly of importance during childhood, while genetic factors contribute to variation in conduct and antisocial personality problems at all ages, and also underlie its stability over age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1123-1132
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Journal Article

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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