Individual Differences in Aggression: Genetic Analyses by age, gender, and informant in 3-, 7-, and 10-year-old Dutch Twins

J. Hudziak, C.E.M. van Beijsterveldt, M. Bartels, M.J.H. Rietveld, D.C. Rettew, E.M. Derks, D.I. Boomsma

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Aggression in humans is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. In this study we report on the aggressive behavior syndrome (AGG) in young children as defined by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and the Teacher Report Form (TRF). We assessed aggression in a large sample of Dutch twins at ages 3, 7, and 10 years. The purpose of this study was three-fold. First, we determined the number of children who are "clinically deviant" on the AGG scale. Second, we assessed the genetic and environmental contributions to AGG for the maternal, paternal, and teacher ratings at each age, for boys and girls. Third, we explored issues of rater bias by analyzing parental and teacher data simultaneously. CBCL data were available from mothers on 6436 three-year-old, 5451 seven-year-old, and 2972 ten-year-old twin pairs and CBCL data from fathers on 4207 three-year-old, 4269 seven-year-old, and 2295 ten-year-old twin pairs. Teacher report data from the TRF were collected for 1036 seven-year-old and 903 ten-year-old twin pairs from the Netherlands Twin Registry. Structural equation modeling was employed to obtain genetic and environmental estimates at each age. Analyses were conducted separately by age and informant, as well as simultaneously, for all informants. Differences in raw scores across gender were found, with boys being rated as more aggressive than girls by all informants. Mothers reported more symptoms than fathers, who reported more symptoms than teachers. Evidence for moderate to high genetic influence (51%-72%) was seen for AGG by all three informants at all ages with only small sex differences in heritability estimates. Best fitting models for AGG by parent reports also included a small contribution of common environment. The largest sex differences in heritabilities were seen at age 10. Contributions of common (13%-27%) and unique (16%-31%) environment were small to moderate. There was some evidence of genetic dominance by teacher report for 10-year-old girls.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-589
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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