Aggressive Versus Nonaggressive Antisocial Behavior: Distinctive Etiological Moderation by Age

S. Alexandra Burt, Jenae M. Neiderhiser

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Research has supported the existence of distinct behavioral patterns, demographic correlates, and etiologic mechanisms for aggressive (AGG) versus nonaggressive but delinquent (DEL) antisocial behavior. Though behavioral genetic studies have the potential to further crystallize these dimensions, inconsistent results have limited their contribution. These inconsistencies may stem in part from the limited attention paid to the impact of age. In the current study, the authors thus examined age-related etiological moderation of AGG and DEL antisocial behavior in a sample of 720 sibling pairs (ranging in age from 10 to 18 years) with varying degrees of genetic relatedness. Results reveal that the magnitude of genetic and environmental influences on AGG remained stable across adolescence. By contrast, genetic influences on DEL increased dramatically with age, whereas shared environmental influences decreased. Subsequent longitudinal analyses fully replicated these results. Such findings highlight etiological distinctions between aggression and delinquency, and offer insights into the expression of genetic influences during development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1164-1176
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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