It really does take a village: The role of neighbors in the etiology of nonaggressive rule-breaking behavior

S. Alexandra Burt, Amber L. Pearson, Amanda Rzotkiewicz, Kelly L. Klump, Jenae M. Neiderhiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Although there is growing recognition that disadvantaged contexts attenuate genetic influences on youth misbehavior, it is not yet clear how this dampening occurs. The current study made use of a geographic contagion model to isolate specific contexts contributing to this effect, with a focus on nonaggressive rule-breaking behaviors (RB) in the families' neighbors. Our sample included 847 families residing in or near modestly-to-severely disadvantaged neighborhoods who participated in the Michigan State University Twin Registry. Neighborhood sampling techniques were used to recruit neighbors residing within 5km of a given family (the mean number of neighbors assessed per family was 13.09; range, 1-47). Analyses revealed clear evidence of genotype-environment interactions by neighbor RB, such that sibling-level shared environmental influences on child RB increased with increasing neighbor self-reports of their own RB, whereas genetic influences decreased. Moreover, this moderation appeared to be driven by geographic proximity to neighbors. Sensitivity analyses further indicated that this effect was specifically accounted for by higher levels of neighbor joblessness, rather than elements of neighbor RB that would contribute to neighborhood blight or crime. Such findings provocatively suggest that future genotype-environment interactions studies should integrate the dynamic networks of social contagion theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-725
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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