Neighborhood disadvantage alters the origins of children’s nonaggressive conduct problems

S. Alexandra Burt, Kelly L. Klump, Deborah Gorman-Smith, Jenae M. Neiderhiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Neighborhood disadvantage plays a pivotal role in child mental health, including child antisocial behavior (e.g., lying, theft, vandalism; assault, cruelty). Prior studies have indicated that shared environmental influences on youth antisocial behavior increase with increasing disadvantage, but researchers have been unable to confirm that these findings persist once various selection confounds are considered. In the current study, we sought to fill this gap in the literature by examining whether and how neighborhood disadvantage alters the genetic and environmental origins of child antisocial behavior. Our sample consisted of 2,054 child twins participating in the Michigan State University Twin Registry, half of whom were oversampled to reside in modestly-to-severely impoverished neighborhoods. We made use of an innovative set of nuclear twin family models, thereby allowing us to disambiguate between, and simultaneously estimate, multiple elements of the shared environment as well as genetic influences. Although there was no evidence that the etiology of aggressive antisocial behavior was moderated by neighborhood disadvantage, the etiology of nonaggressive antisocial behavior shifted dramatically with increasing neighborhood disadvantage. Sibling-level shared environmental influences were estimated to be near zero in the wealthiest neighborhoods and increased dramatically in the most impoverished neighborhoods. By contrast, both genetic risk and family-level shared environmental transmission were significantly more influential in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods than in impoverished neighborhoods. Such results collectively highlight the profound role that pervasive neighborhood poverty plays in shaping the etiology of child nonaggressive antisocial behavior. Implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-526
Number of pages16
JournalClinical Psychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology


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