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Numerous studies have shown that aggressive and non-aggressive antisocial behaviors are important precursors of later adjustment problems. There is also strong empirical evidence that both types of antisocial behavior are partially influenced by genetic factors. However, despite its important theoretical and practical implications, no study has examined the question whether environmental factors differentially moderate the expression of genetic influences on the two types of antisocial behavior. Using a genetically informed design based on 266 monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs, this study examined whether the expression of genetic risk for aggressive and non-aggressive antisocial behavior varies depending on the peer group’s injunctive norms (i.e., the degree of acceptability) of each type of antisocial behavior. Self-reported aggressive and non-aggressive antisocial behavior and classroom-based sociometric nominations were collected when participants were 10 years old. Multivariate genetic analyses revealed some common genetic factors influencing both types of antisocial behavior (i.e., general antisocial behavior) as well as genetic influences specific to non-aggressive antisocial behavior. However, genetic influences on general antisocial behavior, as well as specific genetic influences on non-aggressive antisocial behavior, vary depending on the injunctive classroom norms regarding these behaviors. These findings speak to the power of peer group norms in shaping aggressive and non-aggressive antisocial behavior. They also contribute further to understanding the distinctive development of both types of antisocial behavior. Finally, they may have important implications for prevention purposes.
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- The Expression of Genetic Risk for Aggressive and Non-aggressive Antisocial Behavior is Moderated by Peer Group Norms
Richard E. Tremblay
- Springer US