Development and Psychopathology



Sex differences in the genetic and environmental influences on the development of antisocial behavior


KRISTEN C. JACOBSON a1a2c1, CAROL A. PRESCOTT a1a2 and KENNETH S. KENDLER a1a2
a1 Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics
a2 Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University

The present study uses a population-based sample of 6,806 adult twins from same-sex and opposite-sex twin pairs to examine sex differences in the underlying genetic and environmental architecture of the development of antisocial behavior (AB). Retrospective reports of AB during three different developmental periods were obtained: prior to age 15 years (childhood), age 15–17 years (adolescent), and age 18 years and older (adult). Structural equation modeling analyses revealed that there was no evidence for sex-specific genetic or sex-specific shared family environmental influences on the development of AB; that is, the types of genetic and environmental influence were similar for males and females. For both sexes, a model that allowed for genetic influences on adolescent and adult AB that were not shared with childhood AB fit better than a model with a single genetic factor. In contrast, shared environmental influences on adolescent and adult AB overlapped entirely with shared environmental influences on childhood AB. Genetic factors played a larger role in variation in childhood AB among females, whereas shared environmental factors played a larger role among males. However, heritability of AB increased from childhood to adolescence and adulthood for both sexes, and the magnitude of genetic and environmental influences on adolescent and adult AB was approximately equal across sex. We speculate that sex differences in timing of puberty may account for the earlier presence of genetic effects among females.


Correspondence:
c1 Kristen C. Jacobson, Ph.D., 800 E. Leigh Street, PO Box 980126, Richmond, VA 23298-0126; E-mail: jacobson@physio.vipbg.vcu.edu.