Development and Psychopathology

Regular Articles

Neighborhoods and genes and everything in between: Understanding adolescent aggression in social and biological contexts

Daniel Harta1 c1 and Naomi R. Marmorsteina1

a1 Rutgers University


Adolescent aggression was explored in relation to neighborhood and genetic characteristics. Child saturation (the proportion of the population consisting of children under the age of 15), ethnic heterogeneity, poverty, and urbanicity of neighborhoods were examined in relation to adolescent aggression in 12,098 adolescents followed longitudinally for 1 year. Longitudinal analyses indicated that child saturation was positively associated with increases in aggression, with this finding emerging among those living in the same neighborhood at both testing times and those who moved between testing times. In a subsample of males for whom genetic data were available, the relation of child saturation to adolescent aggression was moderated by the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene. The regression of aggression on child saturation was steeper for those with the low activity version of the MAOA allele than among those with the high activity version of the allele. The implications of the results for an understanding of the origins and ontogeny of aggression and personality disorders are discussed.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Daniel Hart, Center for Children and Childhood Studies, 325 Cooper Street, Camden, NJ 08102; E-mail:


This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by Grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. However, no direct support was received from Grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 ( The analyses reported here were partially supported by Grant K01DA022456 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (to N.R.M.).