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Resting heart rate and the development of antisocial behavior from age 9 to 14: Genetic and environmental influences

  • Laura A. Baker (a1), Catherine Tuvblad (a1), Chandra Reynolds (a2), Mo Zheng (a1), Dora Isabel Lozano (a3) and Adrian Raine (a4)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 July 2009

The genetic and environmental basis of a well-replicated association between antisocial behavior (ASB) and resting heart rate was investigated in a longitudinal twin study, based on two measurements between the ages of 9 and 14 years. ASB was defined as a broad continuum of externalizing behavior problems, assessed at each occasion through a composite measure based on parent ratings of trait aggression, delinquent behaviors, and psychopathic traits in their children. Parent ratings of ASB significantly decreased across age from childhood to early adolescence, although latent growth models indicated significant variation and twin similarity in the growth patterns, which were explained almost entirely by genetic influences. Resting heart rate at age 9–10 years old was inversely related to levels of ASB but not change patterns of ASB across age or occasions. Biometrical analyses indicated significant genetic influences on heart rate during childhood, as well as ASB throughout development from age 9 to 14. Both level and slope variation were significantly influenced by genetic factors. Of importance, the low resting heart rate and ASB association was significantly and entirely explained by their genetic covariation, although the heritable component of heart rate explained only a small portion (1–4%) of the substantial genetic variance in ASB. Although the effect size is small, children with low resting heart rate appear to be genetically predisposed toward externalizing behavior problems as early as age 9 years old.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Laura A. Baker, Department of Psychology (SGM 501), University of Southern California, 3620 South McClintock Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061; E-mail:
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