Hostname: page-component-797576ffbb-lm8cj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-12-03T17:23:10.978Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Environmental transmission of violent criminal behavior in siblings: a Swedish national study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 April 2014

K. S. Kendler*
Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA, USA Department of Human and Molecular Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA
N. A. Morris
Department of Criminal Justice, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VAUSA
S. L. Lönn
Center for Primary Health Care Research, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden
J. Sundquist
Center for Primary Health Care Research, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA
K. Sundquist
Center for Primary Health Care Research, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA
*Address for correspondence: K. S. Kendler, M.D., Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, Box 980126, Richmond, VA 23298-0126, USA. (Email:



Violent criminal behaviour (VCB) runs strongly in families partly because of shared environmental factors. Can we clarify the environmental processes that contribute to similarity of risk for VCB in siblings?


We assessed VCB from the Swedish National Crime Register for the years 1973–2011 in siblings born 1950–1991. We examined by conditional logistic and Cox proportional hazard regression, respectively, whether resemblance for VCB in sibling pairs was influenced by their age difference and whether VCB was more strongly ‘transmitted’ from older→younger versus younger→older siblings.


In our best-fit logistic model, for each year of age difference in full sibling pairs, the risk for VCB in the sibling of a case versus control proband declined by 2.6% [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.2–3.0]. In our best-fit Cox model, the hazard rate for VCB in a sibling when the affected proband was older versus younger was 1.4, 2.1 and 2.9 respectively for a 1-, 5- and 10-year difference in siblings.


Controlling for genetic effects by examining only full siblings, sibling resemblance for risk for VCB was significantly greater in pairs closer versus more distant in age. Older siblings more strongly transmitted risk for VCB to their younger siblings than vice versa. These results strongly support the importance of familial–environmental influences on VCB and provide some insight into the possible mechanisms at work.

Original Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Bandura, A, Huston, AC (1961). Identification as a process of incidental learning. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 63, 311318.Google Scholar
Bohman, M (1978). Some genetic aspects of alcoholism and criminality. A population of adoptees. Archives of General Psychiatry 35, 269276.Google Scholar
Brody, GH (1998). Sibling relationship quality: its causes and consequences. Annual Review of Psychology 49, 124.Google Scholar
Brook, JS, Whiteman, M, Gordon, AS, Brenden, C (1983). Older brother's influence on younger sibling's drug use. Journal of Psychology 114, 8390.Google Scholar
Burt, SA (2009). Are there meaningful etiological differences within antisocial behavior? Results of a meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review 29, 163178.Google Scholar
Christiansen, KO (1974), Seriousnes of criminality and concordance among Danish twins. In Crime, Criminology and Public Policy (ed. Hood, R.), pp. 6377. Free Press: New York.Google Scholar
Crowe, RR (1972). The adopted offspring of women criminal offenders. A study of their arrest records. Archives of General Psychiatry 27, 600603.Google Scholar
Dalgard, O, Kringlen, E (1976). A Norwegian twin study of criminality. British Journal of Criminality 16, 213232.Google Scholar
Dishion, TJ, Patterson, GR, Griesler, PC (1994). Peers adaption in the development of antisocial behavior: a confluence model. In Aggressive Behavior: Current Perspectives (ed. Huesmann, L. R.), pp. 6195. Plenum: New York.Google Scholar
Farrington, DP, Barnes, GC, Lambert, S (1996). The concentration of offending in families. Legal and Criminological Psychology 1, 4763.Google Scholar
Ferguson, CJ (2010). Genetic contributions to antisocial personality and behavior: a meta-analytic review from an evolutionary perspective. Journal of Social Psychology 150, 160180.Google Scholar
Frisell, T, Lichtenstein, P, Långström, N (2011). Violent crime runs in families: a total population study of 12.5 million individuals. Psychological Medicine 41, 97105.Google Scholar
Gabrielli, WF Jr, Mednick, SA (1984). Urban environment, genetics, and crime. Criminology 22, 645652.Google Scholar
Gordon, RA, Lahey, BB, Kawai, E, Loeber, R, Stouthamer-Loeber, M, Farrington, DP (2004). Antisocial behavior and youth gang membership: selection and socialization. Criminology, 42, 5587.Google Scholar
Harris, JR (2002). The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. Touchstone/Simon & Schuster: New York.Google Scholar
Hawkins, JD, Herrenkohl, T, Farrington, DP, Brewer, D, Catalano, RF, Harachi, TW (1998). A review of predictors of youth violence. In Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders: Risk Factors and Successful Interventions (ed. Loeber, R. and Farrington, D. P.), pp. 106146. Sage Publications, Inc.: London.Google Scholar
Kendler, KS, Lönn, SL, Morris, N, Sundquist, J, Långström, N, Sundquist, K (2013 a). A Swedish national adoption study of criminality. Psychological Medicine. Published online: 4 November 2013 . doi:10.1017/S0033291713002638.Google Scholar
Kendler, KS, Ohlsson, H, Sundquist, K, Sundquist, J (2013 b). Within-family environmental transmission of drug abuse: a Swedish national study. Archives of General Psychiatry 70, 235242.Google Scholar
Lamb, ME, Sutton-Smith, B (1982). Sibling Relationships: Their Nature and Significance Across the Lifespan. Psychology Press: Hove, UK.Google Scholar
Lange, J (1929). Verbrechen als Schicksal: Studien an Kriminellen Zwillingen [Crime as Destiny: Studies in Criminal Twins] . Thieme: Leipzig.Google Scholar
Lauritsen, JL (1993). Sibling resemblance in juvenile delinquency: findings from the National Youth Survey. Criminology 31, 387409.Google Scholar
Mednick, SA, Gabrielli, WF Jr, Hutchings, B (1984). Genetic influences in criminal convictions: evidence from an adoption cohort. Science 224, 891894.Google Scholar
Newman, J (1991). College students' relationships with siblings. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 20, 629644.Google Scholar
Rhee, SH, Waldman, ID (2002). Genetic and environmental influences on antisocial behavior: a meta-analysis of twin and adoption studies. Psychological Bulletin 128, 490529.Google Scholar
Rosanoff, AJ, Handy, LM, Plesset, IR (1934). Criminality and delinquency in twins. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 24, 923934.Google Scholar
Rowe, DC, Britt, CL III (1991). Developmental explanations of delinquent behavior among siblings: common factor versus transmission mechanisms. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 7, 315332.Google Scholar
Rowe, DC, Farrington, DP (1997). The familial transmission of criminal convictions. Criminology 35, 177202.Google Scholar
Rowe, DC, Gulley, BL (1992). Sibling effects on substance use and delinquency. Criminology 30, 217233.Google Scholar
Rowe, DC, Rodgers, JL, Meseck-Bushey, S (1992). Sibling delinquency and the family environment: shared and unshared influences. Child Development 63, 5967.Google Scholar
Slomkowski, C, Rende, R, Conger, KJ, Simons, RL, Conger, RD (2001). Sisters, brothers, and delinquency: evaluating social influence during early and middle adolescence. Child Development 72, 271283.Google Scholar
Slomkowski, C, Rende, R, Novak, S, Lloyd-Richardson, E, Niaura, R (2005). Sibling effects on smoking in adolescence: evidence for social influence from a genetically informative design. Addiction 100, 430438.Google Scholar
Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (2008). Victims’ Tendency to Report Crime, report 2008:12. Brottsforebyggande radet: Stockholm.Google Scholar
Takahashi, A, Miczek, KA (2013). Neurogenetics of aggressive behavior: studies in rodents. Current Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience. Published online: 7 December 2013 . doi:10.1007/7854_2013_263.Google Scholar
West, DJ, Farrow, D (1977). The Delinquent Way of Life. Heinemann: London, UK.Google Scholar