Background. Both psychopathic personality traits and antisocial behavior are influenced by genetic as well as environmental factors. However, little is known about how genetic and environmental factors contribute to the associations between the psychopathic personality traits and antisocial behavior.
Method. Data were drawn from a longitudinal population-based twin sample including all 1480 twin pairs born in Sweden between May 1985 and December 1986. The twins responded to mailed self-report questionnaires at two occasions: 1999 (twins 13–14 years old), and 2002 (twins 16–17 years old).
Results. A common genetic factor loaded substantially on both psychopathic personality traits and antisocial behavior, whereas a common shared environmental factor loaded exclusively on antisocial behavior.
Conclusions. The genetic overlap between psychopathic personality traits and antisocial behavior may reflect a genetic vulnerability to externalizing psychopathology. The finding of shared environmental influences only in antisocial behavior suggests an etiological distinction between psychopathic personality dimensions and antisocial behavior. Knowledge about temperamental correlates to antisocial behavior is important for identification of susceptibility genes, as well as for possible prevention through identification of at-risk children early in life.
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