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Etiological heterogeneity in the development of antisocial behavior: the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development and the Young Adult Follow-Up


Longitudinal, genetically informed, prospective data collected on a large population of male twins (n=1037) were used to examine developmental differences in the etiology of antisocial behavior.


Analyses were carried out on both mother- and child-reported symptoms of conduct disorder (CD) in 10- to 17-year-old twins from the Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development (VTSABD) and self-reported antisocial behavior by the twins as young adults from the Young Adult Follow-Up (YAFU) study.


The following trends were identified: (1) a single genetic factor influencing antisocial behavior beginning at age 10 through young adulthood (‘life-course persistent’); (2) a shared-environmental effect beginning in adolescence (‘adolescent-onset’); (3) a transient genetic effect at puberty; and (4) a genetic influence specific to adult antisocial behavior.


Overall, these etiological findings are consistent with predictions from Moffitt's developmental theory of antisocial behavior. The genetic effect at puberty at ages 12–15 is also consistent with a genetically mediated influence on the timing of puberty affecting the expression of genetic differences in antisocial outcomes.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Judy L. Silberg, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Department of Human Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, P.O. Box 980003, Richmond, VA 23298-0003, USA. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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