Sex Differences in the Genetic and Environmental Influences on Childhood Conduct Disorder and Adult Antisocial Behavior

Madeline H. Meier, Wendy S. Slutske, Andrew C. Heath, Nicholas G. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Scopus citations

Abstract

Sex differences in the genetic and environmental influences on childhood conduct disorder and adult antisocial behavior were examined in a large community sample of 6,383 adult male, female, and opposite-sex twins. Retrospective reports of childhood conduct disorder (prior to 18 years of age) were obtained when participants were approximately 30 years old, and lifetime reports of adult antisocial behavior (antisocial behavior after 17 years of age) were obtained 8 years later. Results revealed that either the genetic or the shared environmental factors influencing childhood conduct disorder differed for males and females (i.e., a qualitative sex difference), but by adulthood, these sex-specific influences on antisocial behavior were no longer apparent. Further, genetic and environmental influences accounted for proportionally the same amount of variance in antisocial behavior for males and females in childhood and adulthood (i.e., there were no quantitative sex differences). Additionally, the stability of antisocial behavior from childhood to adulthood was slightly greater for males than females. Though familial factors accounted for more of the stability of antisocial behavior for males than females, genetic factors accounted for the majority of the covariation between childhood conduct disorder and adult antisocial behavior for both sexes. The genetic influences on adult antisocial behavior overlapped completely with the genetic influences on childhood conduct disorder for both males and females. Implications for future twin and molecular genetic studies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-388
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Volume120
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2011

Keywords

  • Antisocial behavior
  • Conduct disorder
  • Development
  • Heritability
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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