The genetic and environmental covariation among psychopathic personality traits, and reactive and proactive aggression in childhood.

Washington University School of Medicine, USA.
Child Development (Impact Factor: 4.92). 05/2011; 82(4):1267-81. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01598.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The present study investigated the genetic and environmental covariance between psychopathic personality traits with reactive and proactive aggression in 9- to 10-year-old twins (N = 1,219). Psychopathic personality traits were assessed with the Child Psychopathy Scale (D. R. Lynam, 1997), while aggressive behaviors were assessed using the Reactive Proactive Questionnaire (A. Raine et al., 2006). Significant common genetic influences were found to be shared by psychopathic personality traits and aggressive behaviors using both caregiver (mainly mother) and child self-reports. Significant genetic and nonshared environmental influences specific to psychopathic personality traits and reactive and proactive aggression were also found, suggesting etiological independence among these phenotypes. Additionally, the genetic relation between psychopathic personality traits and aggression was significantly stronger for proactive than reactive aggression when using child self-reports.

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    ABSTRACT: Proactive aggression (PA) describes an instrumental behavior that is goal-oriented, whereas reactive aggression (RA) refers to an angry or frustrated aggressive response to a real or perceived threat. Little is known about the respective roles of genetic (G) and environmental (E) factors associated with PA and RA during childhood. The objectives of this study were to investigate a) the G-E etiology of the commonality between PA and RA and b) the presence of G or E components specific to PA or RA throughout childhood (i.e., from 6 to 12 years of age). Participants were 254 monozygotic and 413 dizygotic pairs. Teacher reports of PA and RAwere obtained at 6, 7, 9, 10 and 12 years of age. Throughout childhood, genetic factors accounted for most of the common variance between PAand RA, as well as their specificity. Shared environment played no role. Specifically, genetic factors common to PA and RA explained between 39% and 45% of the variance in PA, and between 27% and 42% of the variance in RA. Genetic factor also uniquely accounted for only but a small percentage (9% at 6 years and 3% at 9 years old) of the variation in PA. As for RA, three distinctive genetic factors contributed to phenotypic variation throughout childhood and explained between 12% and 22% of variance. Dynamic genetic factors accounted for the commonality in PA and RA, and for the specificity of RA. Few genetic factors were unique to PA; in contrast, for RA, an early, specific and persistent genetic factor was found alongside new genetic factors that appeared at later ages. These results challenge theoretical models that focus primarily on the effects of environmental factors in the etiology of reactive and proactive aggression.

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