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Tendency towards juvenile antisocial behaviour examined

Antisocial behaviour is a substantial problem in Europe and affects everyone in society. An understanding of antisocial behaviour development from early childhood to adolescence will help identify important targets for intervention at the best possible time.
Tendency towards juvenile antisocial behaviour examined
The EU-funded INNOVANTI (Innovative tools to examine the development of antisocial behaviour from early childhood to adolescence: Genetically informative designs and propensity score matching) project has identified the genetic and environmental components in two types of antisocial behaviour. Furthermore, they looked at the roles of harsh parental discipline and peer victimisation in its prediction.

Using the 'Twins Early Development Study' with more than 10 000 pairs of twins from England and Wales, the researchers focused on conduct problems and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Conduct problems include fighting or stealing, whereas not being able to stay still, an important precursor of antisocial behaviour, is a classic example of hyperactivity. They then used twin modelling to outline the development course of these two types of behavioural problems.

Results highlighted the importance of genetic factors and conversely environmental influence appeared to be less important and/or short-term. Outcomes suggest that repeated interventions at key developmental stages could counteract genetic propensity to develop behavioural problems. However, more advanced models are needed to identify genetic influences. Conversely, behavioural problems may be a marker for genetic liability.

Study of lack of empathy and guilt showed it is probably more beneficial to focus on features such as callousness and uncaring rather than the unemotional dimension. In the investigation into peer victimisation, researchers used the discordant monozygotic twins design. This enabled them to look for genetic influences when examining a risk factor involved in an outcome such as antisocial behaviour. Initial results confirm genetic influences could increase vulnerability to peer victimisation.

INNOVANTI results have been published in Psychological Medicine, JAMA psychiatry and Scientific Report. The results of the research highlight the importance of including genetic influences. Extension of the work using DNA information is being developed utilising genetic instruments to predict a risk factor such as alcohol consumption and its effect on antisocial behaviour.

Related information

Keywords

Antisocial behaviour, development, intervention, twin modeling, genetic influences
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