Genetic and environmental stability differs in reactive and proactive aggression



The aim of this study was to examine stability and change in genetic and environmental influences on reactive (impulsive and affective) and proactive (planned and instrumental) aggression from childhood to early adolescence. The sample was drawn from an ongoing longitudinal twin study of risk factors for antisocial behavior at the University of Southern California (USC). The twins were measured on two occasions: ages 9–10 years (N=1,241) and 11–14 years (N=874). Reactive and proactive aggressive behaviors were rated by parents. The stability in reactive aggression was due to genetic and nonshared environmental influences, whereas the continuity in proactive aggression was primarily genetically mediated. Change in both reactive and proactive aggression between the two occasions was mainly explained by nonshared environmental influences, although some evidence for new genetic variance at the second occasion was found for both forms of aggression. These results suggest that proactive and reactive aggression differ in their genetic and environmental stability, and provide further evidence for some distinction between reactive and proactive forms of aggression. Aggr. Behav. 35:437–452, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.